Mavis Staples

A while back, maybe six months ago, I spotted an album cover on the wall at Steady Sounds, and the image totally invaded my consciousness:

A head, either disembodied or perched atop a person who’d been buried up to the neck… an afro… dirt… straw… screaming…

Seriously creepy stuff. Not unseeable. I was struck by its brutality, but also by the fact that it seemed mysteriously important, like it was glowing in some barely perceptible way. (Does that ever happen to you? Don’t certain covers just seem to vibrate with significance?) I was intrigued, but I didn’t know anything about it, certainly not enough to justify buying the thing, so I left it there. Looking creepy. Glowing slightly. 

Fast forward to present day, and I’m seriously pissed at myself for not buying Maggot Brain when I had the chance.

I’ve since learned a bevy of fun facts about it… That Rolling Stone rated it as one of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. That legendary guitarist Eddie Hazel left the group after the album was released. That it’s the source of the sample Sleigh Bells used in “Rill Rill.” That Hazel and George Clinton both grew up in the same town in New Jersey as my mom (around the same time, too — more investigation on this to come when I see my uncle at this summer’s Beach Week). That the folks at Steady Sounds don’t get playable used copies in too often — they said this weekend that the one I saw six months ago was the last copy they’d had in stock.

No wonder the thing was glowing. I’m surprised it didn’t jump off the wall at me.

My regret swelled even further yesterday, when I found out that one of the tracks on Mavis Staples’ soon-to-be-released, Jeff Tweedy-produced album, One True Vine, is a cover of “Can You Get To That” — the same Maggot Brain song Sleigh Bells sampled to create “Rill Rill.” Go figure. Staples’ version is largely faithful to Funkadelic’s original, though Staples adds beauty and warmth that round out the song’s rough edges quite nicely. The folks at Anti- Records were kind enough to post the new version to YouTube for our enjoyment — you can hear it above and Funkadelic’s original version below.

One True Vine will be released on June 25, and I will be released from the clutches of profound remorse as soon as I can get my hands on a reasonably priced, playable copy of Maggot Brain. So maybe never.

Funkadelic — “Can You Get To That” [Spotify/iTunes]

3 thoughts on “Mavis Staples

    • I think my ability to effectively hear “Can You Get To That” is permanently stilted, to some degree. I really like “Rill Rill,” but I’m almost angry at it. I just wish I could have experienced Funkadelic’s version first.

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