Breaks: Eddie Hazel

Breaks: Eddie Hazel

If you’re not familiar with the name Eddie Hazel, and you should be, go and grab whatever seventies’ Parliament album you have laying around and look to see who was playing guitar. Unless it was a mid-decade effort, during which time Hazel was doing session work with other groups, or eat loads of acid, it’s pretty likely his name’s on there. But it was only from 1967, from when Hazel was still a minor, through the end of the seventies that he was making recordings. Between drugging full time and dying in 1992, there wasn’t a lot of time to lead recording dates. Thankfully, he got one off before slipping into the what-if annuls of music.

After the first three successful Parliament albums, most notably, Maggot Brain, which sports a title track with Hazel’s best known shredding, he convinced some band mates to support him for what would eventually become 1977’s Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs. It’d been something like five years since the accepted high point of Hazel’s career was set on wax, so assuming that some of the fire would be absent might be a safe bet. And while leading off an disc with a lame cover isn’t usually a good idea, “California Dreamin’” and its reprise a few tracks on weren’t enough to subvert Hazel’s chops.

The eleven minute “Lampoc Boogie” isn’t quite up to snuff with his work on “Maggot Brain,” but the simple fact that the guitarist had enough ideas to fill up that much time with soloing is impressive all on its own. Falling somewhere between the Chambers Brothers and the least funky version of Parliament listeners can imagine, Hazel leads a leaden rhythm section through endless hoops of fire and somehow doesn’t lose focus or drop time. If this was the only thing he recorded, his name would likely still be an entryway into assorted music freeqs friendships.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing else working in the same mold as the aforementioned song. Mostly, Game comprises what sound like Parliament leftovers. But seeing as that bands more entertaining than most who attempted to merge soul, R&B and rock, it’s not a tremendous problem. The gravy paced “Physical Love” gets pretty funky, as its title might suggest. And while the track’s nothing approaching a bummer, Hazel’s personality as a musician doesn’t really come off. It just sounds like a rhythm track without anything proper planned out to hook a listener. Even occasional Parliament fans need to hear this, though.