Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Staples See It!

The Staple Singers - I See It

The Stepfather's Soapbox:

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, and I hope that all Americans take time out to ponder both the greatness of our country and its freedoms, but also to recognize that there are a lot of issues that need to be addressed. It is time for all of us to be not the patriots that some wish us to be (acquiescent, ignorant, dogmatic) but to seek to improve the American experiment for the betterment of all humankind. To do that, we need to be able to see - and believe in - a better way.

And Now, On To The Music:

When the Staple Singers signed to Stax in 1968 they had just finished a stint at Epic Records, where the group had expanded their plaintive gospel sound to include protest material like Pops Staples' "Why (Am I Treated So Bad)" and "message"-oriented pop like their cover of "For What It's Worth." The group's initial Stax recordings stayed in this vein, with their first single, "Long Walk to D.C.," finding the group marching and challenging the United States to live up to its ideals. Their first LP, Soul Folk In Action, continued that approach with tunes like "We've Got To Get Ourselves Together" and today's selection.

"I See It" finds Mavis and the group imagining a United States free from discord and racism but full of brotherhood and national pride (albeit in repair from its sordid past). The subdued background vocals and string bed fit nicely with the strolling rhythm of the tune, but as the group goes to the fade the listener is jarred back into "reality" by a very discordant string version of "The Star Spangled Banner," under which another violin plays "Yankee Doodle." A very odd way to end such a positive tune, to be sure, but it very effectively underscores the problems that lurked underneath the surface in 1968 and still lurk today.

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