Eddie Hazel was a true pioneer of funk guitar. His approach is so pervasive since his death in 1992,his artistry and essence have never exactly passed away with him. Born in Plainsfield New Jersey, Hazel was part of the original backing group for The Parliaments in the late 60’s. When the group became Funkadelic in 1970,Hazel was part of the first tier lineup including Tiki Fullwood,Tawl Ross,Bernie Worrell,Billy Bass Nelson and George Clinton. Hazel’s most iconic guitar solo for Funkadelic is on the title song to their 1971 album Maggot Brian.
Even though he contributed to Funkadlic’s music occasionally during the rest of the 70’s, Hazel and Billy Bass quite the group following Maggot Brain. Hazel ended up having far more of a hand in putting together the revitalized Parliament on their 1974 reboot album Up For The Downstroke. After an 11 month arrest due to a drug charge and an incident with a flight attendant, Hazel embarked on a solo career. This resulted in the 1977 Clinton produced album Games,Dames & Guitar Thangs. The song on it that gets my own attention most is an instrumental called “What About It?”.
Bootsy Collins and Jerome Brailey’s drums start with a pounding bass drum attack with what sounds like Mike Hampton (credited as guitarist on the song) playing a grooving,ascending line. The snares kick in with Hampton’s playing countered by Hazel’s higher on the neck,psychedelic washes of sound. The bass sounds of Bootsy,Billy Bass and Cordell Mosson keep up the rhythm right along with the drums. After these refrains, the opening bass drum funk march continues with a wah wah solo from Hazel. And he does an ascending,psychedelic rock solo on the final refrain before the song fades.
“What About It?” is a song I heard sometime before I heard Hazel’s entire album via a sampler of my fathers. It has stood out for me because it really showcases (as a joint Hazel/Clinton composition) Hazel’s post Hendrix psychedelic funk guitar style working within the framework of the far more polished later 70’s P-Funk sound. Hazel is soloing on a song out of the P-Funk of “Flash Light”,”Aquaboogie”,”One Nation Under A Groove” and “Knee Deep”. The blend of the different musicians doing unexpected things make this not only a great comeback for Hazel. But for him as part of P-Funk’s peak years.