the sweet snob is the midnight dj

fun fact: edie brickell wrote one sick funk song

From the sweet snob midnight hour it’s Al Green, with his secret weapon minor hit, Back Up Train. “ease the pain. take me to my baby.”

Sound and color. Blow your mind.

The most dangerous song in freak folk.

“I’m through having your harsh march stare down my size.”

This song makes losers feel like winners.

“I’ve been in showbiz long enough, you need to wait your turn.”

This is a dope rap in its own way.

This dude never made another song this cool but damn.

I actually think it’s pretty cute that the ONLY EVER legally approved Grateful Dead sample is in THIS SONG, and it doesn’t show up until 3:09 in the song and makes the song sound like it’s saying words the original song LITERALLY DO NOT SAY.

this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: the sweet snob is the midnight dj
it's categorized as: _ My Personal Classics
link to it, please: Wednesday, March 16th, 2022

The Spell of Civilian

Sye Oak - Civilian

Civilian came out in early 2011, and since then it’s become like a broken-in leather shoe that fits me so perfectly that I can slip it on when I want to go down to the Bodega for a coconut water to soothe a hangover, but it still looks good enough on me that I can wear them out on a date.  This is a metaphor.  Wye Oak’s Civilian is actually an album.

Civilian opens to sounds somewhere between the chatter and clatter of a party and the tuning of an orchestra and washes into the gentleness of Two Small Deaths.  Jen Wasner’s voice and gentle arpeggiated guitar create a warm wash of sound.  Then she begins her story with:

Two small deaths happened today

With that she builds slowly to the crescendo in the song Civilian, and then takes the rest of the album to set me back down on earth.  The production is like watercolor pencil, distinct in some places, fading into a wash of muted colors in others.  It’s the kind of sound that wraps itself all the way around me.

This is the kind of album some would call “overproduced” but I would probably call “well-produced”.  It’s hard to believe this rich wall of sound is played by two people.  Jen Wasner sings and plays guitar (and I think it’s fair to say she shreds when she needs to), and Andy Stack does percussion and everything else.

When I put it on my headphones for a long train ride, I never regret it.  Ever.  And then what seems like a few minutes later I think, “Aw man, it’s already over.  What do I follow that with?”  (Answer: Dum Dum Girls’ End of Days EP).

The Alter shows off Jen’s watery, Hendrix-like guitar playing

Dog’s Eyes is one of the most playful tracks on the album, showing the big changes in feeling an dynamic even in a single song with guitar that’s sometimes playful and sometimes lands like a crunching, squealing weight on your head.

Civilian is the core of the album, it’s crescendo, showing all of Jen’s delicacy and sonic wailing wall.  I almost hate to include it out of context but it’s a damn good song.

Holy Holy is all swollen with a soft passion, and I think where Jen does her best singing on the song.  She sounds almost like a modern Stevie Nicks here.  Possibly my favorite song on the album.

Doubt?  The tender sign-off to the album.  I love how it ends on this note of tender reassurance:

this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: The Spell of Civilian
it's categorized as: _ My Personal Classics
link to it, please: Saturday, September 7th, 2013

10 Amazing Jimi Hendrix Deep Cuts


I’d like to do a little write-up in honor of the new album of mostly new and restored recordings of Jimi Hendrix. I have been a Hendrix fan for many years and have always felt like we were kindred spirits. I’d like to take a moment and talk about the Hendrix road less traveled  The deep cuts. The amazing songs that no one knows about, presented in roughly chronological order.  Of course this is not a real top 10, but I couldn’t resist the urge to go for the cheap “listicle” format.  People will read the top ten of anything.

Songs I will not be including: Foxy Lady, Manic Depression, Fire, Purple Haze, The Wind Cries Mary, Castles Made of Sand, Crosstown Traffic, or Voodoo Chile (Slight Return). Those songs are amazing, everyone’s heard them.

Because of his hits, people consider Jimi some kind of superhuman voodoo sex machine (which he probably was), but these cuts point out the sweet, loving sci-fi nerd deep within Jimi. This is the Jimi I’ve always seen.

