Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow

Released 1970 on Westbound
The Seth Man, May 2002ce
Funkadelic’s second album “Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow” overwhelms the senses from beginning to end even though its total running time barely exceeds 30 minutes. But within that relatively small time in space, Funkadelic ran totally funk-amok in the studio creating something larger and far denser than just a half an hour’s worth of music. It was a jarring, messy and greasy aural freefall, exacerbated by leader George Clinton’s remixing of the album into a dizzying aural pendulum which roared out in the severest of stereo separation. On top of this, he heaped generous amounts of echo, reverb, tape speed manipulations and haphazard stereo panning that caused everything to rocket back and forth from speaker to speaker like a weathervane turning only to the freakiest of angles in high winds. And it always erupts out of nowhere: sometimes on just the guitar, the organ or even an entire channel’s signal and usually to engage itself in infinity symbol/figure eight patterning from speaker to speaker, shaking up your equilibrium like one of those souvenir wintertime Alpine village snowballs constantly handled during boring family visits. Only within the context of “Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow” does that snowball becomes your mind, the snow all the countless fragments of music that swirl around the confines of your head and that Alpine village reveals itself as a depressed, ugly ghetto scene where no snow ever falls, where joys or hopes are rarely sighted and often blighted...Except through that little portal of transformation known as music.

Interstellar oscillations and electronic fissures crack open the album exactly like they did on The Mothers of Invention’s “We’re Only In It For The Money” freeing up the vista for the slow-forming freeform sprawl of a title track, “Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow.” Guitarist Eddie Hazel slowly and distortedly burns throughout with a fuse crackling with energy until it reaches the riff of the main theme and springboards into confounding, free form improvisation. By the time the stoned groove which is the song actually ‘starts,’ you don’t really notice AND it takes over 10 minutes to finish but could go on forever perfectly. Several vocalists continually call and respond the title while their little cosmic kid brother chimes innocently back: “The kingdom of heaven is within.” LSD soul screaming commences, with a hair-raising “WooooOOOOOOOOwww!” cutting through everything as though releasing every pent up, fucked up feeling, ever. Hazel and Tawl Ross exchange scratchy and/or wah-wahed counterpoints as the track begins to rise and rise and rise. Balancing on minor chord darkness and major chord triumphs somewhere between “Sister Ray” and 1969-era Michael Ratledge, Bernie Worrell’s distorted and overdriven keyboard melody line swells as the band approach the ripped open jugular of funk honey currently oozing and koozing outward. The track opens door after door of discovery while the vocalists struggle to free themselves from their mental constraints, each confusing hurdle becoming a near-life or death struggle. The music picks up in pace and is soon shooting between left and right speakers. Keenly aware of its surroundings, Hazel once more bursts through with a furiously wah-wahed solo only to see the track fade out prematurely. But an immediate slight return re-nudges its way back out of silence, and Hazel is STILL in furious mid-flight. It fades away for a final time, almost in warning that this freakstorm is but the beginning...

“Friday Night, August 14th” is a title full of mystery (and not a little dread) although EXACTLY what happened that night in 1970 is never revealed. And whether it was a particularly strong acid trip or whatever the referred-to income tax return proceedings caused or were spent on is besides the point because they’re loose as hell and shaking off all their layers of bummers at once. The beginning sees a “Voodoo Child” (not “Chile”) vamp which soon spins into a lurching trip of Funkadelic’s own creation as the two guitars of Tawl Ross and Eddie Hazel entwine into a swirling mass of shifting slabs of electrified, pulsating SOUL dancing around all the crazy-assed, hammering echo placed upon the drumming, and plenty of swaying gospel vocals accenting. “Friday Night” is a shit-storming track deluxe and the guitar is soon wah-wah-ing itself to death into an echo-embossed mini-drum solo, reverbed uncontrollably and rebounding all over the place. Hazel cuts back with another razing solo until the track fades and somehow, somewhere...ends.

Beginning side two, “Funky Dollar Bill” continues off the same mode as the previous track: so much so it could’ve been subtitled “Saturday Morning, August 15th” if the lyrics weren’t so intent on decrying that particular root of all evil. In contrast to Ross’s fractious rhythm guitar racket, Worrell neatly inserts an bouncy, cascading lounge piano solo which throws itself up to a plateau that hovers above Hazel’s gnarled wah-wah and that nasty, motherfucking rhythm guitar. “I Wanna Know If It’s Good To You Baby” is an undulating and dripping koozedelic bump and grind, split down the middle between the vocal segment and it’s thunderous instrumental fallout. It was released cut in half just between these two segments as a single and the album version reflects the same fractured edit as though the record’s just skipped ahead 10 seconds into a freewheeling, hard and slammed jam of cascading and pummeling guitar from Hazel, distorted organ and forcefully whacked drums. By the end, Worrell’s near Manzarek-improvisations-during-the-quiet-bits-of-“When The Music’s Over” hang from the top of the track’s echo chamber like so many cavernous stalactites as Tiki Fulwood’s loud and sparse drum pattern glances forward to the sort of masterful, hypnotic bashing on Can’s 1971’s epic “Halleluwah.” Gently the track lands back down to earth as cowbells and percussion slowly diminish into silence. “Some More” is the most orthodox moment on the album when a bluesy, Jimmy Smith-type Hammond organ enters. But as soon as that low and big as a foghorn voice gets strained through the grills of a Leslie speaker with extra phlange, it sounds more like some all-pervasive, blue fog seeping out into studio as it proclaims a “new kind of pain” with a “headache in my heart/got a heartache in my head.” Then the proto-dub drum treatments return, abusively echoing them into 10 feet high towers of staggering aural trails. Curlicues of Worrell’s Hammond organ soloing walks the song home to its final snare hit at the end of the verse halts everything but the echo, which finally decays into silence some time after.

Clinton’s spoken word pronouncements of “Eulogy And Light” end the album with a bizarre and twisted pledge of allegiance from a ghetto pimp to “the great god, Big Buck” as “The Lord’s Prayer,” Psalm 23 and “My Country ‘Tis Of Thee” are referenced all at once in a twisted incantation. Completing the inversion, in the background runs a backward masking of the 1969 Funkadelic B-side, “Open Our Eyes.” Originally a reverent plea for strength and goodness in the truest sense of gospel fashion, played backwards it takes on a far more disquieting and sinister quality. One thing that doesn’t mutate is Hazel’s guitar solo: here it is now streaking backwardly crying tears of blood in the sky and sounding even more poignant than it did the right-way-‘round. Gradually things speed up and out of control during the ending segment as the voice of the once mighty narrating bad ass gets his comeuppance right between the eyes and is reduced to a high-pitched/high-speed squeaking freak out...ending an album at once angry, seductive, funny and frightening at the same time, with a vibe to burn forever.