Monday, January 31, 2011
Black Art Music: Archie Shepp- For Losers (1971)
From allmusic: At the time this record was recorded, Shepp was bouncing back and forth between Paris and New York. He also bounced between the Impulse! and BYG labels. He also bounced between styles. For BYG, his music reached to grasp the bare beginnings of black music, back to Africa and the blues. His music for Impulse! tried to embrace the contemporary sounds of R&B, with very mixed results that to this day divide his fans. This record is a transitional one. For the traditionalists, there's his shattering and amusing cover of "I've Got It Bad" performed by the usual suspects one would think to find on an Archie Shepp record, including Cecil Payne and Joe Chambers. For those enraptured by albums like Attica Blues, songs like "Stick 'Em Up" will fascinate, as Shepp's raspy tenor is joined not only by a legion of avant-garde brethren (including names like Beaver Harris and Grachan Moncur), but also by the funky wood of electric bass, guitar, and organ. Some will find those later tracks a bit hard to take. Some will even find themselves snickering. But for anyone wishing to understand the music and career of this brilliant musician, this is an undervalued piece of the puzzle.-Rob Ferrier
This review says it fairly well. This is one of several strange funk/soul dissertations from Shepp in the 70's, along with Cry of My People and Attica Blues. These experiments in Black Music Unification can be pretty spotty, and the absence of Red Hot Sax Rage can be deafening at times, but For Losers is a must-hear. The standout, for me, is the final track: "Un Croque Monsieur (Poem: For Losers)", a revelatory piece of experimentation. With vocalist China-Lin Sharpe delivering the titular "poem" in a wobbly, affecting voice (which she also uses, elsewhere on the record, to tear apart spectacularly "I've Got it Bad"), before the composition gives way to a repetitive piano-and-bass part (reminiscent of some of Nina Simone's more hypnotic, confrontational songs), and Shepp's achingly emotive, occasionally fiery blowing. Wonderful.
FOR LOSERS (320)