1. May This Be Love

This is Jimi’s ode to daydreaming, and is basically a love song to an inner spiritual guide he calls “Waterfall”. This originally only appeared on the US and not the UK versions of Are You Experienced, making it an ideal deep cut. It features some of the amazing, watery, mellow guitar Jimi excelled at. There’s a plodding, thick drumbeat wherein he tells “Waterfall” why he thinks it is so damn groovy, and then an impassioned defense of daydreamers. Gorgeous and uplifting from the first moment to the last.

2. Wait Until Tomorrow

Jimi shows up atop a ladder to elope with his love, Dolly Mae, and she tells him that she thinks they should think about it one more day. With predictably fatal results.

3. Up From The Skies

This is Jimi’s plea for aliens to contact him. Mitch Mitchell drops in a soft-brushed drumbeat while Jimi plays some of the grooviest and subtlest guitar while he tells the aliens that he wants to “hear and see everything”. I said it was groovy and I meant it.

4. Little Miss Lover

Why this wasn’t a single, I have no idea, since to me it stands right along other, more famous barn burners like Foxy Lady or Fire. This is, in my mind, the sexiest Hendrix song ever recorded.

5. Bold as Love

God knows how many drugs Jimi was on when he came up with the concept for the album Axis: Bold as Love. There’s a line in Bold as Love (the song) where Jimi says, “I’m bold as love, just ask the axis,” so presumably the title of the album (Axis: Bold As Love) is the response in screenplay format.

Jimi goes through the colors a couple of times in the lyrics, and then finally, at the end, explodes into one of psychedelic rock’s formative moments when he blows the whole world’s mind by pioneering the “phase effect”. I wish you could be high on LSD for just… just the four minutes and 12 seconds it takes to play this song so you could really, you know, get it man. And then get back to work cause it’s not fucking 1967 anymore. Yeah.

6. Burning of the Midnight Lamp

Jimi Hendrix was so far out that he actually thought this paon to the depths of inner loneliness was going to be a hit song. It is a sincere and beautiful song with heartfelt lyrics describing his isolation at the time. It’s a great song, I think, but the kids don’t run out and buy albums written by Debbie Downer.

7. 1983 … (A Merman I Should Turn To Be) / Moon Turn The Tides … gently gently away

I’m pretty sure this song actually made a label suit actually cry at one point. It’s a 14 minute multi-movement sci-fi epic about retreating to an undersea realm because of the horrors of war and includes a several minute long tone-poem depicting reality underwater.

In the first movement (up to about the 3 minute mark) Jimi describes the sad state the world has got itself into and why the powers that be don’t think going underwater is a viable idea. Then in the next movement, Jimi describes his lover and he making love in the sand as they prepare to say goodbye to the world they’ve known.

At about the four and a half mark, a soundscape begins as they go down into the sea with all kinds of eerie sounds. At the 6 minute mark, guitar and melody begin to come back including a drum solo (8 minute mark) and really gorgeous little bass solo played by Jimi himself (9:30).

At about the 11 minute mark the next movement begins where Jimi and his love are now under water going deeper and deeper, chilling with Neptune and various mermaids and such. Hey this didn’t turn out so bad after all.

Finally in the last minute or so Jimi sends us out with one last shredding guitar solo which ends in oscillating bird sounding electronic noises which lead into (if you want extra credit) the next song, a one minute set of oscillating tones called Moon, Turn The Tides … gently gently away. Whew. And they pressed this to wax! In 1968!


8. Power of Love

By this point The Jimi Hendrix experience was over, and Jimi was jamming with blues great Buddy Miles. He owed the label one album and gave them Band of Gypsys, taken from two nights of recordings on New Years Eve ’69/’70 at the Fillmore East here in New York City. I put this song on a mix-tape for a 4 year old once, and didn’t have any idea what he was talking about when he referred to “the jellyfish song”. Well, eventually I finally caught that part of the lyrics:

It’s so groovy to float around sometimes
Even a jelly fish will tell you that
I said floatation is groovy, and easy
Even a jelly fish will agree to that
Yeah, but that old jelly fish
Been floatin’ around so long
Lord he ain’t got a bone in his jelly back
Floatin’ every day and every night
Ridin’ high is a risk
Sometimes the wind ain’t right

Don’t get put off by the pyrotechnics that start the song, it settles into a deep blues groove as he lays out the power of love. One of my all time favorite Jimi Hendrix songs.

