Funkadelic: Maggot Brain (1971)

Funkadelic's Maggot Brain turns 50 years old this week, and there's been a bit of online attention to this often overlooked classic, so I pulled out my old copy to refresh myself.

Notwithstanding the title of this blog (and my book), drawn from a pithy encapsulation of my musical taste from a high school friend, I'm a huge Funkadelic fan. Their early/mid-70s brand of heavy funk hits a sweet spot for me. But their first few albums, culminating in Maggot Brain, were a heady mash-up of rock, psychedelia, and soul; while there are grooves aplenty, I find the music at least as well suited to headphone space-outs as to shaking your ass.

The album both opens and closes with extended jams. The instrumental title track is a slow, trippy guitar freak-out, a variation on the Grateful Dead's late 60s live "Dark Star > feedback" jams; while the closing "Wars of Armageddon" is an upbeat, funky jam overlaid with protest chants that owes more to Santana. In between, the album is all over the place, from the sweet soul of "Can You Get To That" (with its riff later nicked for Sleigh Bells' "Rill Rill"), to the funk of "Hit It And Quit It" and "You And Your Folks" signposting the band's later sound, to the hard-rocking, nearly metallic "Super Stupid," to the slow-burning sing-along "Back In Our Minds" with its wickedly fun percussion and jazz horns & piano licks.

For a fantastic sonic exploration of the album, including a track-by-track assessment of the songs' influences and the music they would in turn influence, check out this piece in the New York Times (behind a paywall if you're a non-subscriber, sorry).

Here's a live take on the title track, featuring the album's original guitarist Eddie Hazel:

...and "Super Stupid" (with some Hot Fuzz video):
...and an audio rip of "Back In Our Minds":