Tidal Catalog #3B: Funkadelic

Introduction: For those of you that have stumbled across this website and are interested in reading about my trek through the universe of the Tidal streaming service, let me tell you a bit about what I did. Back in 2016 I thought it would be kind of cool to listen to artist’s catalog from start to finish and rank them from best to worst. After all, who doesn’t like a good list? I thought I might do a few of them and see what happened, hoping it would introduce me to records that were foreign to me in the arsenal of an artist I was familiar with. I also though that it would be pretty cool to get out of the “one off” mode of listening to a new record, years after the previous one, in order to get a true sense of how the artist matured over time. Flash forward to June of 2019 and 250 catalogs later, I have ended the trek. I posted these all on Facebook over the years as they were completed but I’m going to move them all over here, starting with #1, in order to expand them out a bit more.

As with all my catalogs, to be considered in the ranking, an album has to meet certain criteria:

  • The artist must actually perform on 80% of the tracks (soundtrack and rap provision)
  • No compilations of previous released material will be included.
  • The album must have been released officially and within the realm of the label that the artist would have been on at the time or official releases posthumously (normally applies to a slew of live records)
  • Any EPs must contain new new music and be relevant to the catalog, not be more like a single with a b-side or two.
  • Compilations of previously recorded material will be included if they are remixes, bonus tracks, outtakes… mostly music that hasn’t been part of a main release before)

Entrance Point: Just like Parliament, I came into this knowing of Funkadelic, hearing singles like “One Nation Under a Groove” but having never heard a full record. I know when I started too, I seemed to be a bit oblivious that this was the more experimental, psychedelic rock side (despite the fact that the band name literally tells me this…).

All albums ranked on a 10 point scale.

  • Standing on the Verge of Getting It On (9)

Parliament had seven albums ranked 10/10 but the top Funkadelic record gets an 9 here. Obviously I’m ranking these, so this is my personal perspective but it’s a reflection of the more experimental, loosey goosey style of some of the music in the catalog more than anything else. Standing on the Verge of Getting It On is the tightest of the albums even with the 12-minute sprawling “Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts” closing it out. This album marks guitarist Eddie Hazel’s best overall work. He co-wrote all but the opening track on the record and his guitar work is some of the best of his short career, at least in the form of a complete record. Hazel had quit the band in ’71 but rejoined before this album in ’74 and then got arrested and was replaced by Michael Hampton right after this was released.

The most interesting track on this record is “Alice in My Fantasies” which is a scorching rock track with a massive Hazel solo on it but most notable for me is that the guitar lick sounds exactly like what Tom Morello would come forward with as part of Rage Against The Machine nearly 30 years later. Obviously a bit of an influence on him. And the guitar solo in the super funky “Red Hot Momma” is brilliant. And supposedly the title track is also the spot where the P-Funk definition of funk, actually begins. So this is kind of the album that kind of defines the Funkadelic sound for me.

Funkadelic, “Alice in My Fantasies”
  • One Nation Under a Groove (8)

One Nation Under a Groove is their biggest selling album and often seen on best of lists as one of the best funk albums of all time. This album is probably the funkiest in the Funkadelic stable, while still maintaining the sprawling rock music on previous records (heck, there’s a song called “Who Says a Funk Band Can’t Play Rock?”). The title track is the best song in the catalog and Ice Cube sampling it for “Bop Gun” (ironically, not using Parliament’s own “Bop Gun” track) didn’t hurt in getting a whole new generation of fans hearing the original.

The aforementioned “Who Says a Funk Band Can’t Play Rock?” is a simple but pretty rockin’ song and there’s a 10+ minute track called “P.E. Squad” or spelled out, “Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad (The Doo Doo Chasers).” Say that three times fast. One of many references to shit in George Clinton’s repertoire, it’s a slow burner, telling why the world is a toilet.

I know this is considered a classic album for them and I get why but for me, the mellow tracks just groove on a bit too long without going places, so while it’s still absolutely worth your time, I just find other albums better. Simple as that.

Funkadelic, “One Nation Under a Groove”
  • Let’s Take It To the Stage (7.5)
  • Tales of Kidd Funkadelic (7)
  • Maggot Brain (7)

I know it’s not popular to not like Maggot Brain all that much but I’m listening to albums as a whole here, not bits and pieces and I don’t rank them on just one or two songs. If I was ranking on just one song, then the title track would certainly get this to the top of the list. “Maggot Brain” is essentially a 10+ minute guitar solo by Eddie Hazel with minimal participation from the other members of the group. If you’ve never heard it, do yourself a favor and listen to it below. The whole thing. It’s one of the greatest guitar solos you’ll ever hear and one that has influenced many current guitarists.

The first side is where it’s at with “Hit it and Quit It” being a highlight of the album, mixing funk and rock in a hard hitting four-minute burst. And then the final track on the album, “Wars of Armageddon” is free-form studio chaos. But a few other songs like “Super Stupid” and “Back in Our Minds” don’t really hold up compared to some of the earlier work the band did. So, while you may have heard this is a classic record, for me there are classic moments but the record as a whole just isn’t that great.

Funkadelic, “Maggot Brain”
  • Uncle Jam Wants You (7)
  • America Eats Its Young (6.5)
  • Hardcore Jollies (6)
  • Cosmic Slop (6)
  • The Electric Spanking of War Babies (5)
  • First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate (4)

If you’ve read any of the other catalogs here, you’ve seen I like taking a pause on the trek down here near the bottom for a look at one of the worst in the catalog as well. Part of doing this kind of trek is that I’m going to run into great records and crap records, with most falling in the middle but it’s both of the former categories that make for interesting chats in the end. First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate is one of those bad records that needs a mention. Just like the latest record in the Parliament catalog, I wouldn’t blame you if you didn’t know this existed. It was the first album of new studio material since 2003’s miserable By Way of the Drum. At that point, the band had been around for 33 years, so George Clinton decided to put 33(!) tracks on a triple album and release it under his own label, The C Kunspyruhzy. Here’s the thing. While a lot of the members of Funkadelic are actually on this record, the updated sound for 2014 doesn’t really sound much like Funkadelic at all. So, the inclusion of a lot of rock music makes sense to put it under this moniker and there are 11 minute wild jams here but the record also contains more rap than you’d expect.

After a Spanish flavored opening jam, the second track is “Get Low” which is a straight rap track, sounding more like something Nelly would have put out in his heyday. Throughout the disc, the record goes from funk, to R&B, to rap and has virtually no flow at all. And because of the 33-tracks, the album is three-and-a-half damn hours long. Oddballs like “I Mo B Yodog Fo Eva,” “Snot ‘N Booger” and ” Dipety Dipety Doo Stop the Violence” no longer seem as interesting as they might have been in 1976.

In all honesty, releasing this wasn’t the problem. It was releasing it under the Funkadelic name, as musically it’s nothing even remotely close to what you’d expect from them.

Funkadelic, “Get Low”
  • Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow (4)
  • Funkadelic Live (4)
  • Connections & Disconnections (3)
  • Funkadelic (3)
  • Toys (3)
  • By Way of the Drum (3)

Summary: 17 albums Average: 5.5