Good Music We Can Know

Sunday, May 15, 2011

"The White Man, At Best, Is Corny": The Jihad Singers- Black & Beautiful, Soul & Madness (1968)

Gil Scott-Heron, The Last Poets, The Watts Prophets, Camile Yarbrough, Wanda Robinson, Bama, and Kain: the late 60's through the early 80's saw these artists and others combining spoken word and music, racial politics and poetry, rage and compassion-- calling for revolution, assailing the oppressor while examining the failures of the oppressed... bleeding for their people and demanding action.

Black & Beautiful, Soul & Madness
by the Jihad Singers is one of the finest and rarest of examples of this vital art form, and it is not one to be missed. Combining doo-woppy vocal arrangements often lifted from other songs (the superb opening track, "Beautiful Black Women", borrows openly from Smokey Robinson) with the kind of furious speak/sung diatribes utilized by the likes of The Last Poets, this is an exercise in stunning dichotomies-- racially salient Intersections in Art. Free jazz meets Gospel pop and lashes out verbally, twisting anger and politics into radical poetry, elevating itself into High Black Art. Certainly it's a bracing reminder that the dominant Baby Boomer narrative tends to gratuitously omit some of the period's greatest protestations in favor of the weak resistance offered by-- to cherry-pick an example or two-- Buffalo Springfield's tepid "For What It's Worth" or, more to the point, something like Hendrix playing the "Star Spangled Banner" as exit music to Woodstock.

The inherent tragedy of listening to these types of albums is knowledge in hindsight that the great&terrifying Revolution never happened, that the energy began to wane in the 80's and that these albums are now often considered mere footnotes in the Great History of Hip Hop. But in light of America's black president and the widespread revolution in the Middle East, as we live under the weird yoke of corporate oligarchy, this kind of call to action and consciousness seems nearly as resonant as it ever did. Not just a musical tourist trip into the heart of another age's revolution, a record like this howls through the years and appeals to our humanity in the now while asserting a history lesson. This is an artifact of an imperfect social uprising, containing as it does questionable, even regrettable, assertions-- misogynistic or racist or violent. But as an artifact, it is perfect, and as an expression of human passion-- an example of ecstatic spiritual exhortation-- it is timeless.

Credit where it's due: I originally picked this up over at Nothing is v2.0, an excellent blog indeed (although he nicked the fine and excellent rip from Reza), so pay the place a visit and afford him a thank you and thank Reza in the comments.

J I H A D 320


Holly said...

Looking forward to this... have you heard and/or do you recommend either of the other 2 Jihad lps posted at Nothing Is?

Flash Strap said...

This one is squarely the best... Black Mass would probably be great if the sound were even halfway decent, and Sonny's Time is pretty good but with a kind of typical free jazz conundrum of an imbalance in difficulty&payoff levels. This one, on the other hand, you will almost definitely spin more than once. Not to disparage anyone, though- all of Jihad's three offerings are worth hearing at least once.

gilhodges said...

Three cheers to you, Doctor Strap, for reviving this fine NI post. There are many gems lurking over in that murk.

dee es said...

Thanks for resharing this. An excellent curatorial decision!

Reza said...

Hmmmm , my album /rip that "Nothing is" blog posted without my permission which you can read that it came from me on his post ....

"credit where credit is due"

Flash Strap said...

I guess I don't see where you're mentioned in the post, brother, and I either can't see his comments, or they've been disabled. I'm sure it's your rip but I was just dropping credit to my supplier. Sorry if you feel I've transgressed. How would you like me to give me your due credit?

Reza said...

It says in his post in the paragraph below the pictures of this album
"If I recall correctly, this one was posted by Reza at one of his blogs a while back"

I suppose its what we were talking about I'd like people to stop posting my albums or at least ask me if they can, thats why I stopped blogging, in a strange way this practise has ended me giving people any more rare albums , at least in a public forum

You do make attempt to credit the blog where you found an album, sadly as in this case they nicked it as well

I give up, oh forgot I already have

Flash Strap said...

Chin up man. Your worst case scenario here is the continued spread of the beauty of the word. This shit is, after all, somewhat larger than you or me- and the share is superior to the glory.

I'll put solid credit for your rip up there in the text and if it's a matter of despair I'll drop the link as a matter of courtesy.

Reza said...

"A matter of despair" pisstaking I presume lol

No, leave it up, pleased you enjoyed it and anyone else who decided to give it a go, it is imho an incredible album, would have loved more feedback when I posted it initially but there you go

Flash Strap said...

Well, brother, some folks are loving it now, and it's due to your efforts. For that, I for one thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Holly said...

@Reza -
I didn't have internet access when you initially posted this glorious lp - so huge belated thanks to you!
Please realize that us recent downloaders aren't all unthankful, thoughtless b*stards, some of us are just relative babes in the webs (groan!);-)

Thanks again to Flash for the knowledge xo

jezc said...

Wonderful album. Thanks for all the work of all the lovers and sharers of such beautiful music!