Maggot Brain, released under the Westbound label in July of 1970, provided a creative zenith for trailblazing all black rock band Funkadelic’s output, and was followed by a series of increasingly commercially appealing LP’s.
The imaginatively titled cut retains a raw, fervent energy that perfectly epitomises a period when psychedelics were regularly associated with mainstream artists. To coin a phrase; the way out stuff is way fucking out there.
The instrumental title track transitions through a slew of unsettling sections, with the late Eddie Hazel’s 10+ minute guitar soliloquy a spiralling model of traditional blues filtered through a hallucinogenic lens, effectively transporting listeners into a realm more commonly synonymous with the names Hendrix, Page, and Clapton.
Far from peaking too soon, the album continues to effuse through various hypnotic phases: “Super Stupid” shares an overview of low budget junkie-ism, flanked by strains reminiscent of embryonic Black Sabbath.
Hit It And Quit It is a funk canticle exuding potency from the keys of pianist Bernie Worrell, who decadently dispenses with convention until the chorus kicks in.
Can You Get to That is a slightly more conventional pop tune that showed Funkadelic had a serious side, in spite of their penchant for the surreal, particularly when it came to social commentary (the track also featured Isaac Hayes’ female backing vocalists, giving it a further veneer of classic soul.)
Another stand-out, Wars of Armageddon (Sampled a decade ago by Optimo on the Psyche Out mix) is a knock-out-drag-down, knuckle dusting death match between the world’s best rhythm section and paranoid crowd scenes.
Maggot Brain remains a volatile recording to this day, bursting at the seams with larger than life virility; apt for a band going by the moniker Funkadelic.
Regrettably this is a release that has been overlooked by large sections of contemporary funk fans, rarely mentioned within a hundred breaths of other artists of the era such as James Brown, Stevie Wonder and Curtis Mayfield.
Despite that admission, Maggot Brain is indisputably an album worthy of a place in the collection of any advocate of the genre.