9. My Friend

A world-weary Hendrix wrote one of the most hilarious of his songs, about being out on the road. The conversation in the beginning is simulated, and you can even hear Hendrix himself jabbering a little in the background pretending to be a regular joe at one of his shows.

The song begins: a lady of the night (bourbon and coke possessed words) recognizes him and says “haven’t I seen you somewhere in hell?” and “before [he] can ask, ‘was it the east or west side?'” he’s run over by her cart. In the third act he “just got out of a Scandinavian jail, and I’m on way back home to you”.

He ruefully reminds us in the refrain that his only friend talks, sees, looks and feels like you, and you do just the same as him. What happened to “waterfall” right? I truly love this song, and if there was any justice in the world it would be in every karaoke book in the world.

10. Angel

I will end with a beautiful love song about an angel.

this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: 10 Amazing Jimi Hendrix Deep Cuts
it's categorized as: _ My Personal Classics, Reviews, Songs
link to it, please: Thursday, March 28th, 2013

California is one of my favorite albums ever (Mr. Bungle)

California is probably the most normal and approachable album Mike Patton (also of Faith No More) ever made, which is to say, it’s one of the oddest and most off-putting albums most people will experience.

Mr. Bungle was Mike Patton’s high school band, but me and my teenage friends didn’t find out about him until Faith No More’s epic song and video, Epic came out.  things explode, Mike Patton punches himself in the head, and a fish (evidently given to them by Björk?!) flops about in exquisite suffocation.  This song blew our minds, and it wasn’t long before someone had a copy of the self-titled first album by Mr. Bungle.

Mr. Bungle (the album) is an insane free-jazz heavy-metal carnival.  We loved it mostly as a novelty album, with its hilarious porn samples and rollercoaster ride music, but it wasn’t until years later that I heard California.

I think the two biggest influences on California are cheesy lounge music and surf-rock, but as always, Mr. Bungle sometimes (d)evolves into pure avant-garde noise.  While some of the songs are truly purely beautiful, most are some kind of wild ride.

Air-Conditioned Nightmare – This is a great song to start with because it inhabits all the madness, beauty and tormented Beach Boys ethos that the album creates.  The song begins with clattering percussion, and Mike Patton doing some singing that would have fit in on Pet Sounds.   Then, at about the :40 minute mark, it gets twisted, and there’s a rapid-fire change to some perverse doo-wop-ing / surf-metal guitar / mechanical pleas to “get me out of this air-conditioned nightmare”.   Then at about the 3:00 mark, acts sincere, as if he were just trying to sing a beautiful song the whole time, finally introducing the final theme of the song, asking sweetly “where’s my rainbow?  where’s my halo?”

Pink Cigarette – Possibly the most straightforwardly gorgeous song on the whole album, Mike croons over vocal choruses and gentle surf rock, a tale of a cuckolded man contemplating impending suicide after his wife leaves him with only a pink cigarette on the bed:  “How can I forget that your lips were there?Your kiss goes everywhere, touches everything but me.”  So perfectly pathetic and campy, but perhaps marred by the obvious heart monitor sounds at the end.

 Goodbye Sober Day – The album’s closer, it’s notable for it’s appropriation of an Indonesian chanting style near the end.  After a spooky song cycle, all the air is sucked out of the song at about the 2:10 mark, and Mike Patton does his approximation of Kecak, a Balinese chant used partially to depict a war between Rama and the evil king Ravana (only like a heavy-metal version).

None of Them Knew They Were Robots – I wish I knew enough about music to know what the hell is happening here.  I won’t suffer to narrate all the twists and turns of this song but there’s a lot to listen here, including a doomish chant of Deus absconditus  and Deus nullus deus nisi deus.  It’s about science, religeon, nanotechnology, gnostic wisdom, god knows what else.

Vanity Fair – I’ll go out on a sweet note, cause “you’re not human, you’re a miracle!”

