Game, Dames, and Guitar Thangs

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Late Funkadelic legend Hazel’s lone solo album was recorded in 1977 for Warner Brothers shortly after he got out of Lompoc prison (for a drug-induced freakout during an airline flight). In a sense, it’s a P-Funk record in all but name; despite Hazel having left the Clinton compound in 1974, the crew nevertheless rallied around the troubled guitarist. It’s also somewhat flawed, weighed down by a pair of ill-advised covers: an overwrought — replete with torturous female vocals — version of the Beatles’ “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” and a bizarre overhaul of the Mamas & the Papas’ “California Dreamin’.” Just the same, as a whole the album is redeemed by Hazel’s laceratingly soulful fretwork. Key tracks include the cosmic romp of “So Goes the Story” (also a Bernie Worrell keyboard showcase) and the sensual “Physical Love” which features dueling solos from Hazel and Garry Shider.

Hazel, sadly, died in 1992, but in 1994 a posthumous EP on the JDC label briefly surfaced. Containing about a half-hour’s worth of unreleased material and titled Jams from the Heart, it featured Hazel, drummer Buddy Miles and an uncredited bassist jamming in the studio in 1975 on such smartly titled numbers as “Lampoc Boogie,” a kind of Hendrixian variation on CSN&Y’s “Carry On” riff, and “Smedley Smorganoff,” a taut slice of psychedelic funk. The lone vocal number, the 12-minute “From the Bottom of My Heart,” is slow, mournful and luminous — as if Hazel wanted to revisit his Funkadelic-era signature “Maggot Brain” but this time allow the pain to be heard at the microphone too. Rhino Handmade tapped the EP as bonus material for this mail order-only limited edition; also included are heartfelt liner notes from former P-Funk Minister of Information Tom Vickers. And for fans of Hazel’s manic, inventive guitar gunk, the CD is an essential piece of the puzzle.

Fred Mills writes about music for Metro Times. Send comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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