The Iron Pot Cooker

Camille Yarbrough

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The Iron Pot Cooker Review

by Amy Hanson

Whether you call Camille Yarbrough a street poetess, proto-rapper, or urban politico, there is no doubt that this woman contributed an enormous amount of fire, passion, and strength in all those guises. Neither is there any doubt that her 1975 album, Iron Pot Cooker, is a landmark work of great importance. Rapping in the style of the early era street poets, Yarbrough certainly set the bar for almost every woman in that vein who followed, and in that context, this album can be interpreted as feminist rhetoric -- the empowering vision of a young black woman who emerges from the ghetto, from her circle of women -- from the kitchen -- to impart her message. And, in speaking her mind, in speaking her truth, her words not only elucidate the unknown, they also permit her to just get this stuff off her chest. Absolutely outstanding in its breadth, Iron Pot Cooker's intentions spill out from the minimal instrumentation that frames the songs. From the opening "It Comes out Mad" and through the biting, claustrophobic epic poetry of the 14-minute "Dream/Panic/Sonny Boy the Rip-Off Man/Little Sally the Super Sex Star/(Taking Care of Business)" that rages, quiets and turns street-vendor shill-man on the turn of a dime, Yarbrough does what few other musicians have -- she has shouldered the mantle of epic warrior, of fireside storyteller, creating myth from reality and realism out of mythology. But in Iron Pot Cooker there are also the more traditional trappings of R&B, most notably evident on the deliciously smooth ballad "Ain't It a Lovely Feeling," while Yarbrough tackles the funk on "Can I Get a Witness?." Elsewhere, the now-classic "Take Yo' Praise" is still a treat and will probably be better recognized among the younger generation from Fatboy Slim's hit update. Without Yarbrough taking her stand and paving the way, many younger women probably wouldn't have dared to find and use their voices. Like Patti Smith's Horses, Iron Pot Cooker is woven into the tapestry of experience, of ideology, of just telling the truth like it is.

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