Any Which Way...Freedom

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The polemics, the clever wordplay, and the surprise twists are all expected by now, and listeners' preconceptions are set in stone. So, on "Would U," Mutabaruka queries listeners directly about their expectations, their reactions to his words, and what it is they truly want from him. This unaccompanied poem ends with the provocative line, "Would you accuse me of causing a riot if I was quiet? Would you?" It's a rhetorical question, as Mutabaruka is as incapable of silence as listeners are of ignoring his words. And Any Which Way...Freedom includes some of his most rousing. The album is filled with heavy hitters -- the revolutionary title track, "H2 Worka"'s paean to the oppressed, and the searing "Drug Kulcha" included. One of the most ferocious is "Letter From a Friend," actually a faux politician's speech to his constituents, drenched in irony. For sheer beauty of wordplay, "Skins" rates among his most eloquent, a revelation of cadence and rhyme. An aggregation of superb session men again provide the sumptuous musical backdrops. The music itself is often a counterpoint to the poet's words, as on "Revenge," where the casual calypso-fied pop is oblivious to the artist's pain and bitterness. Elsewhere, the arrangements add further impetus to Mutabaruka's own performance. And while the music has a lovely looseness to the rhythms and melodies, it all wraps itself tightly around the vocals, as responsive as the artist. A wonderful melding of sound and fury.

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