If this appeals to you at all, please get and listen to this whole album in all of it’s gorgeous glory.  As far as I’m concerned, it’s one for the ages.

this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: California is one of my favorite albums ever (Mr. Bungle)
it's categorized as: _ My Personal Classics, Albums, Reviews
link to it, please: Friday, April 13th, 2012

Neko Case – Furnace Room Lullaby

Neko Case got so much attention for this album when it came out that I forget sometimes how many people didn’t experience her until KEXP started playing the haunting Deep Red Bells.  By then I already was in love with Furnace Room Lullaby.

Neko Case and her wailing power have no like.  She is a monster.   And this isn’t the only album where she depicts herself dead.   Hell, even though it’s true that this album is about heartbreak and death, theres plenty that’s uplifting about it to me.  It’s just about being in pain and making an amazing howl of it.  Plus there’s a real amazing love song to Tacoma, and you don’t see that very often.

Later on, her production gets smoother, and she refines her Feminist-Country-Femme-Fatale songwriting style to a more polished shine, but here it’s not so smooth.  Just rousing country music songs with her voice slicing through everything like a knife.  There isn’t a single song I don’t love on this album, but there’s a few that stand out to me.

First, there’s Mood To Burn Bridges, her ode to giving the kiss-off to “Snooty Bitches”:

Then, I am a huge sucker for the watery guitar and Patsy Cline style of No Need To Cry:

Finally, I think you’re ready for the heavy hitter, the astounding South Tacoma Way.  Is it too inexact to just say I consider this an example of some kickass songwriting?  From the very first words, “I put on that sweater you gave me.  I woke up in the kitchen, a few minutes later.  I didn’t know how I had gotten there.  Did you guide me?” to “couldn’t pay my respects to a dead man, your life was so much more to me, and I chased it away with sticks and stones, but that rage kept following me” to “I can’t comprehend the ways that I miss you, they come to life in my mistakes” to “the cross-streets bear your name.”  (Which, I’m sure they do.)

this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: Neko Case – Furnace Room Lullaby
it's categorized as: _ My Personal Classics, Albums, Reviews
link to it, please: Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Digesting Joanna Newsom’s – Have One On Me

Not everyone can stomach Joanna Newsom’s “Lisa Simpson on Crack” voice, or twisty lyrics to get to the amazing meaty rhythms and poetry underneath.  Even I have to be in the right mood, but when I am, I can let the kaleidoscopic beauty of her masterpieces just wash over me.

It took me months of listening to even begin to crack the nut that was Joanna’s last album, titled after the fabled mystical-city-swallowed-by-an-ocean: Ys.  Joanna packs enough puns, wordplays, turns of phrase, and subtle passion into one song to make listening something like trying to study a James Joyce story.

As impenetrable as Ys seemed sometimes, it’s a light snack compared to the 3-CD wall of words she released as her latest album, Have One On Me.

On the first few listens I just hear little intriguing phrases, and it takes a while to start to piece together the whole picture.

Now, I’m finally starting to pull some favorites and sense out of these 18 songs which range from two minutes to eleven minutes totaling a full two hours, and I just wanted to share with anyone who wanted to come with me a little into her world.

For one thing, I think I can tell you without a doubt what most of these songs are about.  Much like Ys, the main theme is of Joanna Newsom expressing in a million ways how she’s throwing herself in utter love and loyalty at the feet of a man who really just doesn’t feel the same way about her.  Not an uncommon theme in pop music, but no one says it like Joanna.

She lays it out simply on the album opener “Easy”.  She’s easy.  Easy to keep.  He pleases her even in his sleep.  So (like Bloody Mary) he can just speak her name and she’ll appear.  That’s how goddamn easy she is.  So easy it’s… actually kind of creepy!

She doesn’t say it explicitly, but somewhere in there it’s obvious that she knows he likes a challenge.  He doesn’t like things easy.  She’ll never capture his heart.  But she can’t help it.  She’s never going to be able to make herself seem credibly harder to get for him.  So she’s fucked.  She knows it.  She can’t stop loving him anyway.  No one says it better than her.

She starts to talk about this on what I would consider the album’s most easy listen, the crowd-pleasing “Good Intentions Paving Company” (god knows I’ve been an employee for so long I’m vested).

