Friday, January 27, 2012

Review of Funkadelic's Hardcore Jollies

Hardcore Jollies (1976) was Funkadelic's last guitar-driven, rock-oriented album before the band shifted toward a more dance-based sound that characterized the landmark One Nation Under a Groove and its excellent follow-up Uncle Jam Wants You. This is also Funkadelic's first album with Warner Bros. after recently parting ways with independent label Westbound Records. Hardcore Jollies is probably The Funk Mob's most underrated album. It doesn't get a lot of love from critics or P-Funk fans, but there are some hidden gems to be found on it.

The album kicks off with the monster rock/funk track "Comin' Round the Mountain," which was written by George Clinton and axe master Eddie Hazel (under his commonly used pseudonym Grace Cook). Hazel delivers a scorching solo near the end of the track, and legendary drummer Buddy Miles holds the groove down with some killer beats. "Comin' Round The Mountain" was the perfect track to set off Hardcore Jollies proper.

Next track up is "Smokey." Penned by Clinton and Garry Shider, "Smokey" is flat-out brilliant. The  track is difficult to categorize. I would describe it as extraterrestrial gospel/funk. Glen Goins' incredible, gospel-drenched vocals will send shivers down your spine. Bernie Worrell's sludgy synth bass creeps beneath the groove like bubbling swamp ooze, and Shider and Goins trade some nasty rhythm guitar licks. The spooky background harmonies are provided by P-Funk vocalists Mudbone, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, Garry Shider, Grady Thomas and Ray "Stingray" Davis. "Smokey" is one of those tracks that just floors you upon first listen and addicts you immediately.

"If You Got Funk, You Got Style" has kind of a Parliament-like flow going on. It's not surprising that the song was written by Clinton, Worrell and Bootsy, the writing team behind some of Parliament's biggest hits. However, the track sounds a bit more freaky than most Parliament cuts. The song delivers a truckload of funk. Clinton brings his signature freaky-pimp ghoul singing voice, which fits quite nicely on this track. And Ray Davis' bass vocals add some extra flavor to the song. The "go ahead" chant is an irresistible hook, and Bootsy lays down some mean space bass.

Title track "Hardcore Jollies" is a blistering rock/soul workout that showcases Michael Hampton's considerable chops as a guitar slinger. Here, Hampton shows why he became the lead guitarist for P-Funk following Hazel's exit from the band.

"Soul Mate" is a freaky kind of love song with Clinton handling the lead vocals. Not one of my favorite Funkadelic songs, but it's a solid ballad.

A live verison of the band's 1973 classic "Cosmic Slop" features some more great axe work from Hampton as well as some tasty licks from Shider and Goins. Recorded live in Hangar E at Stewart Airfield in Newburgh, New York during rehearsals for the P-Funk Earth Tour, this version is a bit faster than the original but still maintains its power to move the listener.

"You Scared The Lovin' Outta Me" is a great ballad that contains another fantastic vocal performance from Goins. And Mudbone provides some cool background vocals. Another underrated gem.

The album ends with  "Adolescent Funk." The song has a real chill, laid-back vibe. There are no lyrics, just some scattered background vocals. Worrell shines on this track, displaying his prodigious keyboard skills. It's a nice mellow way to close out the album.

Another great thing about this album is Pedro Bell's amazing cover art. It's one of Bell's best works and my favorite Funkadelic album cover. So there's a lot to love about Hardcore Jollies.

Purchase the album at Amazon



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