Various Artists

People Get Ready: Protest Songs from the Atlantic & Warner Jazz Vaults

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Music provided a strong emotional backdrop to the protest movements of the late '60s and early '70s, and this generous collection of period tracks drawn from the Atlantic and Warner vaults is undeniably empowering, ranging from buoyant, gospel-fueled blasts of hope like "People Got to be Free" by Marion Williams, to Freddie Hubbard's jazz fusion instrumental take on Nina Simone's "Backlash Blues," to Rahsaan Roland Kirk's wry, teasing musical jazz poem, "Blacknuss." Looking back from the perspective of the 21st century, it is striking how little angst or personal resignation there is in these pieces, with track after track demonstrating an insistent, unyielding entitlement to freedom, peace, and equality, and it is absolutely sobering to think of how much of that focused, communal certainty has gone out of pop music in the years since these tracks were made. Terry Callier's "Martin St. Martin," an artful folk biography of Martin Luther King, Jr., was actually recorded later (1978) than the other pieces in this anthology, but its tone and sentiment place it squarely at the center, for King certainly understood that successful protest was driven at its heart by a deep belief in the inevitability of a better future. With most of these 15 tracks clocking in at five minutes or more in length, People Get Ready feels both substantial and focused, and Warner should be lauded for getting this powerful set exactly right.

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