This is soul. Not Al Green soul. Not Isaac Hayes soul (but perhaps a bit closer to that). This is the soul of the black man. It is the soul of a student of history who is sick and tired of force-feeding and ready to spit back. This is the soul of a man tired of the system and using his art to reframe and correct it.
When it first came out in 1971, Eugene McDaniels’ vitriolic statement irked and ired many, including Vice President Spiro Agnew, who personally contacted Atlantic Records to demand that the album be shelved. Despite this high praise from such a high post, the album’s music and message has survived in the hearts and minds of music lovers (including The Beastie Boys, who sampled a piece of McDaniels’ wisdom on Ill Communication ) and has now been revived in the equally aware hands of Producer Joel Dorn.
Though the abum may be a grand departure from McDaniel’s earlier hit, "Compared to What," its provocative soothe continues to reverberate. Predicting the coming of acid jazz and even gangster rap, McDaniels covers both the topics of his time — from the horoscopic groove of "Lovin’ Man" to the androgynous murder of "Jagger the Dagger" — and of times past and still present in sharp-eyed chronicles like "Headless Heroes," "Supermarket Blues," the subtly bomb-bastic "Freedom Death Dance" and "The Parasite" (which may be dedicated to Native American artiast and activist Buffy St.Marie). Wrapping his sharp words in cozy key lines and absorbent rhythms, McDaniels tells it like it is and rarely shirks the truth. Though "Susan Jane" is a jangly Dylan-esque exercise in simple rhyme, it acts as a necessary break from McDaniels’ torrential attacks of conscience.
Track Listing: 1. Lord Is Back
2. Jagger the Dagger
3. Lovin' Man
4. Headless Heroes
5. Susan Jane
6. Freedom Death Dance
7. Supermarket Blues
8. Parasite (For Buffy)
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition
I love jazz because...it's in my blood! My late father, Billy Ainsworth, was a musical prodigy who dropped out of school at 17 after he stunned the seasoned musicians of the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with an in-off-the-street audition. He was on the band bus the next day as Dorsey's alto sax and clarinet player, and never looked back. He played with great bandleaders such as Freddie Martin, Tex Beneke and Ray McKinley, some before he was out of his teens (they had to lie about his age to get him into nightclubs). Many older musicians have told me he was the greatest alto sax player they ever worked with. He was equally great on clarinet and was clarinetist and harmony singer for cocktail jazz pioneers, the Ernie Felice Quartet.
He eventually left the road and settled down, and that's when I came in. By that time, he was, by day, vocal group session leader/player/arranger for classic jingles and commercial music produced in Dallas. At night, he played in society bands, jazz combos and elegant showrooms. Tuesdays were slow in the showrooms, so band members' families got in free, and my mom took me to see him backing such legends as Tony Bennett, Mel Torme, Steve and Eydie, and a very old Ella Fitzgerald. Between that, hearing his record collection, growing up around the legendary musicians and singers who were like aunts and uncles to me, and just listening to him practice around the house, filling the neighborhood with incredible jazz sax riffs, I couldn't help becoming that weird kid who was listening to Peggy Lee, Ella and Manhattan Transfer when my classmates were listening to rock, country and soul.
Even though he died before I ever sang professionally, he remains my inspiration and all my CDs are dedicated to him. I like to think that he'd like my music, since it's built on the foundation he handed down to me.