1969 was a momentous year. Man first walked on the moon; Nixon arrived in the White House. Woodstock seemed to celebrate the peace and love of the decade, but the disintegration of the Beatles and the murder of Meredith Hunter at the Rolling Stones’ Altamont concert towards the end of the year proved to be a more accurate prediction for what was to come. In Detroit, a city that had been scarred by rioting in 1967, a new group, Funkadelic, were issuing their first singles in 1968. Although a black group, they revelled in many of the outward signs of the peace and love of the 60s: psychedelic clothes, loud crunching guitars and plenty of drugs, but they were offering no vision of Utopia. One listen to their early single, ‘Music For My Mother’, would show you that, as it is a disturbed blues dirge whose opening line is “Man, I was in a place called ‘Keep Running’, Mississippi”. From 1969 to 1981 they made many ground-breaking tracks, rewriting the rules of what a group could do. This compilation is the very first that looks at the band’s entire career, from their previously unreissued debut 45 for their own Funkedelic (sic) label through to their chart-topping 45s for Warner Brothers. In between we see a twisted vision and many musical high-points.
Funkadelic were the vanguard for George Clinton’s vision of the Parliafunkadelicment Thang empire that stretched across nearly a dozen acts, and was given its own genre of music, P-Funk. Clinton had seen earlier success with his vocal group the Parliaments, but Funkadelic allowed him to hone a group of musicians to go alongside his vocalists. In the process they made some mind-blowing music that today is considered to be some of the peaks of both the rock and soul canon. In recent years it has been the rockier side of their work that has garnered most of the attention but while this collection is full of such sounds, our focus shows how damn funky and dancefloor-friendly they always were. So we have ‘Maggot Brain’ with its phenomenal Eddie Hazel guitar solo, and the very heavy ‘Red Hot Mama’, but we also have the massive US R&B number ones of ‘One Nation Under A Groove’ and ‘(Not Just) Knee Deep’, ‘Cosmic Slop’ and the imaginary blaxploitation theme of ‘A Joyful Process’. We have also included the group’s very obscure debut single ‘Whatever Makes My Baby Feel Good’, a stomping slice of Detroit soul with a slightly funky beat that ends with an insanely twisted guitar solo.
Listening to this CD we hear a group brimming with creativity; ith so many different aspects to their output. It is entirely possible to see Funkadelic as the group that took the creative spirit that filled the pioneers of 60s rock and carried it forward into the next decade. This might not be a popular theory with the champions of rock music’s classic lineage, but it is probably true.
By Dean Rudland