Category Archives: Radical Records

Reviews and discussions of records, songs, and musicians – past and present – of interest to radicals and progressives

I wonder what it will take for my city to rise

Ani DiFranco, “Subdivision” – from Revelling/Reckoning

For more…

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A Soundtrack for Black History Month: How Fares the Dream?

It’s that time of year again: Black History Month — and below is my updated playlist/soundtrack for the civil rights and black power movements… But first a few remarks.

Black History Month: the one month of the year when, traditionally, American school children get to learn about George Washington Carver (our “black Leonardo”) and Booker T. Washington, and maybe if they’re lucky W. E. B. DuBois and Thurgood Marshall.

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Radical Records: Liberals Get It Coming and Going

Over the last few years, the Tea Party and their ilk and predecessors have treated the name “liberal” like a self-evident indictment and a vicious epithet. You can almost hear the undertone in the way they say it, like when someone hides their name-calling in a fake cough – “commie.”

But let’s not forget that they weren’t the first to harsh on liberals…

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Radical Records Revisited: Punk’s Not Dead!

It will no doubt come as little surprise that back in the day (late 70s through early 80s) I was a bit of a punk.

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“I’m New Here” – a new album from Gil Scott-Heron

At 60 years old, Gil Scott-Heron has a new album out, his first in 16 years. “I’m New Here” was released by independent label XL Recordings in early February.

Gil Scott-Heron - "I'm New Here"

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Radical Records: Gillian Welch

I’m not going to try to describe the music of Gillian Welch – any description I could give would put at least some people off, who if they listened to her would just love her music.  So…

If I need to justify posting this terrific music here, then… The musical traditions she draws on come from the dispossessed and marginalized in American society and the music often sings of the plight of the poor and the workers. It gets back to our roots – in the soil, in the wellsprings of American musical tradition, and in the pure sounds of voice, strings, wooden instruments.

And of course, as Emma Goldman is supposed to have said, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution.”  Which was restated and given a contemporary spin by George Clinton who proclaimed: “Free your ass, and your mind will follow.”

Gillian Welch isn’t exactly dance music, but even so… here’s some more to help you free your ass…

Gillian Welch – Wrecking Ball

Gillian Welch – Everything Free’s Now

Gillian Welch’s official website – news, music, swag

Smuggled Sounds: Gillian Welch – the Revival demos

Gillian Welch – Hell Among the Yearlings

Gillian Welch’s “Look at Miss Ohio” on NPR

Abstract of New Yorker profile

Radical Records: Free Your Mind…

Race is such an amazingly complex issue in America, and one which I am regularly asked about overseas, particularly since the emergence of Barack Obama as a genuine contender for the presidency.  Of course, it is not just an “issue” – those complexities equate to a legacy and an ongoing nightmare of suffering – of impoverishment, marginalization, violence, waste, neglect, “dreams deferred.”

Music has always been one of the meeting grounds, and also battle grounds, of black and white in the United States. The recurring meetings and mash-ups within American music of black sounds and white sounds – the clashes and combinations, recuperations and reverberations – have created the sound of the 20th century, and are responsible for the bulk of the United States’ genuine contributions to world culture: jazz, blues, R&B, rock ‘n roll and hip hop.

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Radical Records Revisted: Gil Scott-Heron

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised
but it may be podcast and blogged

I recently learned that Gil Scott-Heron apparently has a serious crack problem.  Given his past, his fierce advocacy of a black radicalism and critiques of addictions of various kinds, there’s a bitter irony to this coda to a career that was an inspiration to a generation of poets, musicians and radicals.

Gil Scott-Heron is a writer, poet and performer best known for his socially conscious music, including most famously “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” as well as “Whitey on the Moon,” “Sex Education Ghetto-Style,” “Home is Where the Hatred Is” (memorably recorded by Esther Phillips) and his scathing critique of Ronald Reagan’s presidential candidacy, “B Movie.”  He is considered by many to be the grandfather of rap and had a particularly powerful influence on music fusing jazz with funk, and later hip hop. Continue reading

Janis Ian on the Music Industry

Janis Ian – singer-songwriter of “Society’s Child” and “At Seventeen” – did a really interesting and appealing Q&A with Slashdot back in 2002 which I just stumbled on.  She discusses business arrangements in the music industry, what kind of profits artists typically receive and the RIAA, as well as her own history and experience, and she does so with the same honesty and intelligence that she’s brought to her songwriting – I liked it so much that that’s really the only reason for this post, that and the impact “Society’s Child” had (on me, on others, at the time). I’d be interested in a follow-up with her, specifically looking at the impact of the recent epidemic of file-sharing on the music industry. Continue reading

Radical Records: Violeta Parra, Chilean Musician and Activist

Violeta Parra was a Chilean folklorist, composer and guitar player, visual artist and social activist, whose songs and life have inspired and influenced two generations of folk-singers and political activists, including Mercedes Sosa, Joan Baez, Ani Difranco and Billy Bragg.

Wikipedia has a very useful entry on her here and there is also a fairly comprehensive discography (in English) of her work available online.

An invaluable selection of her work is available for download – the site is in Spanish but is reasonably easy to comprehend. For an introduction to Violeta’s music, I encourage you to listen to “Violeta Parra: Antología”