Hey everyone knows what Funkadelic sound like right? Massive P-Funk with horns and breaks and fro’s and baritone ‘Yeah Baby’, backing vocal ‘Dance Mutha’, freak out type stuff.
Star shaped sunglasses, platform boots, flares and glitter. That’s George Clinton’s Mother Ship of Soul Warriors. Keytars, Choruses and huge brass sections. Right?
Well Maggot Brain sounds more like something an ambient Math-Rock Post-Everything Mogwai fan would listen to. Granted there’s a couple of minutes at the start when the voice over is a mixture of Gil Scott Heron poetry and 70’s Sci-Fi.
“Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time. For y’all have knocked her up”
Like a verbal Star Wars opening crawl a deep echoing voice like some fly Metatron intones that…
“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”
That’s a diversionary tactic though. That’s got you expecting a boinging bass line and some ‘Space Baybay’ schtick.
What it doesn’t prepare you for is a nine minute ambient guitar work out. The sort of spacious noodling you could imagine from Pink Floyd around the Animals era.
Hendrix was still a contemporary and creative force at this point. Cream and Clapton and Miles Davis all have a spiritual hand in Maggot Brain.
It’s a work of significant vision and of bold intent to start an album this way. It pokes the serious rock crowd in the eye and plays them on their own pitch within their own rules. Then the album goes back to doing what you’d expect it to do and the other 6 tracks begin to define what the rest of the 1970’s will sound like for America, for the yet to be invented genre of Disco and for Funk and Soul music for decades to come.
I say the rest of the album like it’s all the same. It so isn’t. There’s another apocalyptic epic at the close. However, it deserves more than a mention in this tracks notes. There’s just so much going on within the seven tracks of Maggot Brain.
There’s a cleaner mix from a 21st century remaster that works around the spoken word intro and the dodgy ‘Weooooh’ effects. It plays up the jazz noises and spare notes of the original.
If you look at that album sleeve though, you don’t want it to sound clean and modern (well I don’t anyway). I want it to sound how that mad screaming head cover looks. Like the music from another time, another place and another planet.