Tag Archives: Eddie Hazel

Anatomy of THE Groove: “Shakey Ground” as performed by Phoebe Snow

Phoebe Snow is a native New Yorker who went from an artistic family who raised her in Teaneck, New Jersey to her college years of gigging from one Greenwich Village nightclub to another. She released her self titled debut album in 1974-having her biggest hit with “Poetry Man”. Her sound was somewhat unique-a mix of folk,rock,funk,soul and blues that suited her distinctive,bluesy growl that could also spread across several octaves. Her decision to give up music to care for her child born with severe brain damage halted her career after the early 80’s. But she never totally disappeared.

Her selfless parenting didn’t stop Snow (born Phoebe Taub) from performing the theme song for the first season of the sitcom A Different World. And released a few more studio albums before her death of a cerebral hemorrhage in 2011. Her third album It Looks Like Snow was her second for Columbia Records. On it she interpreted a song that was one of the last major Temptations hits before leaving Motown. It was co-written by P-Funk’s Eddie Hazel along with Jeffrey Bowen. Its an amazing groove for sure. But in 1976 for her third album, Phoebe Snow offered us her own take on “Shakey Ground”.

The hard groove wah wah guitar riff and metronomic drum count in begin the song as on the original. Yet the straight up,acoustically textured blues guitar riffing before the main groove starts adds a totally different flavor to it all. After all of this, there is the layers of guitar: rhythm and wah wah along with an accenting Clavinet. And of course the horns playing the changes. On the instrumental bridge, the bluesy guitar from the intro (likely played by Snow herself) takes a full on solo. That’s before Snow’s vocals take the chorus on an extended musical journey before it fades out.

There’s not much point in me comparing Phoebe Snow and The Tempt’s versions of “Shakey Ground”. Each are hard funk monster jams in their own right. Its the little things that really make the difference on Snow’s. Her super bluesy guitar riffs and solos give it a slightly more old timey flavor. And her jazzy,growling and sometimes unpredictable vocals give the song an emotional vibe on par with the strongest end of the mid 70’s female perspective. When thinking of what would’ve been Snow’s 67th birthday, this song somehow seemed exactly the right one to overview from a funk/soul perspective.

 

 

 

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Anatomy of THE Groove: “What About It?” by Eddie Hazel

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.

 

 

 

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