M.L. Liebler has been the poet laureate of Detroit for four decades, and is as well respected as an organizer and promoter as a wordsmith. With the Magic Poetry Band, a group of veteran progressive jazzmen including guitarist Ron English and revolutionary saxophonist and fellow poet Faruq Z. Bey, Liebler is able to cut loose on his own thoughts or feelings of society, and explore natural tendencies as a leader and enabler by adding friends and colleagues into the mix. As a verbal warrior, Liebler has a distinguished style that takes a nip at conventional wisdom and governmental oppression, while also concerned with aspects of the blues, their roots and branches, and introspective, sometimes existential themes. Several of these verses are backed by the music of Bey, written when he was co-leading Griot Galaxy. "The Jazz/Fosters" is drenched in lugubrious blues with Liebler talking about being "down to the bone" with "the jazz, jazz," eventually suggesting "say no words -- just listen." Bey's "Spectrum" is the backdrop for the title track as the saxophonist speaks of the "model of the artist" in a hip, deep, somewhat reconciliatory tone under a rock swing rhythm. "Dragons" is Bey's heavy, angular 5/4 swing under "A Work in Progress," dryly and rhetorically waxing about "wanting" to be an American. Liebler, on the churning shuffle funk "Floating," articulates on his mother in various phases, and sounds very much like early period Tom Waits. A dense mix of processed vocals, electronics, and jazz-funk identifies "In a Window," which chats up what is actually outside the window, briefly melding into John Sinclair's "The Screamers." "Stick This Up" uses '60s protest actuality samples on a bed of R&B à la James Brown, while "Blood Money" is musically a combination of the slick grooves in famous tunes "Fever" and "Money." English also contributes a talking point and cowboy tale during "The Blower," alongside his outstanding and original choppy chords and lines on his electric guitar heard throughout this date. "Brooding in the Heartlands" is the most personalized selection, indeed a reflection of Detroit's four decades of struggle, hardship, and perseverance, with Liebler singing. The closing tracks are tributes to "Albert Ayler" in a free, loose, floating, contemplative vein, while the spiritual "Deliver Me" borrows from John Coltrane's second segment of "A Love Supreme" with Liebler exhorting the line "everywhere, all the time...God." A b.s. or a_s word shows up here and there, but at no real detriment to the message. If you enjoy what John Sinclair, Ed Sanders, or Amiri Baraka employ in molding an oppositionist's principle as a framework surrounding equally progressive music, this fine recording will easily appeal to you.
AllMusic Review by Michael G. Nastos