Eddie Hazel was the guitarist behind the epic and heartbreaking “Maggot Brain” with Funkadelic. He has been named the greatest funk guitarist by more than a few people. Unfortunately, due to drugs and other issues, Hazel left Funkadelic in 1974. When I saw this little 1977 album, Game, Dames, and Guitar Thangs, I drooled over the title of the first song. The thought of one of my favorite guitarists doing a funk version of “California Dreamin’” was too much to pass up. I passed it up. Only just now, looking up band members and stuff did I realize how rare this was. Months later though, I bought it on iTunes. Let’s see if Eddie Hazel put together thirty minutes of music without the Funkadelic name.
Naturally “California Dreamin’” was everything I dreamed. It has the same emotive, delicately distorted guitar work that I had loved in “Maggot Brain.” The vocals are fine, it is a lot slower paced than the original, typical funk bass courtesy of Bootsy. The song doesn’t really follow the original, allowing lots of room for Eddie to soar into the stratosphere. Eddie’s guitar work is rather funky, but what separates him from other funk guitarists is his perfect implementation of the blues. There are none of the sharp funk chords which are scattered throughout other funk songs. Instead we feel the guitar as it is felt in the best of blues-based rock. This song is, by far, the best one on the album.
I didn’t realize the first time I saw the album that there was a second cover: the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy).” The Brides of Funkenstein take over for vocals, doing a rather good job of it too. I must admit, I was never a real fan of the original song, but luckily for me, Eddie again mostly uses the original as a template to jam off of, making for a fantastic display of musicianship. The guitar solo is a mix of what I see as Eddie’s two primary styles: the “Maggot Brain” bluesy, emotional style and the “Super Stupid” funk rocker style. The guitar in this song mixes the two, leaning more toward the “Maggot Brain” style, but with a much faster pace and with more kick. There is a strong bass line throughout the song, which comes through strongest while Eddie is soloing. Unfortunately, Booty’s work only highlights the generic drumming as Bootsy has to make most of his own magic. My lack of interest in the drumming may come from going through a Stanton Moore binge, I guess the drumming (from Jerome Brailey, Bootsy Collins, and Tiki Fulwood) isn’t so bad, but it still doesn’t excite me in the least.
The true test comes with the original songs, written by the P-Funk regulars. Though Eddie left Funkadelic, this is still very much a P-Funk production. George Clinton produced the album, and several of the musicians are from Clinton’s two bands. However, “Frantic Moment” is less than impressive. The song is fine for the most part, but the Brides’ vocals really hurt the song for me.
On “So Goes the Story,” Eddie makes his presence known very early, with a few commanding guitar licks that overpower the other instruments. It becomes clear that this group is strongest when jamming, letting Eddie show his chops unabashed.
“Physical Love” features a nice fat bass line which almost, almost plays over Eddie’s guitar noodling. But Eddie eventually takes control, hell it’s his album. The drumming gets interesting on “What About It?” especially mixed with another fine bass line. The band really gels, like an actual band, not focusing on anyone in particular more working as a group. The guitar is simple for the most part, but it works. Booty’s bass fit perfectly with both drums and guitar. Toward the end of the guitar picks up, taking the lead a bit more.
The album ends with a reprise of “California Dreamin’.” It is the chorus with drum effects taken straight from “The Goose” off of Parliament’s 1973 Up for the Down Stroke. Eddie Hazel’s one actual solo album is pretty good. The songs as a whole are only alright, but we should only be paying attention to the jamming in a P-Funk song anyway. I guess it is probably better he didn’t take over each and every song, this has been my first real introduction to Bootsy Collins. Odd that I’d first truly appreciate him from an Eddie Hazel solo album.
Recommended Tracks: California Dreamin’, “What About It?”