Dick Gregory

The Light Side: The Dark Side

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The end of the '60s was a time of changing cultural and moral values, especially when it came to matters of race, so it's natural that 1969 would see the return of Dick Gregory to the speaking circuit, following his run for the White House. This two-record set finds Gregory ruminating on a number of topics, mostly political: how young people can make a difference, as evidenced by what happened at the Republican convention; how it's more important to learn how to live than it is to be indoctrinated by society and the educational system; and about the link between the black riots and the section in the Declaration of Independence calling on the people to rise up against a government that has become corrupt and destructive. The audience doesn't seem to know how to react in a lot of places -- they don't laugh at bits that are absurdly funny, and they certainly bite their tongues when Gregory hammers points a little bit too close to home (like his recurring riff about how the country was built on land stolen from the native people, his incredulousness that white America would ask black people to practice non-violence while simultaneously napalming civilians overseas, and pointing out the similarities between black rioters and the colonists who originally rose up against the British). There's a bit of material here that would also appear on the Frankenstein album (notably a section about "tricks"), but for the most part the delivery here is a bit lower key and less "groovy" and any duplications are tolerable. The Light Side: The Dark Side is certainly a welcome return to the stage for Gregory, and even if there are some faults to the record (the last side is maybe a bit repetitive), it's still an important document. [Note: The CD reissue of the album appears to have tightened up each of the cuts, shaving several minutes off the total running time.]

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