Songs of Dissent Live!

Various Artists

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Songs of Dissent Live! Review

by William Ruhlmann

Songs of Dissent Live! is a sequel to Revolt! In Records' 1997 release The Long Walk to Freedom Reunion Concert. The earlier album chronicled a concert sponsored by the Cultural Center for Social Change in Bethesda, MD, in the fall of 1996; the present one is drawn from a similar concert held a year later. Both concerts were musical history lessons in which veterans of some of the left-wing political movements of the 1960s, especially the civil rights movement, sang some of the songs of that era and more recent compositions commenting on other left-wing concerns. The performers on Songs of Dissent Live! are various members of the SNCC Freedom Singers (SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, was a civil rights group of the 1960s) and the duo Magpie, which seems to specialize in covering the songs of Phil Ochs, here performing "I'm Gonna Say It Now," a song about the Berkeley free speech movement, and "Cops of the World," which opposed U.S. military intervention in foreign countries. The album follows a roughly chronological path, from songs like "Keep Your Eyes on the Prize" that concern the civil rights movement of the early '60s, to the anti-Vietnam struggles of the late '60s and early '70s, and then on to Northern Ireland ("Long Kesh"), the power of multinational corporations ("Borderlines"), and the 1980s war in El Salvador ("Requiem"). Late in the show come two Bob Dylan songs, "With God on Our Side" (with adapted and updated lyrics by SNCC Freedom Singer Matthew Jones) and "The Times They Are A-Changin'." The overall effect of the concert is to display the legacy and currency of the '60s activists and their viewpoint in a way not much followed in the news anymore. The old songs stand up well, and the performers remain as impassioned as they ever were.