Thursday, December 23, 2010

December 23: Eddie Hazel, "Lampoc Boogie"

Artist: Eddie Hazel
Song: "Lampoc Boogie"
Album: Jams From The Heart EP
Year: 1975

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Though it is the norm within jazz, it is almost unheard of to have a lengthy instrumental become the defining moment for an artist in any other genre.  Furthermore, for an artist to be able to achieve a lyricless feat multiple times in their career, whilst still remaining an icon in that style can be seen in only one or two cases.  While this is exactly the case in the life of one of music' most amazing performers, it remains largely unnoticed due to the rarity of copies of the recordings in question.  In 1971, Eddie Hazel almost instantly gained status of "guitar god" due to his breathtaking performance on Funkadelic's unforgettable instrumental, "Maggot Brain."  While most would consider this moment enough for an artist to make a career from, years later, Hazel left Funkadelic and began recording what stands as one of the most phenomenal, yet hard to find solo records ever made.  All this work would eventually lead to 1977's Game, Dames, and Guitar Thangs, and yet it was the EP of material recorded two years earlier that would boast his finest moments.  Titled Jams From The Heart, the 1975 recordings are just that, a series of four tracks that find Hazel getting comfortable with his new backing band.  With two of the songs clocking in at more than eleven minutes, it is clear that Hazel enjoys the practice of completely fleshing out a song and following it wherever the music takes the band.  In many ways standing as a partner song to "Maggot Brain," Eddie Hazel can be heard at the peak of his talents in his 1975 recording, "Lampoc Boogie."

Overall, "Lampoc Boogie" is as loose a song as one will find anywhere, and it is this aspect that makes it quite clear that these songs were little more than jams between the performers.  However, the fact that it yielded such results not only speaks to the exceptional level of talent within the band members, but also to the "magic" that can come from playing without a specific end-point and letting the music carry the song where it will.  Instrumentally, "Lampoc Boogie" is about as simple as one can find anywhere, with the song featuring nothing more than Hazel's guitar alongside a two-man rhythm section.  Though on other songs on the EP, the band is featured more, on this track, they embody the complete idea of the term "backing band."  The bassline is buried behind Hazel's guitar, though the groove is not lost, and this is a combination of exceptional playing from both the bass as well as Hazel's strong base in funk music from his previous bands.  The drumming on "Lampoc Boogie" does manage to stand out, and this is largely due to the fact that the player in question utilizes his entire kit, from the "standard" parts to a heavy emphasis on the cymbal work, as well as points where it sounds as if he is actually playing parts of the stands.  There is limitless creativity throughout "Lampoc Boogie," which would be developed completely on the full-length release, and the three band members clearly have a chemistry that is unlike any other recording in history.

However, one can easily make the case that the rhythm section could have been anyone, or even non-existent on "Lampoc Boogie," as Eddie Hazel gives the performance of a lifetime, and the song remains today as the only recording of any artist that can share the same breath as his work on "Maggot Brain."  While that performance was amazingly deep and soulful, "Lampoc Boogie" offers a brighter, more hard rock style of instrumental, and it is due to this nature that Hazel proves to be without question one of the greatest guitar players in history.  Hazel dances all over the fret-board, infusing elements of jazz, blues, funk, and hard rock into a single, stunning performance.  While Hazel and the band keep returning to the same musical phrase in the jazz style, the fills, both large and small, that he brings showcase both his talent as well as his endless creativity as there is a diversity in these fills that remains unmatched to this day.  Much like on "Maggot Brain," Eddie Hazel is able to convey a great deal of emotion through his playing, and there is an uplifting feel to the song, making it one of the most invigorating performances ever captured on tape.  There is a perfect amount of distortion on his guitar, giving it just enough "fuzz" for the song to retain an edge and mood that helps the song appeal to a much wider audience.  Whether it is due to the mood or the awe-inspiring playing he presents throughout the nearly twelve minutes, "Lampoc Boogie" is a song one must experience firsthand to properly appreciate.

"Lampoc Boogie" also stands as one of the most difficult songs in history to actually find on an album.  Though originally recorded in 1975, "Lampoc Boogie" did not see the light of day until the sessions were released in 1994.  This release was rather small, and copies were quickly snatched up by collectors.  This only added to the mystique of having Eddie Hazel solo recordings, as Game, Dames, and Guitar Thangs was already one of the most highly sought albums in history.  In 2004 Rhino Records re-released that album in a limited edition run, and this release also contained the four songs from James From The Heart.  Again, it quickly sold out, and those who were lucky enough to get a copy were more than pleased with the results.  Thankfully, with the rise of digital music, the catalog of Eddie Hazel's solo work has become a bit more accessible, and it is perhaps the difficultly one encounters in tracking down these songs that adds to the overall magnificence that one finds on each and every track.  Regardless of which version one finds, there is simply no way to overstate the impact of "Lampoc Boogie," as it is one of the most stunning and truly moving guitar tracks ever recorded, and one can easily make the case that the songs' only equal is Hazel's earlier work on "Maggot Brain."  Without question one of the most elite and influential guitarists in all of music history, there is no other music experience that is quite like Eddie Hazel's 1975 recording, "Lampoc Boogie."

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