Funkadelic :: Live At Meadowbrook 1971

The only official, full recording of an early Funkadelic concert was first released on CD in 1996 -- thankfully Tidal Waves Music have (finally) issued the set on vinyl. The recording itself seems to deeply divide P-Funk fans, as it showcases a group in transition with new members that had no rehearsal time (and in some ways suffers for it). However, it’s a beautifully recorded document of Funkadelic on stage in a Detroit suburb, captured shortly after the release of their epochal ’71 masterpiece Maggot Brain. The sound of the vinyl is superb, and has much more range than the flat-sounding CD. For those reasons alone, it’s essential.

As George Clinton has always presented P-Funk concerts as a Parliafunkadelicment revue, this set starts off with 20 minutes of instrumental intensity from ‘Funkadelic’ before George and the ‘Parliament’ vocalists step up to their microphones. Kicking off with a blazing instrumental version of "Alice In My Fantasies" (itself not released by the group until 1974 in a vocal take), Eddie Hazel’s epic guitar solo "Maggot Brain" follows, and the onstage troubles begin. Drummer Tiki Fullwood and rhythm guitarist Tawl Ross had quit the band days before this concert. The rhythm guitar is handled rather flawlessly by Harold Beane (a Stax session cat whose awesome performance here shows that he was undoubtedly familiar with the records, and probably a fan himself), but Tyrone Lampkin behind the drum kit wasn’t able to set aside his flashy overplaying to settle into the deep pocket that Tiki laid down (a crucial element of the Funkadelic foundation).

As for "Maggot Brain", even Tyrone's showboating cannot diminish Eddie Hazel’s masterful playing. Of course the studio version is definitive (which is mostly just the two guitars, as Clinton mixed out the band tracks, as he has explained they played too poorly), but this full band version, flaws and all, is essential listening as well. According to the liner notes, original Funkadelic bassist Billy ‘Bass’ Nelson, was barking commands at Tyrone in an attempt to get him into the pocket throughout the show.

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