Rasheed Ali - 1968: Love Power (album review)

Rasheed Ali
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1968: Love Power, the third and final installment of Rasheed Ali’s musical review of the issues, events, sights and sounds that animated “year that changed everything,” is the most autobiographical set of the installment. That continues a trend of each part of this project drawing closer to earth. The first and best release, 1968: Soul Power, was part musical history book and year in review as Ali outlined many of the events that filled newspapers and TV news in that year from the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King to radicalization of the nation’s youth.

1968: Love Power, the third and final installment of Rasheed Ali’s musical review of the issues, events, sights and sounds that animated “year that changed everything,” is the most autobiographical set of the installment. That continues a trend of each part of this project drawing closer to earth. The first and best release, 1968: Soul Power, was part musical history book and year in review as Ali outlined many of the events that filled newspapers and TV news in that year from the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King to radicalization of the nation’s youth.

1968: Black Power took more of a street level view of the manner in which the events played out in the homes, streets and neighborhoods of the black men and women who lived in that year. Songs such as “Fly Like A Bird,” reveal that the black power movement was equally about trying to free black people from the mental shackles and breaking the fetters of economic and political oppression.

The spirits that drives 1968: Love Power are the women in narrator’s life at that time, whether they be his the mother that raised him alone in “On Her Own,” the fine “sister” who seemed to have it all together but ended up taking her own life in “I Wonder Why,” or the laid back “hippy chick” who mellows out Ali’s uptight militant in “Groovy.” That latter track is an example of a quality that runs throughout each album in the 1968 series: Ali’s ability to craft songs that capture how the cultures clashed and sometimes connected during that era. “I was tripping on a bad trip/When I ran into this hippy chick/I was a militant/She was feeling groovy.

And while 1968: Soul Power described many of the headline grabbing battles that took place during that year, 1968: Love Power takes a look at other major cultural trend taking place in the late 1960s – young people’s exploration of their sexuality. That exploration often led the adventurers off the beaten path or down the California coast line far from the grid where conversation veered away from the “big issues.” “Ain’t nobody thinkin’ ‘bout politics/Ain’t nobody talking ‘bout Tricky Dick.” Sometimes those trips led people into danger, such as what Ali describes in the mournful ballad “Hypnotized,” in which a woman is seduced into a nightmarish situation and by a man whose dreamy eyes mask his abusive and possessive nature.

Some might ask why Ali devoted three albums to exploring a particular year. True, the project turned out to be pretty entertaining, but is one year - even one as monumental as 1968 – worth that much effort? Well, if you think about it, nearly all of America’s big debates over race, gender and the role of government can be traced back to two points in American history: the 1860s and the 1960s. It’s clear that we are still debating those issues to this day, but contours of how that debate would be framed and how the sides would line up became clear in 1968, and that is part of the brilliance of this trilogy. Ali’s musical examination of how those trends impacted black people and the black community on a global, community and personal is a worthy and inspired artistic endeavor. Recommended.

By Howard Dukes

 
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