Just consider a few choice quotes from the song:

I regret…I regret…
How I said to you, “Honey, just open your heart!”
When I’ve got trouble even opening a honey jar


And I saw straight away that the lay was steep
But I fell for you, honey, as easy as falling asleep

and conclusion:

And I know you meant to show the extent
To which you gave a goddang
You ranged real hot and real cold,
But I’m sold.
I am home on the range

And I do hate to fold
Right here at the top of my game
When I’ve been trying with my whole heart and soul
To stay right here in the right lane

But it can make you feel over and old
Lord, you know it’s a shame
When I only want for you to pull over
and hold me, ‘Til I can’t remember my own name


Second to last, as a break from ordinary romantic heartbreak, she tells the story of “Baby Birch”, perhaps the story of an abortion?

This song builds slow, but the payoff is worth it.  Someone posted the song with lyrics, which works well:

And finally, the album closer, “Does Not Suffice”.  I think that this about sums it up:

It does not suffice for you to say I am a sweet girl
Or to say you hate to see me sad because of you
It does not suffice to merely lie beside each other
As those who love each other do


Of course, I’m still digesting.  I hope that some people are won over and take a chance on this amazing album.

this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: Digesting Joanna Newsom’s – Have One On Me
it's categorized as: _ My Personal Classics, Albums, Reviews
link to it, please: Monday, October 4th, 2010

Focus: An Astounding Jazz Album That Thrills Me

Stan Getz – Focus

In my early 20’s, I first got exposed to jazz, and still love most of those crowd pleasers, including one I’m sure everyone’s heard of: the so-smooth-as-butter that even the Starbucks generation has it on their iPod: Getz/Gilberto.

Girl From Ipanema has been so played and covered and tastefully coffee shopped that it’s hard to remember sometimes that Stan Getz did amazing and different stuff both before and after the Bossa Nova thing. He could have easily ridden that train until the end of his days.

But it’s not Getz/Gilberto, or even his later work that I want to turn you on to.

It’s his 1961 masterpiece: Focus.

Allow me to set the stage.  Another album I love is Joanna Newsom’s 2006 Ys album.  In Ys (pronounced like “ease”), Joanna sat down on pedal harp and recorded 5 long original songs in very few takes.  Once the recording was finished, she worked with composer Van Dyke Parks to create an orchestral score to lay behind her recording.  It’s an amazing accomplishment, and I think it’s kind of cool that Stan Getz did kind of the reverse on Focus.

Getz commissioned big band composer Eddie Sauter, to make him an album of modern classical pieces for strings, bass and harp, which Sauter delivered.

Now, I don’t have the liner notes in front of me anymore, and can’t find them on the internet anymore, but as I remember it, Getz laid down his saxophone takes on his first listen of each track!!!

I liked the whole album, but I remember about a minute into Night Rider just having a feeling like all the air was being sucked out of my chest.  Have a listen:

It’s well known that the sax is improvised, but if it’s true that he improvised the first time he heard the recordings, then it just blows me away, that he was able to create this level of excitement and invention without any planning at all.

Also worth listening to is another exciting track, I’m Late, I’m Late:

And a mellower ballad, I Remember When:

this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: Focus: An Astounding Jazz Album That Thrills Me
it's categorized as: _ My Personal Classics, Albums, Reviews
link to it, please: Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

One More Chance to Jam With Jimi Before I Die

You know, nobody claims to dislike Hendrix.  It’s just one of those things.  He’s got like, the most fantastic brand goodwill ever.  Not that it does him any good.

But I’m actually one of those rare people: I’m a Hendrix Fan.  I love all of his real albums (only 4), I like most of his posthumous work (almost as much), and I even treasure some of his early recordings with Curtis Knight and other soul dudes.  I do NOT treasure all that much his drunken live recordings with the Doors or whatever.

Anyway, I was pretty excited to hear that they’d somehow dug up even MOAR posthumous recordings and were basically releasing a new album called Valleys of Neptune.

I’ve been able to give it a few listens and I’m pretty damn happy.  It’s a lot of re-recorded versions of songs in the more bluesy style he was starting to get into when he died, and a few unheard originals.

So, I thought I’d do a quick Hendrix tribute post and let you listen to some of my favorites, with a focus on the stuff he never got to release in his lifetime.

