Eddie Hazel

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For many years, Eddie Hazel's Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs was a holy grail of sorts for real funkateers, as it was the only thing released under Hazel's name while he was still alive, and it had been out of print for years. Truth be told, the album itself is a bit light. Barely over 30 minutes long, about half of the album consists of two covers (and a reprise), and the other tracks are little more than slightly fleshed-out jam sessions. But what the album lacks in songwriting and original material, Hazel more than makes up for with his guitar playing. The album starts with the most soulful version of "California Dreamin'" you've ever heard. Hazel totally makes the song his own by slowing it down and adding an even more pronounced sense of longing; then there are the wicked molten guitar leads that are alone worth the price of admission. "Frantic Moment" and "So Goes the Story" are little more than jams with some Brides of Funkenstein vocals added (and of course, great guitar), but the epic cover of the Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" is just fantastic. "Physical Love" and "What About It?" are solid instrumentals that just let Hazel strut his stuff ("Physical Love" also gives some spotlight to Bernie Worrell) before the reprise of "California Dreamin'" closes the set. Again, what this album lacks in substance it makes up for in performance, and there just isn't enough material that really features Hazel's guitar playing up-front like this. Eddie Hazel was an undeniable guitar genius, but his troubled lifestyle led to a dearth of material that really showed his strengths. Thankfully, this lost classic is available again, putting some spotlight back on a pioneering and under-recognized guitar great.