Various Artists - Soundtrack For A Revolution (Review Two)

Various Artists
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Bigotry, prejudice, rampant racism and inequality based on superficial qualities like gender and race: for every dizzying achievement that surged the United States forward, the ugliness of racism stalled progress, undermined its democracy and murdered the souls----and lives----and millions. Soundtrack For A Revolution, the documentary that spotlights the role of activists and the origins of songs that propelling the cause, screened at multiple film festivals and made 2010’s Oscar shortlist in the Documentary Feature Category, so it’s no surprise that the song’s performances are just as invigorating and inspired.  

Bigotry, prejudice, rampant racism and inequality based on superficial qualities like gender and race: for every dizzying achievement that surged the United States forward, the ugliness of racism stalled progress, undermined its democracy and murdered the souls----and lives----and millions. Soundtrack For A Revolution, the documentary that spotlights the role of activists and the origins of songs that propelling the cause, screened at multiple film festivals and made 2010’s Oscar shortlist in the Documentary Feature Category, so it’s no surprise that the song’s performances are just as invigorating and inspired.  

As demonstrated in Soundtrack…., the chants, hymns and proclamations spoke to the pain and the passions that defined an era, reflecting the emotions experienced by those in the midst of change: the symbolic and encouraging ode, “Wade In The Water,” retains its soothing vibe, but is modernized with reverence by the always-soulful Angie Stone, while the volatility of the cause is conveyed by Anthony Hamilton and The Blind Boys of Alabama in “This May Be The Last Time,”  anchored by a shuffling and percussive made-for-marching rhythm, haunting harmonies by the famous group  and a gut-wrenching, gritty intonation by Hamilton.

Stepping out on faith and staying the course in spite of adversity are also expressed: Joss Stone serves up a fluttery, jazz-infused version of a prison-cell favorite, “Eyes on the Prize,” and Mary Mary’s rendering of the one-time working man’s anthem, “We Shall Not Be Moved,” is warm and winsome.  John Legend’s organ-laced  and unhurried contribution, “Woke Up This AM,” is straight out of Sunday morning services, bringing everything but the choir robe and collection plate, and The Roots (is there any genre these brothers are incapable of adapting to?!?) pair up with TV On The Radio for a rousing rundown of “Turn Me Around.”  The fatalistic “Freedom Summer” and the rampant, state-sanctioned prejudice against voters rights, de-segregation and those who championed those ideals are seethed over in the bitter classic, “State of Mississippi,” where Wyclef Jean’s channels the politically-charged present to re-ignite the still-potent original: “Here's to the people of Mississippi who say the folks up north they just don't understand/ And they tremble in their shadows at the thunder of the Klan, the sweating of their souls can’t wash the blood from off their hands/ They smile and shrug their shoulders at the murder of a man/ Oh, here’s to the land you've torn out the heart of, Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of.”

Just as different voices and perspectives shaped the Civil Rights Movement, the variety represented here enriches the outcome, with folk singer Richie Haven at the helm of the martyr-honoring “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and nearly every artist trading verses in the expertly-executed “We Shall Overcome.” The timing of the release couldn’t be any better, thanks to an explosive election year, a climate still pitting the Haves against the Have-Nots and the uprising of multiple protest agendas in a nation of people unwilling to remain silent about the injustice of it all. If the documentary nourishes the brain, this companion Soundtrack… is bound to be considered shade and sweet water to the ears and souls of listeners burning for change. Highly Recommended.

By Melody Charles

 

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