The revolution won’t be televised but it will be pressed to wax. And it will be magnificent.
Three new vinyl sets will remind some that the fight for social, racial, gender and economic justice often comes with a righteous soundtrack. The packages come from the ’60s and ’80s — another reminder, the major artists from the decade of greed fought hard for justice: Prince, Janet Jackson, Bruce Springsteen, Madonna, U2. Dig into these recently released revelatory LPs and build your own soundtrack.
“Summer Of Soul (…Or When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised),” official motion picture soundtrack
The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival stood tall against every other ’60s music fest. We now know that thanks to Questlove’s Oscar- and Grammy-winning documentary on the celebration of Black history and culture full of scorching sets from the 5th Dimension, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Sly & the Family Stone and more. Over two LPs, “Summer of Soul” captures a range of sounds and styles — Mahalia Jackson and Mavis Staples took 50,000 fans to church with “Precious Lord, Take My Hand,” Mongo Santamaria and Ray Barretto brought along some Afro-Cuban jazz grooves. Every performance included sizzles. But there is nothing like the radical art and protest of Nina Simone, who will alienate as many as she thrills. Although it’s hard to argue with her take on “Backlash Blues” and its mix of gospel, blues, soul, jazz and revolution: “Mr. Backlash, Mr. Backlash/Just who do you think I am?/You raise my taxes, freeze my wages/And send my only son to Vietnam.”
The Clash Combat Rock cover (Photo courtesy Legacy Recordings)
“Combat Rock + The People’s Hall,” The Clash
“You have the right not to be killed,” Clash frontman Joe Strummer shouts at the opening of 1982’s “Combat Rock,” “Murder is a crime! Unless it was done by a policeman or an aristocrat.” Never one to pull punches, Strummer and the Clash pounded away at Margaret Thatcher’s vision of the world. The band was hanging on by a thread, but on “Combat Rock” the members held it together and willed into existence an absolutely weird collection of punk rock, pop rock, folk rock, funk, dub, hip-hop, beat poetry and ambient jazz. The lyrics rail against imperialism, jingoism, racism and commercialism. The music wanders wherever the hell it wants to. “Combat Rock” not weird enough for you? The recent vinyl reissue includes an extra album, “The People’s Hall,” of tracks cut before “Combat Rock.” These 12 outtakes, alternate versions and demos make “Combat Rock” sound as plucky and normal as Good Charlotte.
Prince Live 1985 album cover (Photo courtesy Legacy Recordings)
“Prince and the Revolution: Live,” Prince & the Revolution
People who think ’80s pop was vapid don’t really listen to Prince (or half of ’80s Top 40). For the first time on vinyl, this three LP set from Prince’s March 30, 1985, Purple Rain Tour stop at Syracuse’s Carrier Dome has all the hits. Prince thrillingly sprints through “Let’s Go Crazy,” “When Doves Cry,” “I Would Die 4 U” and more. But he also has 40,000 teenagers (and a handful of well-I-didn’t-agree-to-all-this parents) witnessing him indulge in a free jazz take on “Yankee Doodle,” an eight-minute fever dream where Prince talks to God, and a “Darling Nikki” singalong. Most everybody seems like they are along for the funky, freaky ride from an apocalyptic “1999” to the slow-jam heaven “Do Me, Baby.” Popular wisdom says never discuss politics or religion in polite company. Prince spends two hours grooving and grinding on politics, religion and sex in the company of a packed stadium.