First of all, off the new album, I really am liking this great instrumental cover of Sunshine of Your Love:

And a cool song called Mr. Bad Luck:

Then, moving back to songs released after his death in many different forms, but arguably the best on the one closest to what he wanted, a big album called First Rays of the New Rising Sun.  This song is one of my favorite tunes ever, ever, ever, mostly due to it’s magnificent and rueful lyrics.  It’s called My Friend.  I recommend you listen to it several times.

A choice cut of the lyrics:

Now a lady with a pearl handled necktie
Tied to the driver’s fence
Breathes in my face,
Bourbon and coke possessed words
“Haven’t I seen you somewhere in hell,
Or was it just an accident?”
You know how I felt then, and so:

Before I could ask “was it the East or West side?”
My feet they howled in pain
The wheels of a bandwagon cut very deep,
But not as deep in my mind as the rain
And as they pulled away I could see her words
Stagger and fall on my muddy tent
Well I picked them up, brushed them off,
To see what they say,
And you wouldn’t believe:
“Come around to my room, with the tooth in the middle,
And bring along the bottle and a president”

And sometimes it’s not so easy,
Especially when your only friend,
Talks, sees, looks and feels like you,
And you do just the same as him

Also, a little more of a minor work, I also love Belly Button Window, arguably a pro-choicey song?!

Then, I could sit here and lead you down the primrose path of Jimi’s genius albums he released on purpose all day… really you can just listen to the whole albums and you’re pretty much in good hands, but I’ll just make one pick from each album that you may not have heard.

From his last album, a live album recorded with Buddy Miles: there’s so many massive songs on this album, but I’m going to do Power to Love.  I knew this kid when he was 5 who loved this song and called it “The Jellyfish Song” because of these lyrics:

It’s so groovy to float around, sometimes even
a jellyfish will agree to that.
I said flotation is groovy and easy,
even a jellyfish will agree to that.
Yeah, but old jelly’s been floatin’ so long
and so slack, lord, ain’t no kinda bone in his jelly back.
Floatin’ ev’ry day and ev’ry night is a risk, sometimes
the wind ain’t right!

From his crazy last double album with The Experience, I present the crazy, jazzy, Rainy Day, Dream Away, which I love for his little ad-libs that start the song, including some perhaps real joint-hitting noises:

From Bold As Love, which truly blew my goddamn mind at age 17, I present Jimi’s way-cool story of an alien dropping back to earth to tell people how messed up things are in the future:

And from Jimi’s seminal Are You Experienced? which you’d otherwise think was a greatest-hits album, the groovy space-opera with crazy radio noises, Third Stone From the Sun. Let Jimi land his kinky machine a little closer to you, baby:

Ok, I’m glad we had this time together, Jimi.

this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: One More Chance to Jam With Jimi Before I Die
it's categorized as: _ My Personal Classics, Albums, Reviews, Songs
link to it, please: Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

My favorite song right now is Mastodon’s “The Last Baron”

Call of the Mastodon

Something in me needs metal. The seed was planted at 16 when my friend Aaron inexpertly rocked the Metallica “Four Horsemen” riff in his basement, forever melding my young energy to the driving force of its dorky power.

This is the kind of orchestral, explosive metal that makes me want to listen to it over and over and over.

Just take a deep breath and let it wash over you.  Who cares what it’s about?  The album is a concept album about like, Rasputin and astral travel and gnarly stuff like that, like metal should be.

But… wait.  There’s more to it than that.  Is that some strange rockabilly lick?  Is he teasing us with some kind of LA hair metal shit?  Why does he sound so much like Ozzy?  Is it wrong to let Heavy Metal caress you?

If you don’t find yourself saying “whoa” at sometime in this 13 minutes then pack it in.  You have no metal in you.

this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: My favorite song right now is Mastodon’s “The Last Baron”
it's categorized as: _ My Personal Classics, Reviews, Songs
link to it, please: Saturday, April 18th, 2009

Funkadelic – Maggot Brain

Do you know what this album MEANS TO ME?  DO YOU?!  Tears have streamed down my eyes as I listened to this album, high on hallucinogenic mushrooms.  Roommates have nearly killed me for listening to the title track too many times (“That song sounds like Spinal Tap’s ‘Sex Farm Girl’!”).  I have told the (dubious) story of its title track to anyone who I thought would sit through all 9 minutes of it and really listen.

