Origine du Groupe : North America
Style : Soul , R&B , Blues , Jazz , Rap Fusion , Alternative
Sortie : 2010
Inspired by the election of Barack Obama in 2008, and the nostalgia that it brought on for a time when urban communities were active in the civil rights movement, soul-singer John Legend and
hip-hop luminaries The Roots got together to record a track reminiscent of the music from that time (the ’60s and ’70s). The result was a full-length album, which basically plays like a hits
anthology of classic soul, funk and reggae music.
Starting of strong with the hard-hitting “Hard Times,” originally recorded by Baby Huey, an obscure, single-album artist whose legacy still lives mostly in hip hop samples (everyone from A Tribe
Called Quest to Ice Cube and the Wu-Tang have sampled him). For the most part this track plays closely to the original, which is a good thing, but a verse from the Roots’ MC Black Thought builds
on that and brings it into the contemporary.
From there, the rest of the album runs the gauntlet, from Donny Hathaway (“Little Ghetto Boy”), Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (“Wake up Everybody”), Erni Hines (“Our Generation”) Marvin Gaye
(“Wholly, holy” ), Nina Simone (“I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” ) and James Kirkland (“Hang on in There”) – another artist who is highly praised and sampled in the hip hop world. In
fact, as much as the album pays homage to a certain period of music, it can also be seen as a thank-you to all the great, sometimes obscure artists that hip hop producers and MCs, after
tirelessly digging through crates of vinyl, have resurfaced and relied on for their catchy hooks.
A concern I originally had was that Legend’s voice would be too smooth, too polished and crooner-y to sing gritty protest music, and nowhere is this more apparent than on the one track that isn’t
a cover, “Shine.” It definitely stands out, because next to the covers, it sounds just like a John Legend song. (Whether that’s a good thing or not depends on what you think of Legend’s music.)
But for those who don’t like Legend’s music, the range of his voice on the rest of the album will pleasantly surprise you, especially on the stand out track, Bill Wither’s “I Can’t Write
Left-Handed,” a poignant story about an injured vet coming home from the Vietnam War. Legend’s raspy, gospel-worthy voice here transplants the listener right back to 1973 when the original was
first recorded (video for both versions below. Cue Withers up at 1:56 and Legend up at 0:54 for a duet), and while no one can come close to Withers, Legend and the Roots come close here.
Whether you have a penchant for classic soul music, or the genius of the Roots, or just want an introduction into some of the music you would find in Questlove’s extensive vinyl collection, this
album is a must buy. The only thing that’s missing and would really make this album stand out would be to include an accompanying disc of all the originals.
1. Compared to What
2. Hard Times
3. Little Ghetto Boy
4. Wake Up Everybody feat. Common and Melanie Fiona
5. Our Generation
6. Love the Way It Should Be
7. Hang On in There
8. I Can’t Write Left Handed
9. Wholy Holy
10. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free
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