Eugene McDanielsvocalist, lyricist, fearless social commentator, and composer of massive hits such as "Compared to What" and "Feel Like Makin' Love"is back. Sample-hungry DJs have been snapping up 30+ year-old vinyl copies of his Joel Dorn-produced, futuristic folk/funk/gospel/jazz fusion LPs ( Outlaw and Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse ) for quite some time now. Besides offering sweet soul, unusual arrangements, and seriously funky beats, McDaniels' raw nerve approach to socio-political matters on tunes such as "Love Letter To America," "Supermarket Blues," "Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse" and "Freedom Death Dance" made him a charter member of Tricky Dick's Enemies List. Sadly, the lyrics he wrote 35 years ago still ring true today. The 30-odd years between McDaniels' last commercial release as a featured vocalist (he produced movie soundtracks, and several jazz, funk, and R&B artists through the late '70s and '80s, and collaborated with Carri Coltrane on three CDs in the late '90s) have not dulled his impassioned, liquid tenor voice one iota.
Musically, Screams and Whispers is an incredibly mixed bag. McDaniels veers wildly among a variety of musical approaches and styles with varying degrees of success. Though the performances (particularly McDaniels' vocals) are consistently excellent, some of the material is pretty thin. This is most evident on the half-dozen or so tracks dominated by heavily programmed and synthesized musical backdrops produced by Eugene's son, vocalist/multi-instrumentalist/co-producer Mateo McDaniels. McDaniels' pere doesn't sing on two of these ("You've Taken All" and "Vampire").
Though Mateo has inherited some of his dad's gifted ways with words (sung, written and spoken), his music has a disappointing tendency towards slick, pop trendiness. An exception is the slyly stuttering, dubby "Fill You Up"which is graced by Eugene McDaniels' particularly fiery vocalizing. More successfulfor the most partare the pieces with less programming, and more of a "band" sound. Two of these ("Trapped" and "Future") are hard-charging, basic blues riffs that would fit right into Mose Allison or Robert Cray's repertoire. "Nuclear Dancing" is a powerful, fusionesque, multi-sectioned piece that recaptures some of the trippy magic from "Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse." Here, McDaniels' crafty lyrics could be making an open-ended statement about either missile defense or family dynamics.
But the most poignant moments on Screams and Whispers happen when McDaniels lets his voice flow freely and effortlessly over relatively spare musical backings. "Long Way From Home" offers a chilling and stark improvised exploration of "Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child," accompanied only by Ted Brancato's piano and acoustic bass. McDaniels' rapier wit comes to the fore on "Too Rare"a swinging, stinging indictment of organized religion that proves that McDaniels has not lost his edge. Though Screams and Whispers is a tentative and musically uneven CD, the return of the Left Rev. McD is a most welcome event. We need him now more than ever.
Track Listing: Trapped; Nuclear Dancing; You've Taken All; Dila; Future; Too Rare; Alien; Vampire; All Night; Fill You Up; Long Way From Home
Personnel: Eugene McDaniels - lead vocals (1-2, 4-7, 9-11), backing vocals (8); Mateo (teo) McDaniels - lead vocals (8), backing vocals (2, 3, 7, 8, 10), programming / keyboards (3, 7, 8, 10), bass (3); Leyna - lead vocals (3); Carri Coltrane - backing vocals (5-7, 9), keyboards / pads (5, 7, 9); Django McDaniels - backing vocals (7); Ted Brancato - keyboards (1, 3-6, 9-11); bass (1, 2, 5, 11); drums (2); Ron Carter - bass (6); John Patti - electric guitar (1, 7, 9), electric bass (1); Woody Allen - guitar (2, 3, 10); Mark Lucas - guitar (4); Matt Langley - saxophones (4-6); Joey DeFrancesco - trumpet (6); Mateo Day - trumpet (5); Willie Johnson - trombone (5); Eddie Dickhaut - drums (1, 2); Christopher McDaniels - drums (4); Payton Crossley - drums (6)
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already
I was first exposed to jazz circa 1973, when I met a fellow who ran Kappy's Record Store over near 10th Ave., on 42nd St. in NYC. We really clicked and when I told him I played piano and went to Music & Art HS, and had just started at City College of NY as a music major, he asked if I liked jazz...I said yes but I didn't know much about it, but that I did have sheet music for many popular 1920's through 1940's tunes by noted composers (Porter; Gershwins; Irving Berlin; Rodgers & Hammerstein/Hart; Jerome Kern; Lerner & Loewe; etc.) that my mother had sung beautifully starting in the 1940's including tons of famous show tunes, and I played many of those songs already. SOOOO... he started me off LP's by Oscar Peterson, Art Tatum, Bud Powell, Errol Garner, Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Charlie Byrd, and Dave Brubeck... does it get any better than that? ...No, it doesn't. I was hooked!!
I met and had a master class with the late music giant John Lewis, leader of the Modern Jazz Quartet! This was at CCNY in 1977. I was blessed! It was an incredible class... how could it have been anything else?!?!
The first jazz record I bought was...I bought numerous records from my friend at the record store, as mentioned above. He introduced me to nothing but music giants/legends! I think The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Greatest Hits, was actually the first one.
My advice to new listeners... study first--understand the rudiments--solfeggio, keys, scales, and basic chords. Read a book or take a class that includes the study of chord progressions, especially in jazz. It should ideally be a piano class so you can play multiple notes together. Have a good EAR or else it's not really worth it in my view...to become a musician, a good EAR for music is about as fundamental as breathing! Learn to read chord charts--i.e., lead sheets - wherein you play various voicings of the chords--major, minor, dominant 7th (alterations of these, you can learn over time - the basic chords are most important for starters), plus the melody, on the piano or keyboard. If you have to read the exact notes, then it's not the same as actually internalizing it & getting it all into your head. If you can do this, I think you're ready not only for listening to jazz, but understanding many concepts of it! Of course...anyone can listen to jazz... but I think it's so good to also have a grasp of it.