Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Funkadelic - Funkadelic


Released 1970 on Westbound
Reviewed by griddell, 03/09/2005ce

1. Mommy, What’s A Funkadelic?
2. I Bet You
3. Music For My Mother
4. I Got A Thing, You Got A Thing, Everybody’s Got A Thing
5. Good Old Music
6. Qualify & Satisfy
7. What Is Soul

Initially I intended to wax lyrical about Funkadelic as one of the ultimate 70’s jamming albums. On closer listening the vocals are equally important. In fact, they’re arguably what takes this beyond mere self-indulgence and into that crossover funk/psychedelic zone.
The term ‘contractual problems’ could’ve been invented for George Clinton. At that time it simply meant that former Parliament singers Fuzzy Haskins, Grady Thomas, Calvin Simon & Ray Davis could not be credited, a fact that seems incredible now. At least the back sleeve had the grace to proclaim ‘A Parliafunkadelicment Thang’!
Also, reading other reviews threw up the surprising fact that at least 3 tracks feature a mixture of Funkadelic personnel & Motown session guys. For a few seconds my image if this as a Funkadelic jam album seemed shattered, but essentially varying personnel means zilch – the feeling remains raw and downright fucking groovy. If you play an instrument and pride yourself on being able to wing it, you should give this a listen and pick up some tips on how to keep one basic riff sounding alive and interesting.

How about a nine minute groove-a-thon for an opener, suitably titled ‘Mommy, What’s A Funkadelic?’.
The introduction would become a trademark: a stoned-out spoken rap just to let you know you’re now entering the world of ‘Funkadelic’. Keyboards & drums rumble into action, joined by guitars chopping out a basic blues riff and the blueprint is just about set. The Parliament’s soulful singing lift things beyond the ‘jam’ level and when Clinton mixes in musical variations like the bass wah-wah lead on 5 min, sweet, sweet backing vocals and possibly the best snare sound ever, it’s an aural feast.
A couple of trippy sounding vocal lines are worth highlighting too, partly because some would be re-used over the years: ‘I will do you no harm – I am a Funkadelic.’; (Clinton ‘introducing’ the listener to what his new band’s all about?); ‘Nothing’s good unless you play with it.’; and the fantastic pay-off line – ‘It’s called Fun-ka-del-ic music…it will blow you’re fun-ky mind…’ This last line is closely followed by studio applause before an excited engineer announces ‘we’re rolling on one’, adding to that live & raw effect.

I’m sure Primal Scream sampled the drum intro of ‘I Bet You’ and why not – it’s a cracker and dontcha just love that simple 4 note guitar motif that opens the number? The Parliament’s were pretty tame on the first track. Here they show off some fantastic Temptations-style key singing, especially effective as the lead in to Hazel’s fuzzed up guitar freak-out. There’s more to that Temptations link in the shape of Motown bassist Bob Babbit (he played on Inner City Blues – holy shit!) keeping the groove funky. However, all of this is secondary to Clinton’s spacey production skills. Hard to believe this was his first attempt. Top 70’s stereo panning and hand claps eventually lock into a run out groove with the bass rumbling away like a mild earthquake while ‘Bet you never lose my love’ is chanted hypnotically in the background. This will indeed blow your ‘funky mind’.

As a bass player, ‘Music For My Mother’ is a real highlight. We’re-not-worthy type salutes to Billy ‘Bass’ Nelson, because this is a killer riff and it’s the bass that carries the song all the way through. Just listen to that intro and how it builds – percussion over bass line, guitar line over percussion, and then that shouted chorus tripling up the riff – ‘WO HA HEY! WO HA HA’
In-between there’s a tale of our singer (Herb Sparkman – what a name) leaving behind ‘Keeprunnin’ Mississippi’ for the city, hearing some old dudes jamming beside a ‘beat up railway train’, joining in with a bizarrely sung harmonica impression and rediscovering the music. As the title suggests, this is a tribute to ‘way back yonder funk’ – blues, r&b, soul – it’s Clinton saying this ‘old’ music is still relevant and we’re going to update it and fuck around with it a bit, creating….well, ‘Funkadelic music’. As the funky bass flows on, the altered JB line sums it up: ‘say it loud – I’m funk and I’m proud’. A new sound has just been created.

A Sly Stone style inclusive hippy vibe (man!) is the main theme of ‘I Got A Thing, You Got…’
Not to mention some top notch drumming from Tiki Fulwood, solid lead vocals from Fuzzy Haskins and more mental production. What’s going on with that guitar solo??? Earth calling Clinton…..
Guitar is credited to Motown man Ray Monette (I have my doubts – perhaps it’s only the chopping wah-wah riff), but it really is a sign of what was to come from Eddie Hazel on later albums as he stepped out of the ‘Hendrix limelight’ and into a style of his own. This track rocks! Hammond and handclaps all round for a predictable but beautifully jammed out ending, even if the fade out’s a bit rough.

‘Good Old Music’, previously a Parliament toon, continues that theme of restyling old music for a stoned out 70’s audience. The funky drum intro is so laid back it’s vertical. ‘Smelly’ is how I’ve heard beats like this described (Sabbaths ‘Behind The wall Of Sleep’ anyone?) and the word is strangely apt here. It’s a vocal showpiece to begin with, the chorus instantly catchy, and if there’s chord changes that echo Lennon/Macca then that’s no bad thing and no surprise given GC’s acknowledgement of The Beatles influence. At around 4 min this becomes a musicians showcase. Any jammers or producers out there - take note at how they nudge and alter the basic riff, keeping it interesting. Marvel at those excellent keyboard stabs, a beat that’s sample heaven, split channel wah/clean bass, delayed lead – the proverbial kitchen sink!

Penultimate track ‘Qualify & Satisfy’ is a blues homage/workout, pure & simple, even down to boastful Muddy Waters style lyrics from Calvin Simon about….well, what do you think? Undoubtedly influenced by the era of extended blues jams, it’s the least interesting or original track, but well worth a listen. The second half of the song sees more psychedelic production and in particular it’s Hazel’s fretboard shredding guitar & feedback that’s a joy to hear.

It’d have to be something special to close Funkadelic’s first. Clocking in at just under 8 minutes, ‘What Is Soul?’ is that epic closer. Like the first track, here again is the spoken intro theme that Clinton would trademark, even re-using lines from the album’s opener. Spacey intro gives way to keys and a simple guitar riff laden with echo. The vocals have to be heard to be believed - a call and response of gloriously stoned gibberish & goofy humour Clinton would also return to on later albums. Like:
‘WHAT IS SOUL?’ – (‘Man, I don’t know’) - ‘SOUL IS A JOINT ROLLED IN TOILET PAPER’ (bong being lit, giggling & coughing in background), or ‘SOUL IS A HAM HOCK IN YOUR CORNFLAKES!’
Another basic but effective blues/funk jam ensues but I’m being a bit unfair with the images ‘basic’ and ‘gibberish’ could bring up – everything’s ‘on the one’ with a lifting drumbeat kicking in about halfway through. The Parliament’s are the main lead ‘instrument’, Clinton’s production bringing them to the fore for some soulful crooning and gritty sha-la la’s. Fantastic sounding psychedelic harmonica also shines. As does Hazel’s lead yet again, however it’s fitting the final words as this stoner-classic winds down go to the Parliaments with ‘Soul is you.’

As a later song would urge - Get off your ass and jam!

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