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Music Review: Eddie Hazel – Game, Dames, and Guitar Thangs

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I have waited a good 20 years for Eddie Hazel’s lone solo album Game, Dames, and Guitar Thangs to be released on CD, and it has finally happened. Real Gone Music have put out some really cool items recently, but this one seals it for me. Game, Dames, and Guitar Thangs is a lost classic.

Eddie made his bones as a member of Funkadelic, most especially with the 10-minute guitar solo “Maggot Brain” in 1971. The track is unforgettable. Reportedly, George Clinton told him to “Play as if you just heard your mother had died.” Hazel more than rose to the challenge, the emotions he wrings out of his guitar during this tune are heartbreaking.

Eddie was only 21 years old when he laid down “Maggot Brain,” but he was something of an old soul. Drugs were no stranger to many in Clinton‘s orbit, and Hazel was no exception. He floated in and out of various P-Funk projects, and worked as a highly prized session musician, but Game was the only album he made on his own. It was released by Warner Bros. in 1977, and sank like a stone in the marketplace. The album has been a highly sought after collector’s item ever since.

Even though Hazel’s troubles had pretty much sidelined him from the commercial heights Parliament and Funkadelic reached in the mid-’70s, his friends helped out in a big way on his album. Game was co-produced by Hazel and George Clinton, and a number of P-Funk superstars appeared.

The album opens up with Eddie’s unique take on The Mamas & The Papas’ hit “California Dreamin.” The song is virtually unrecognizable until you hear the lyrics. Eddie’s arrangement reminds me a great deal of what Jimi Hendrix did with Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower.” Hazel put his own indelible stamp on this one, and it set a high bar for the rest of the record.

The other cover Hazel chose was “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” by The Beatles. Once again, he makes the song his own, and if anyone could reinvent a Beatles song, it is Eddie Hazel. He turns this one into a monster guitar showcase, and tosses off lick after lick with complete nonchalance.

The remaining five tracks are originals, save for a short reprise of “California Dreamin’” at the end. “Frantic Moment” is a full-on Parliament song in just about every way. The tune was written by George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and Bernie Worrell, and and would have slotted in nicely on The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein.

This is followed by “So Goes,” written by the dream team of Eddie Hazel, Bootsy, and George Clinton. It is pure funk, with Bootsy’s rubber-band bass-lines front and center, although they never usurp Eddie’s almighty guitar. “Physical Love” is another wild one, and was written by Bootsy, Clinton, Gary Cooper, and Garry Shider. Shider even joins in as “second lead guitar” on this instrumental, which makes for a nice contrast.

“What About It?” is another funky instrumental, written by Clinton and Hazel. When Funkadelic’s One Nation Under A Groove was released in 1978, it included a bonus seven-inch single with a live version of “Maggot Brain.” It wasn’t Eddie Hazel playing though, it was Mike Hampton laying down those incredible lines Eddie had improvised in the studio. Interestingly enough, Hampton joins Hazel on “What About It?” for a fantastic guitar duel. The album ends with the previously mentioned 1:38 reprise of “California Dreamin’.”

Eddie Hazel was a genius guitarist, and it is a wonderful thing that his solo album is finally available again. Although he left us much too early, the music he made was in a league of its own. Game, Dames, and Guitar Thangs is a great monument to his legacy, and is a record every P-Funk fan should own.

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About Greg Barbrick