|Studio album by|
|Released||July 12, 1971|
|Recorded||Late 1970–early 1971|
|Studio||United Sound Systems, Detroit|
|Singles from Maggot Brain|
Maggot Brain is the third studio album by the American funk band Funkadelic, released by Westbound Records in July 1971. It was produced by band leader George Clinton and recorded at United Sound Systems in Detroit during late 1970 and early 1971. It was the final album recorded by the original Funkadelic lineup; after its release, original members Tawl Ross (guitar), Billy Nelson (bass), and Tiki Fulwood (drums) left the band for various reasons.
The album charted in the R&B Top 20. Today, it is perhaps best known for its 10-minute title track, performed by guitarist Eddie Hazel. Pitchfork named it the 17th best album of the 1970s. In 2020, Rolling Stone ranked Maggot Brain the 136th greatest album of all time in its updated list.
Music and lyrics
The album opens with a spoken word monologue by band leader George Clinton, which refers to "the maggots in the mind of the universe". According to legend, the 10-minute title track was recorded in one take when Clinton, under the influence of LSD, told guitarist Eddie Hazel to play as if he had been told his mother was dead: Clinton instructed him "to picture that day, what he would feel, how he would make sense of his life, how he would take a measure of everything that was inside him and let it out through his guitar". Though several other musicians performed on the track, Clinton largely faded them out of the final mix so that the focus would be on Hazel's guitar. Hazel utilized a fuzz and a wah effects, inspired by his idol Jimi Hendrix; Clinton subsequently added delay and other effects in mixdown, saying "I Echoplexed it back on itself three or four times. That gave the whole thing an eerie feel, both in the playing and in the sound effects." Critics have described the solo as "lengthy, mind-melting" and "an emotional apocalypse of sound."
The subsequent five tracks have been described as "sour harmony-group meditations heavy with bass, keyboard and class consciousness," with the band exploring a "psychedelic/funk fusion." "Can You Get to That" features Isaac Hayes's backing vocal group Hot Buttered Soul, and contains elements of folk blues and gospel music. "You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks" explores interracial love and features electronically distorted drums. The track "Super Stupid" was described by Pitchfork as a "tale of a dumbass junkie set to a tune Black Sabbath would have been proud of." The 9-minute closing track "Wars of Armageddon" has been described as a "freak-out" jam, and makes use of "paranoid, psychedelic sound effects and crowd sounds." Popular music scholar Yuval Taylor described it as "a burning hot prefiguring" of the music that Miles Davis would perform on his 1975 live album Agharta.
Title and packaging
Reportedly, "Maggot Brain" was the nickname of Hazel. Other sources say the title is a reference to band leader George Clinton finding his brother's "decomposed dead body, skull cracked, in a Chicago apartment."
The cover artwork depicts a screaming black woman's head coming out of the earth; it was photographed by Joel Brodsky and features model Barbara Cheeseborough. The album's liner notes are a polemic on fear provided by the Process Church of the Final Judgement, an obscure Satanist religious cult. According to author Rickey Vincent, the organization's presumed association with mass-murderer Charles Manson, along with the album's foreboding themes and striking artwork, lent Funkadelic the image of a "death-worshipping black rock band."
Release and aftermath
After the album was released, the band effectively disbanded: drummer Tiki Fulwood was fired due to drug use; guitarist Tawl Ross reportedly got into an "acid eating contest, then snorting some raw speed, before completely flipping out" and has not performed since; bassist Billy Nelson quit over a money dispute with Clinton. Subsequently only Clinton, Hazel, and keyboardist Bernie Worrell remained from the original Funkadelic lineup.
A 2005 reissue included three bonus tracks, among them an alternate mix of "Maggot Brain" featuring the full-band performance.
|Christgau's Record Guide||B+|
|Encyclopedia of Popular Music|||
|The Rolling Stone Album Guide|||
|Spin Alternative Record Guide||10/10|
|Tiny Mix Tapes|||
Reviewing for Rolling Stone in September 1971, Vince Aletti negatively described Maggot Brain as "a shattered, desolate landscape with few pleasures," competently performed but "limited." He was particularly critical of the record's second side, panning it as "dead-end stuff," and asked "who needs this shit?" Village Voice critic Robert Christgau was more enthusiastic, praising the title-track as "druggy, time-warped super-schlock" and claiming that the second track features "a rhythm so pronounced and eccentric it could make Berry Gordy twitch to death"; he added that "the funk pervades the rest of the album, but not to the detriment of other peculiarities."
