Before & After Funkadelic’s ‘Maggot Brain’

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On greater than three dozen virtuosic, genre-blurring studio albums launched from 1970 to 1982, George Clinton and the members of his rollicking Parliament-Funkadelic collective formed the spine and shook unfastened the booty of recent groove. Formed by singers within the orbit of a New Jersey barbershop in 1955, the group began as a Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers-style doo-wop act earlier than leaning into Detroit soul. Ultimately they absorbed the tradition of the late ’60s like sponges.

The Parliaments reworked from a Motown-aspiring, matching-tie-and-handkerchief vocal group into tripped-out hippies in bell bottoms, headdresses and the occasional American flag diaper. They have been turned on by psychedelic rockers like Jimi Hendrix and Cream; they frolicked with punks just like the MC5 and the Stooges; they loved Black Power, free love and underground comics. “Free your thoughts and your ass will observe,” they famously sang. “The kingdom of heaven is inside.”

However, Funkadelic’s third album, “Maggot Brain,” wasn’t a Technicolor romp. It was the sound of the Woodstock dream deferred. The band emerged screaming from the shadows forged by Vietnam, the racial uprisings of their outdated residence of New Jersey and their new residence in Detroit, a heroin epidemic, poverty, Kent State and the loss of life of Hendrix himself, whose passing was rife with symbolism.

The album arrived 50 years in the past, in July 1971, throughout a summer season bookended by the discharge of two different bold masterworks of protest-soul: the introspective reportage of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” and the brooding disillusionment of Sly and the Family Stone’s “There’s a Riot Goin’ On.” But “Maggot Brain” exists in a special astral airplane. It is unleashed id refracted via the lens of LSD: 36 minutes of swirling jams, apocalyptic sound results, heavy steel riffs, exhausting funk and lyrical mash-ups of the Beatles and Martin Luther King Jr. The album artwork is provocative — a screaming Black lady outdoors the gatefold, and inside, textual content from the Process Church of the Final Judgment, the non secular group rumored to have ties to Charles Manson.

The work that Clinton and his band launched within the subsequent decade would rework the bottom of recent hip-hop: You couldn’t activate a radio within the ’90s with out listening to a slow-rolling rap tune constructed on a P-Funk pattern. But “Maggot Brain” holds a singular place of affect amongst rock bands, R&B songwriters and jazz artists because of its Blacker-than-Sabbath atmospheres and transcendent soloing. In 2021, its legacy is felt even stronger, within the ever-evolving protest music of artists like Kendrick Lamar, D’Angelo, Solange and Brittany Howard.

Here’s an audio information to the album’s seven songs, plus what got here earlier than, and what got here after.

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