Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Funkadelic - Hardcore Jollies

Hardcore Jollies

Released 1976 on Warner Bros.
Reviewed by Dog 3000, 17/02/2003ce

For some reason I don't quite understand a lot of reviewers of Funkadelic's "Hardcore Jollies" album seem to consider this to be one of their lesser efforts. To me, it's quite the opposite -- in fact I'd say it's their last truly great "rock" album as opposed to their (also great but) more disco-oriented later albums like "One Nation Under A Groove" and "Uncle Jam".

Legendary guitarist Eddie "Maggot Brain" Hazel was already out of the band by this point, though his presence is felt all over, among other places in the album's dedication "to the guitar players of the world." The guitarists who do play on this album include Glen Goins, Gary Shider and Mike Hampton -- and they shred, slash and burn like Mr. Maggot Brain himself, making this a contender for the finest "psychedelic soul-funk guitar" album recorded at any time between Hendrix's "Band of Gypsys" LP and today.

The album is also one of the last to feature the full vocal line up of the "original Parliaments" (Fuzzy, Grady, Sting Ray and Calvin plus of course George "Dookie Gobbler" Clinton) and also includes their female adjunct "The Par-Lets". The singing on most tunes is provided by a wall of wailing funkateers, with occasional spotlights for individual vocalists, though on the whole the vocal arrangements are sort of a free-form choir (of stoned half-naked freeks with billowing 'fros.)

Side one kicks off with a "heavy metal disco" version of "Comin' Around the Mountain". When Clinton & co sing the line "she'll be comin' around the mountain when she comes" you can't help but hear a sexual entendre that wasn't intended in the original folk song. The sound is distant and distinctly live-sounding -- I think I heard somewhere that some of the tracks on this album were recorded during rehearsals for an upcoming tour. Sounds like maybe they were rehearsing in an airplane hanger (which is indeed where the remake of "Cosmic Slop" on side two was recorded), though I must say whatever they were doing I really like the "spacious" sound. After nursery-rhyme chanting through the first half of the track, the singers shut up and the guitarist takes over and unleashes a torrent of echo-drenched & heavily phased slash and burn. Rock on!

Second track "Smokey" is slower and features a neat riff, trippy singing and a little blues harp thrown in for good measure. Toward the end they bring it down for awhile and Bernie Worrel's pitch-bending-like-a-muthafunker keyboard goes "woob woob woob WOOOOO!!!" in the bass register while the funk choir chants and moans like spooky underwater ghosts. Just plain kewl. A cannabistic reverie to lost love where the title is an obvious drug entendre (many big fat joints floating through space on the Pedro Bell-drawn album cover) though it is also explicitly the name of the woman who done left the singer feelin' so blue.

Third track "If You Got Funk, You Got Style" sounds more like their later-period style, with the guitars in check and a more explicitly "dance music" arrangement. The boss man Clinton sings this one, and it is a decent enough song, one of many "explainin' the funk anthems" he has written, it just doesn't seem to fit in with the overall sound of the rest of the album.

Side one ends with the title tune "Hardcore Jollies", an instrumental showcase for the guitarists in the band. The riffage here definitely recalls Band of Gypsys-era Hendrix, though with a more fonked-up rhythm section. Shred shred shred, chop chop chop! Who says a funk band can't play rock? (Note: on my vinyl version, this track and "Soul Mate" are reversed on the label -- the album cover does show the correct song order however.)

Track two kicks off with a love ballad "Soul Mate" . . . *ahem* well, Funkadelic was not exactly known for their love ballads. It's kinda pretty, in the hands of Peaches & Herb maybe it could have been an MOR hit. Moving right along . . .

Second track on side two is the remake of "Cosmic Slop" the title track from their classic 1973 album. This version (recorded live at "Stewart Airfield, Hanger E, Newburg, New York") is faster and funkier than the original and includes the "space people / universal love" intro which they always did live but which was not part of the original studio recording. This is simply one of their greatest songs ever, with tragic lyrics about a single ghetto mom selling her body to provide for her five kids (sung from the point of view of one of the kids) with mystical spaceage almost Sun Ra-ish metaphors thrown in for good measure. Lead vocal is a Curtis Mayfieldesque falsetto accompanied by the wailing underwater funk choir, throw in a huge beat and an awesome bass riff, add more wailing & shredding guitars -- what more could you ask for?

Next up is "You Scared The Lovin' Out Of Me" which has major-key verses and a minor-key chorus riff centered around a "faux-egyptian" melody that everybody's heard before (not sure where it originates, but on the playground we always sang the tune as "do your balls hang low, do they wobble to and fro?" or else "there's a place in France where the naked ladies dance" -- you know the one.) Dominated by group vocals with the female "Par-lets" high in the mix, it's another kewl slice of slow 'n' spooky stoner funk ala "Smokey."

Final song is "Adolescent Funk" a showpiece for Bernie Worell's keyboard wizardry. The girls wordlessly sing "da da da" and "doo doo doo" while Bernie bends notes all over the place to the point where his keyboard (a moog I presume?) sounds like another guitar drenched in weird effects. He also busts out an array of chirping and whirling sounds which almost begin to sound like the noodling on Captain & Tenille's "Muskrat Love" (!) Playful yet somehow melancholy, it's a lovely denouement to a truly unsung album.

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