Funkadelic, Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On (1974)
Guitarist Eddie Hazel was one of the most characteristic driving forces behind all of P-Funk, especially in the early years — but he was mostly absent from the band in ’72 and ’73 due to financial disputes. One way to resolve disputes like that is to give an artist more of a say in the songwriting process, and that’s what Hazel got for Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On, the album that most strongly solidified Funkadelic as a band that could hit every angle of both styles their portmanteau name implied. Under cover of the credit “Grace Cook” — which helped Hazel duck contractual rights problems and got his mother a nice little tribute in the process — he and Clinton built the foundation for a classic that bursts forth like a bolt of broadsword-wielding freak metal, a million-millimeter shell fired across Led Zeppelin’s bow.
Give Parliament some of the credit for that; with the crew’s funkier aspirations channeled (quite successfully) into Up For The Down Stroke, the near-concurrently-recorded Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On was where all the Heavy Shit went. Even the proto-disco groove of the barn-burner title cut steps high in spiked iron platforms; you could pair it with Zep’s funk stab “Trampled Under Foot” and make the latter seem like coffeehouse music. (It helps when you have the best call-and-response ever.) Elsewhere you’ve got the jawbreaker opening pair of “Red Hot Mama” and “Alice In My Fantasies,” two dysfunctional love songs which escalate a portrait of country-girl-meets-city-hedonism all the way to a series of bizarre kink negotiations (“I said ‘uh, lady, be my dog and I’ll be your tree/ And you can pee on me”). And the boogie-woogie put-on “Jimmy’s Got A Little Bitch In Him” outflanks Frank Zappa on both the gay solidarity and pop-art-doo-wop-scuz-rock fronts (“Why frown? Even the sun go down”). That makes the album’s two great elegiac guitar workout dirges — the abandoned-lover lament “I’ll Stay” and the ether-frolic sermon of “Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts” — all the more striking, especially in how they ground the heaviness in the humane.