Tal Ross – Aka Detrimental Vasoline: Giant Shirley (2008)

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It was only a few years ago that I was lamenting the fleeting guitar talent in George Clinton’s early Funkadelic band who reached incredible heights as Clinton’s lead axeman on funk classics like Free Your Mind … And Your Ass Will Follow and Maggot Brain. Besides Eddie Hazel, there was another important guitar player in that group who also had to leave shortly after Maggot Brain due to drug problems: Tal Ross.

Ross made his exit in 1971 and instead of attempting to get back into the game, he flat out vanished from sight from the music business until he re-emerged out of the blue in 1995 with his first solo album Giant Shirley.

In some respects, this record sounds much as you might expect from an LSD casualty who had been out of music for nearly two and a half decades; there’s little recognition of any music trends that’s happened since then and Ross’ tortured vocals sound like Peter Green’s own barely perceptible weathered acid survivor warble. Yet, it’s that wispy, creepy vocal that pulls you in. His guitar work remains as nasty as ever; like a grittied-up Ernie Isley.

The music itself is a pretty big pull, too. It’s funk, but in the original way it was played by that original Funkadelic lineup and long since ignored. All great modern genres start with the blues and Ross seemed to remember that funk was no exception to that rule. “Green And Yellow Daughter” is a smooth grooving number that’s also just weird enough to keep you from lumping this in with just any soulful rock song and “Hussien (I’m Lucky)” exemplifies that old attitude during the hippie days of there being no “white” music or “black” music, just music. Like these two, the rest of the tunes are mildly psychedelic grooves propelled by a heaping helping of percussion and old-school drumming provided by ex-Funkadelic bandmate Jerome ‘Big Foot’ Brailey.

While Ross didn’t immediately make any musical statements after Big Shirley, he was still alive and kicking enough to set up his own MySpace site, where these tracks were originally found.

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