I have real love for long-play albums that can realize their full potential in five or six songs (see Joanna Newsom’s Ys (see my word record for parenthetical statements in this review (it’s like Lisp))).  Maggot Brain is no exception.

First of all, for the totally clueless, who is Funkadelic, right?  I could answer by referring to the song, “Mommy, What’s a Funkadelic?” which I bet George Clinton would prefer, but I won’t.  Oh the venerable George Clinton, he’s still touring, doing both songs from his older Funk/Rock band Funkadelic, and his late 70’s horn ensemble funk band Parliament.  I just about guarantee you’ve heard a Parliament song.

The first few Funkadelic albums are amazing rock albums.  These dudes were stoned out of their gourds and clearly taking some amazing shit, because they were fountains of love, excitement and creativity.  They invented their own sonic worlds and terminology.  Rappers have been biting their style and getting Clinton to come do cameos, and probably will be propping up Clinton’s old bones on stage 50 years from now for street cred.

Dr. Dre points at his Funkadelic weed leaf t-shirt in his The Chronic videos from the 90’s.  En Vogue had a hit in the 90’s with “Free Your Mind and The Rest Will Follow”, a sad rip-off of Funkadelic’s “Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow”.  Countless hip-hop artists have sampled Funkadelic and chanted, “Think!  Think!  It ain’t illegal yet!”  But this album came from back in the days when they weren’t so influential.

The album opens with a little bit of machine gun sounds in the distance, and George Clinton’s low growling chant, that I still play for people sometimes when they’re feeling hopeless about the world:

Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time,
for y’all have knocked her up
I have tasted the maggots in the mind of the universe.
I was not offended
For I knew I had to rise above it all
or drown in my own shit

And then begins Eddie Hazel’s nine-minute guitar solo, the story of which goes like this (cobbled from a biography and interviews I’ve read over the years and totally unsourced but widely believed):

Eddie Hazel and the rest of the band were total junkies by this point and Clinton is having a hard time even getting a decent recording out of them.  Hazel is totally gone on some Orange Sunshine LSD.  Clinton stands him up and says, “Think about the saddest thing you can think of.”  Hazel’s like, “My mom dying, man.” Clinton says, “Okay, play a solo about that.”

So Hazel plays this solo that really has to be heard to be believed (don’t worry, I’m embedding it!) where the guitar goes through the 5 stages of grieving or whatever, howling, sobbing, accepting, raging, all that.  Clinton was so amazed he faded out the rest of the band and just let Eddie’s amazing solo stand.

But that’s not all.  “Can You Get to That”, just totally changes the whole game with a simple, joyous funk song that warns, “When you place your love on credit, then when your lovin’ days are done, checks you signed with the love and kisses later come back sayin’ insufficient funds.”  Words to live by, people.

The next three songs are just three unbelievably solid funk songs, and “Back in our Minds” is a reconciliation song that features some kind of strange water glass percussion.  “You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks” in particular moved me so much I always thought it would be the perfect song in a film soundtrack.  When I actually heard it in a film soundtrack I was happy but a little disappointed it wasn’t what I had in my head.

Finally, the songs ends with another semi-epic, “Wars of Armageddon”.  The whole album is kind of about household and family love and war, and Wars is a cowbell and tom-tom peppered noise poem on the topic.  Babies cry, someone shouts, “Shut up, I gotta go to work!”  Sirens blare.  People chant, “What do we want?  FREEDOM!  When do we want it?  NOW!”  Clinton stonedly intones, “More power to the people, more power to the pussy, more pussy to the people, right on!”

The song and album end with a huge atomic explosion and someone says softly, “Revolution!  It’s a fat, funky person.”  Right, dude.  Then one last funk lick and a mother’s heartbeat bring it to a close.  Now that’s a goddamn album.

Gotta do two on this one.  Maggot Brain itself:

and Can You Get to That:


this blog post is now over, thank you for reading.
as a reminder, it was called: Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
it's categorized as: _ My Personal Classics, Albums, Reviews
link to it, please: Wednesday, October 29th, 2008
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