Writing years later for PopMatters, Taylor called the album "one of the loudest, darkest, most intense records ever made," and stated that the group "captured the odor of the age, the stench of death and corruption, the weary exhalation of America at its lowest." Dominque Leone of Pitchfork called the album "an explosive record, bursting at the seams with exactly the kind of larger than life sound a band called Funkadelic should have made." Dave Segal, from the same publication, revered it as "a monument of psychedelic funk" and "a defining document of Black rock music in the early '70s". Additionally, he called its two bookending tracks "the most evocative expressions of birth and annihilation ever put on record" and suggested that the "soulful funk-rock" tracks in between represent the "hott[est] five-song streak in the Clinton canon". The Greenwood Encyclopedia of Rock History (2006) claimed that Maggot Brain and Funkadelic's previous two albums "created a whole new kind of psychedelic rock with a dance groove". Music historian Bob Gulla hailed it as an "iconoclastic funk-rock" record, featuring the best guitar playing of Hazel's career. Author Matthew Grant describes the album as marking where "the band really hit their stride.
In a subsequent review for Blender, Christgau described the 10-minute title track as "indelible" and said the album culminated in "Funkadelic's most incendiary freak-out ever" on the last track, while also applauding the 2005 CD reissue's bonus tracks. Stereogum named it the second best album by the Parliament-Funkadelic collective, and called it "one of the most cathartic R&B albums ever made." John Bush of AllMusic stated that the group "hit its stride with [the] acid-rock extravaganza." Happy Mag named the album among the 5 best P-Funk releases, describing it as "an absolute freakout of psychedelic funk sounds," but also "perhaps Clinton’s most lyrically sparse album." Fender called the album "an eruption of psychedelic agit-funk that blended the increasingly bleak American story—urban decay, prime time body counts from an ongoing slog through Vietnam, and front page assassinations—with the sounds of Hendrix, Motown, James Brown, Cream, Sly Stone, Blue Cheer and Vanilla Fudge." The Washington Post critic Geoffrey Himes names it an exemplary release of the progressive soul development from 1968 to 1973.
In 2003, Rolling Stone ranked Maggot Brain #486 on the magazine's list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, with the magazine raising its rank in 2012 to #479, calling it "the heaviest rock album the P-Funk ever created". In the 2020 reboot of the list, the album's rank shot up to #136. The record was also listed in the music reference book 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. The singer Bilal names it among his 25 favorite albums, citing its "loose" creative direction as an influence on his own music.
|2.||"Can You Get to That" (released as a single-Westbound 185)||2:50|
|3.||"Hit It and Quit It" (released as a single-Westbound 198)||3:50|
|4.||"You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks" (released as a single-Westbound 175)||3:36|
|2.||"Back in Our Minds"||Haskins||2:38|
|3.||"Wars of Armageddon"||9:42|
- Sides one and two were combined as tracks 1–7 on CD reissues.
|8.||"Whole Lot of BS"||2:11|
|9.||"I Miss My Baby" (United Soul with Funkadelic, from the CD U.S. Music with Funkadelic)||Haskins||5:02|
|10.||"Maggot Brain" (alternate mix, recorded in 1971)||9:35|
Credits are adapted from the album's liner notes.
- George Clinton, Raymond Davis, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, Grady Thomas, Garry Shider, Hot Buttered Soul (Pat Lewis, Diane Lewis and Rose Williams) – vocals
- Eddie Hazel – guitar, vocals
- Tawl Ross – guitar, vocals
- Bernie Worrell – keyboards, vocals
- Billy Nelson – bass guitar, vocals
- Tiki Fulwood – drums
- Produced by George Clinton
- Executive producer – Armen Boladian
- Bernie Mendelson in charge of The Eegangas
- Cover photography by Joel Brodsky
- Inside cover photography by Ron Scribner
- Artwork design – The Graffiteria/Paula Bisacca
- Art direction – David Krieger
- Album supervision – Bob Scerbo
- Album co-ordination – Dorothy Schwartz
- Model on album cover- Barbara Cheeseborough
Billboard (North America) - album
- 1971 Pop Albums No. 108
- 1971 Black Albums No. 14
- 1990 Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums No. 92
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