Album Review: Spilligion by Spillage Village


Album: Spilligion
Artist: Spillage Village
Release Date: September 25, 2020
Label: Dreamville | Interscope | SinceThe80s
Favorite Tracks:

  • Psalm Sing
  • Ea’alah (Family)
  • Mecca
  • End of Daze
  • Hapi
  • Jupiter

Thoughts:

Spillage Village is a hip hop musical collective based in Atlanta, Georgia.  I am no expert on hip hop, but I find these days that when I really like something it comes from the Atlanta and Southern scene. The album was born of the COVID-19 lockdown with members of Spillage Village living at the studio as a safe place.  Naturally, the album reflects the concerns of the time as greater inequality and social justice concerns.  But is is also an album that is full of hope and joy.  In addition to rap, the album reflects a wide variety of musical styles including soul, funk, and gospel.  It serves as a perfect time capsule and a message of hope from this cursed year.

Rating: ****

 

Album Review: The Cycle by Mourning [A] BLKstar


Album: The Cycle
Artist: Mourning [A] BLKstar
Release Date: May 15, 2020
Label: Don Giovanni Records
Favorite Tracks:

  • If I Can I May
  • Sense of an Ending
  • Mist :: Missed
  • So Young So
  • Be

Thoughts:

The Mourning [A] BLKstar website describes the group thusly:

We are a multi-generational, gender and genre non-conforming amalgam of Black Culture dedicated to servicing the stories and songs of the apocalyptic diaspora.

Founded in Cleveland, Ohio.

I can’t sum up MAB any better than that.  The music has touches of soul, touches of gospel,touches of jazz, and touches of hiphop, all built over electronic music. The music is most reminiscent to me of Algiers, but MAB is mostly unique and original.  If you like strong vocals, beautiful harmonies, horns that lift you up, and beats that make you want to move, this album is for you.

I’ve spent the past month “catching up” on album releases from the first six months of 2020, and this is my favorite of the year so far, but also probably the most important release of 2020.

Rating: ****1/2

Classic Movie Review: The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1963)


Title: The Gospel According to St. Matthew
Release Date: October 2, 1964
Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini
Production Company: Arco Film | Lux Compagnie Cinématographique de France
Summary/Review:

Director Pier Paolo Pasolini was an atheist, homosexual, and Marxist, but took seriously Pope John XXIII’s invitation to dialogue with non-Catholic artists.  And after all, despite many Christians acting otherwise, the gospels (especially Matthew) tell a story of someone not unlike a Socialist revolutionary.  Pasolini used the techniques of Italian neorealism and cinema verite to film his retelling of the gospel.  And he cast ordinary farmers and working people, and even his own mother to star in the movie.  Jesus is played by Enrique Irazoqui, a Spanish economics student and communist organizer.  With olive skin, dark hair, and an impressive unibrow, this is not the the blond-haired, blue-eyed Jesus of Hollywood biblical epics.

The dialogue in the film is almost entirely taken directly from the gospel of Matthew.  It was filmed on location in southern Italy, with minimal effort towards creating sets and costumes of the Roman province of Judea 2000 years earlier.  In fact, I think the poverty and decrepitude of 1960s rural Italy is very effective for telling the story of Jesus.

This is a long movie, but is artfully done with amazing composition in every shot.  I ended up watching it in bits and pieces over several days which worked fine since the gospel is episodic by nature.  But I’m sure this movie could also be enjoyed in a single setting.  Either way it’s more of a movie to let wash over you and to feel a familiar story in a new way. It’s also interesting that this is clearly a modernist take on telling the Christ story on film, but so very different from Jesus Christ Superstar and Godspell which were a decade away (maybe they’re postmodern?).

Rating: ****

Album Review: there is no Other by Rhiannon Giddens (with Franceso Turrisi)


Album: there is no Other
Artist: Rhiannon Giddens (with Franceso Turrisi)
Release Date: May 3, 2019
Favorite Tracks:

  • Brown Baby
  • Little Margaret
  • Pizzica di San Vito
  • Wayfaring Stranger

Thoughts:

Rhiannon Giddens is a name I’ve heard for a while but I’d not gotten around to listening to her music.  In fact, there was a time when I conflated her with the R&B singer Rihanna (ooops).  Well, Rhiannon Giddens is a folk musician, although that seems inadequate to describe the masterful fusion of musical styles on this album.  Giddens is joined by Italian jazz instrumentalist Franceso Turrisi on this album.  Together they perform a mix of traditional and original tunes that draw on bluegrass, gospel, Italian folk tunes, Arabic, and African sounds.  Many of the songs feature just two instruments with Giddens’ spinetingling vocals, while others have complex and fascinating percussion.  The sound is unlike anything I’ve heard while still feeling familiar.

Rating: ***1/2

Album Review: If All I Was Was Black by Mavis Staples


AlbumIf All I Was Was Black
ArtistMavis Staples
Release Date: 17 November 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Little Bit,” “If All I Was Was Black,” “Ain’t No Doubt About It,” and “Try Harder”
Thoughts:

One of my favorite musical trends of 2017 is the appearance of the legendary Mavis Staples as guest artist on various recordings.  First, Arcade Fire released “I Give You Power” on the eve of Inauguration Day in January:

Then staples added her gospel chops to Benjamin Booker’s statement on police killings of black people “Witness.”

Next Staples joined Pusha T on the virtual hip-hop/electronic band Gorillaz’ Trump-inspired track “Let Me Out.”

Now, at last, we have a full album of new songs from Mavis Staples herself reflecting on our fraught, divided times and what we need to do to fight against it.  Frequent Staples’ collaborator, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, produced the album, appears on one track, and wrote all the songs (quite remarkable when you think that means he wrote the title track).  Staples’ versatility that makes her such a strong asset as a guest artist with distinctly different bands is seen here as well as the music mixes gospel, soul, blues, folk, and Americana.  Lyrically, the civil rights icon is still fighting the good fight but recognizes that she has limitations and that she’s still called to love her enemy.  Mavis Staples’ legacy is already well-established, and this album is probably not going to be what she’s remembered for, but nevertheless it is great to have her voice confront the issues of our times.

Rating:  ***1/2

Podcast of the Week: “Music of the Civil Rights Movement” by Sound Opinions


Show 534 of WBEZ Chicago’s music show Sound Opinions combines some of my favorite things: music, history, and social justice!  Hosts Jim and Greg discuss the importance of music to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s and play uninterrupted tracks of brilliant songs such as “Mississippi Goddamn” and “A Change is Gonna Come.”

This is a brilliant episode of a consistently good radio program.

Listen here: http://www.soundopinions.org/show/534