Various Artists

Black Power: Music of a Revolution

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Black Power: Music of a Revolution is a solid collection of soul and funk interspersed with choice spoken word excerpts from the civil rights and black power struggles of the 1960s, beginning with the voice of Huey Newton articulating the demands of the Black Panther Party, which opens onto both parts of Marvin Gaye's astonishing "You're the Man." And we're off. Along with well-known acts such as the Isley Brothers, Gil Scott-Heron, the O'Jays, Parliament, Curtis Mayfield, Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Nina Simone, Hank Ballard, the Staple Singers, and James Brown are lesser-known yet necessary performers like the Soul Children, Dyke & the Blazers, and the Philadelphia International All Stars. Interspersed between the musical tracks are revolutionary exhortations by Stokely Carmichael, Kathleen Cleaver, Malcolm X, and Newton. The surprises are additions by Johnnie Taylor, McFadden & Whitehead, Kim Weston, and Billy Paul. But the omissions are glaring: Sly & the Family Stone are nowhere present; neither is Stevie Wonder, or Isaac Hayes. In addition, there is no jazz on this set. Why on earth were Archie Shepp and Sun Ra left off this collection? Why was poet Amiri Baraka (cited in the notes as the major force he was/is) not included? Gerald Early's liners are interesting, but they also belie his musical prejudice in claiming that the jazz vanguard of the 1960s was "...where atonality was clumsily married to bouts of intense, at times almost sentimental, lyricism." Wow, for a second he reads like Stanley Crouch or Wynton pontificating to Ken Burns. Ultimately, Black Power: Music of a Revolution is a sloppy mess to be sure, but a curious and engaging one at times.

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