Subtitled “Explorations in Psychrockfunksouljazz 1967-77”, this is a collection of music from the heady days of the late 60s, when even mainstream Motown got into the freakier end of the musical spectrum.
It’s a mixed bag, to say the least. If this album was a league table, then Coltrane’s “Acknowledgement” and “8 Miles High” by the Byrds would be at the top: two pieces of music that represent some of the finest moments in their respective genres. Both of these pieces have a timeless quality about them and still sound fresh and exciting today, even to someone like me who’s been listening to them for decades. The great Isaac Hayes challenges for top spot with his seductive and groovy “Do Your Thing”.
Hovering mid-table are the contributions from Melvin Van Peebles (the funky, sax-led “Sweetback’s Theme”), Zawinul’s “In a Silent Way”, Shuggie Otis’s “Aht uh Mi Head” (a close relative of Timmy Thomas’s “Why Can’t We Live Together”) and the elegiac “Lament for John Coltrane” by Coltrane’s one-time producer, Bob Thiele.
The relegation zone is competitive: a reminder that much of the music of this period was self-indulgent and overlong and has not travelled well across succeeding years. The MC5’s agit-rock “Starship” might have sounded angry and dangerous 50 years ago, but it now seems like a pastiche. Lou Bond’s “To The Establishment” features a rich, orchestral, arrangement but takes 11 minutes to make its point and some of the lyrics sit uneasily within the current climate.
Poet Sarah Webster Fabio speaks over a version of Coltrane’s “Equinox” – sounding melodramatic and comedic in turn, although she performs with absolutely sincerity. An album for the history buffs.
John Coltrane (1) A Love Supreme Pt. 1 – Acknowledgement; The Byrds: (2) 8 Miles High; MC5: (3) Starship; Joe Zawinul: (4) In a Silent Way; Shuggie Otis: (5) Aht uh Mi Hed; Melvin van Peebles: (6) Sweetback’s Theme; Sonny Sharrock: (7) Black Woman; Chairmen of The Board: (8) Life & Death in the G&A; The Temptations: (9) Ungena Za Ulimwenga; Dr John: (10) Zu Zu Mamou; Jimi Macon (11) Jimi’s Guitar Raps with the Bass; Lou Bond: (12) To the Establishment; Isaac Hayes: (13) Do Your Thing; Sarah Webster Fabio: (14) Equinox; Bob Thiele (15) Lament for John Coltrane (80.00)
(1) John Coltrane; (2) The Byrds; (3) MC5; (4) Joe Zawinul; (5) Shuggie Otis; (6) Melvin van Peebles; (7) Sonny Sharrock; (8) Chairmen of the Board; (9) The Temptations; (10) Dr John; (11) Jimi Macon; (12) Lou Bond; (13) Isaac Hayes; (14) Sarah Webster Fabio; (15) Bob Thiele. Individual musicians, dates and places of recording not given.
TAD Records TAD1LP