FUNKADELIC — America Eats Its Young (review)

FUNKADELIC — America Eats Its Young album cover Album · 1972 · Funk Buy this album from MMA partners
5/5 ·
js
Often overlooked and under-rated, ‘America Eats its Young’ is one of Funkadelic’s finest albums. Every song on here is its own little creative world with very few songs sounding alike. You won’t find many albums like this one as Funkadelic does their best to avoid the clichés. Often critics will refer to this stage of Funkadelic’s musical journey as sounding like a meeting between Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone. Certainly those two visionary artists can be heard on here, but there is also a strong influence from the late 60's Beatles, as well as theatrical rock groups such as Alice Cooper and David Bowie. Its no surprise that Alice might be a cross-influence as Funkadelic and Alice both came up through the Detroit rock scene and often shared gigs with the likes of Iggy Pop and MC5.

Throughout this eclectic and experimental album one musical thread reappears enough to tie the loose ends together and that thread is funk. The funky guitar and clavinet riffs on here are pure and raw in that bleak ultra distilled approach that can be heard on Sly’s ‘Riot Goin On’, early 70s James Brown and the rhythm guitar work of Reggie Lucas on Miles’ ‘Get Up with It’. This is the serious no-nonsense urban vibe that sounds best on a cheap turntable in an unfurnished rent-by-the-week downtown hotel room as your friends sit on milk crates for an impromptu party on a lazy afternoon.

The sprawling excess of this album is admirable, the band holds nothing back as they multi-track stacks of keyboards, multiple rhythm guitar riffs, percussion galore, massive interlocking contrapuntal vocal lines and the horns and strings of the Toronto Symphony. The presence of the symphony reminds me of the scene in the Simpsons ‘Hullabalooza’ episode in which the frustrated festival organizer is saying ‘OK, did one of you order an orchestra … possibly while high‘. I can see George Clinton and Bernie Worrell looking at each other, shrugging their shoulders and deciding to run with it. Its really hard to achieve the musical freedom they are after here without extending to two big slabs of vinyl, anything less would have required editing and editing would have killed the marvelous excessiveness of this project. Two other eclectic double albums come to mind when I listen to this; Jimi’s ‘Electric Ladyland’ and The Beatles ‘White Album’. All of these albums not only share an ambitious musical spirit, but all three also have a certain post-hippie worldly wise cynicism to them.

The main thread on this album may be the funk, but Funkadelic manages to work in a million other influences while they experiment and do exactly what they feel like doing. ‘Balance’ sounds like Deep Purple, complete with the middle instrumental break and everything, ‘Biological Speculation’ sounds like the Grateful Dead, ‘Miss Lucifer of Love’ sounds like the Beatles and the first part of ‘You Hit the Nail on the Head’ sounds like Keith Emerson jamming with Miles’ mid-70s electric band. If there is one song on here that epitomizes whats great about this album, its the album closer 'Wake Up'. Towards the end of the song a huge ensemble is jamming to a syncopated funky riff. Various voices and instruments come and go amidst mad panning techniques while the drummer plays crazy sub-divisions of the beat. Its sheer chaos, beautiful, beautiful chaos. I highly recommend this for people who love that sort of creativity that only went down in the early 70s.
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