MEMOS FROM A MUSIC FIEND
BY ALEJANDRO MAGAÑA
Funkadelic: Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow
The title is A MESSAGE TO YOU ALL. According to George Clinton, this album is an experiment to see if the Funkadelic crew could “cut an entire record while tripping on acid,” and while the former phrase of the album’s title is an inviting imperative for true appreciation of this record, the latter half seems less likely, only because this record is so wild, it’s hard to imagine dancing to it UNLESS one is on acid. Nevertheless, after listening to Miles’ “In A Silent Way,” last night, and me relaxing and resigning to my reading chair to begin one of the books I received for Christmas, President Barack Obama’s first volume of his memoirs, I’m absolutely compelled to keep the music black, and absolutely groundbreaking at that.
There are only a couple tracks here that can really even be thought of as “songs” in a traditional sense, the clear standout being the killer, “Funky Dollar Bill,” but this record is an absolute mindblower of an experimental album, where Eddie Hazel is allowed to unleash the electric monstrosity of his powers to rival one Jimi Hendrix, while the inimitable Bernie Worrell attempts to create a safety net of form underneath much of the proceedings, with spacey sci-fi afro-futurist funk runs. This is otherworldly stuff, what I wish I could find more of out there, and one of the clear coordinates of where R&B, soul, hip-hop, and rock has arrived at in our contemporary moment. Yet ultimately, so totally earthbound, and for a while there, obscured, because at some point, audiences, mostly white audiences, decided ‘rock’ equaled ‘white.’
Which brings me to the thought: here we are in 2020 and a bunch of folks of every stripe, whether ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, ideological, fashion, or aesthetic spent a good chunk of the year reminding society that ‘Black Lives Matter’ but so many artists and musicians, advocates of experimentation, in San Diego, don’t listen to any music from around the world or from communities of color that are the true experimental torchbearers right now; it’s all the same white post-punks or goths, or boring self-flagellating ‘indie’ folks aping their own work or the work of other experimental forebears. I got news for you, if you don’t look or listen outside of your comfort zone, that’s not experimentation, that’s ossification, that’s not evolution but devolution. I hate to be didactic like that, and I’m not saying that affirmative action in your own taste is required, but I’m telling you: if your entire record collection is lily-white, you are simply missing out.