Produced by The Last Poets and Stefan Bright for True Sound Communications, Inc.
Recorded at Media Sound Studios, New York City
Manager for The Last Poets: Obawole Akinwole
All Selections: Spoet Publishing Corporation
I had a request to repost this one, so here it is. The early work of the Last Poets, like Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka, or Gil Scott-Heron, has to be contextualized in the Vietnam era of post-MLK, post-Malcom X Afrocentricity, anger and indignation, or else any interpretations you make are going to be as clueless as the kind of stuff they publish on, let's say, the All Music Guide... Anyway, the Poets records are ones I listen to occasionally rather than frequently (in contrast,for example, to Gil's work), not so much because of its intensity but because they are more interesting poetically than musically most of the time. This record has a lot more variety than their first two, however, although not as much as the next one, "At Last" which is probably the most compelling to my ears. The jazz elements in the instrumentation that are only occasionally present here are given pride of place on "At Last" so that also probably explains my predilection for it. (Unfortunately for "Chastisement" one of those tracks here is "Bird's Word" which is a bit tediously didactic.) The opening cut plays like a long candomblé or santeria invocation, drawing down the blessing of the Orixás on the rest of the music that follows. It goes without saying that The Poets didn't shy away from polemic. The track Black Soldier questions the priorities of Black men going to fight in a foreign land in the name of a country that was also making war on their own people in the streets, "helping your oppressor oppress another man." Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin served as a paratrooper but was discharged for not saluting the flag; he's sympathetic towards soldiers but thinks their skills could be put to better use at home. The track is so tightly written, packed with excoriating critique, that it's unjust to single out single lines. But when they end the cut by warning that the violence in Newark and Detroit "wasn't a riot, it was a dress rehearsal for things to come", it's chilling enough to make it clear why these guys were in the sights of COINTELPRO. This album is also impressive in that, given how much this music is tied in with a particular place and time, it still sounds refreshingly relevant, sometimes unnervingly and depressingly so: listen to E Pluribis Unim and you might think you're hearing an anthem written for the Occupy movement. A classic, solid record all the way - I just wish they would get around to reissuing "At Last" already.
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