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Funkadelic - By Way Of The Drum 
Maggots unite!  The rare-as-hen's-teeth By Way Of The Drum is finally available, albeit years after its recording. 

Some brief background: this album was recorded in the mid 1980s as George Clinton's attempt to revive Funkadelic in the wake of his solo success with "Atomic Dog."  MCA summarily dismissed the album, released a single in 1989 with overdubs by Jeff Lorber (!), allegedly lost the master tapes, and Clinton himself was said to have not heard this music since it was recorded.  For twenty years, the only hint of what this music was like was available on extremely poor quality bootlegs and the "Sunshine Of Your Love" that was issued on the George Clinton Family Series. 

Recorded with old standbys Garry Shider, Blackbyrd McKnight, Michael Hampton and Lige Curry, By Way Of The Drum fits nicely with Clinton's work of the period, finding a middle ground between electronic sounds and standard instruments.  One constant is the guitar, which is blazing hot throughout the album. 

It's understandable that MCA refused to release the album if they were expecting another "Knee Deep," but the album stands on its own merits.  Despite the dated production, there are several strong tracks, particularly by mid-80s standards.

Of the eight cuts, standouts include the thick Prince-like groove on "Jugular," which is topped off by a killer Blackbyrd solo.  "Some Freshadelic" reprises "Sunshine Of Your Love" with Eddie Hazel and George Clinton freestyling atop a go-go beat. In many ways, the song is a precursor of the chant-and-groove nature of contemporary P-Funk shows. Trey Lewd delivers a particularly inspired performance on the manic "Yadadada," a alcohol-fuelled revision of the rap standard "La Di Da Di." 

Even weaker songs like "Beware Of Freaks Bearing Gifts" are intriguing, as its extensive backwards vocals were later used on Clinton's "Double Oh Oh." 

Is the album going to make anyone forget about Mothership Connection?  No.  But divorced from unrealistic expectations, By Way Of The Drum is solid and shows Funkadelic still dedicated to the merger of funk and rock that would explode later in the decade via the group Clinton produced shortly after this album was recorded: the Red Hot Chili Peppers.   

Copyright 2007  All rights reserved.



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