Bama, The Village Poet – Ghettos of the Mind (1972)
Bama, The Village Poet
Ghettos of the Mind”
1972 on Chess Records (CH-50032)
Reissue on Aware Records
A1 I Got Soul 4:46
A2 Welfare Slave 5:47
A3 Nothingness 2:26
A4 Thanksgiving 3:52
A5 Ghettos Of The Mind 0:31
B1 The Right To Be Wrong 4:17
B2 Blessed Marie 3:55
B3 Justice Isn’t Blind 2:35
B4 Social Narcotics 5:08
B5 Blackman, My Brother 5:35
B6 Drunken Sister 2:49
Poetry written and performed by- George McCord. aka “Bama”
Music composed and arranged by Jimmy “Wiz” Wizner
Featuring: Bernard `Pretty` Purdie , Cornell Dupree , Gordon Edwards , Richard Tee
Produced by Billy Jackson, Bacon Fat Music and ‘Those who believe Blacks deserve something better’.
Vinyl -> Pro-Ject RM-5SE turntable (with Sumiko Blue Point 2 cartridge, Speedbox power supply) > Creek Audio OBH-15 -> M-Audio Audiophile 2496 Soundcard -> Adobe Audition 3.0 at 24-bits 96khz -> Click Repair light settings, additional clicks and pops removed in Audition -> dithered and resampled using iZotope RX Advanced -> ID Tags done in foobar2000 v.1.0.1 and Tag & Rename. No EQ or compression.
Confession, by the end of this vinyl transfer, I kind of stopped paying attention. The last two tracks have some clicks and pops I missed. Oh well, you can borrow my copy and do your own rip if you like, I don`t mind.
Album jacket photos and labels are from both the discogs archive and from my own repress copy. I used the original LP photo (which appears more of a cream color) above because I had trouble photographing my blindingly-white repress without it reflecting the sea-green paint of the walls in my house.
Okay. Let me start off by quoting the blurb from my favorite record shop in the universe, “A lost classic in the funky poetry mode of the 70s – and right up there with the best work from the time by the Last Poets, Jim Ingram, or Gil Scott Heron! Bama’s got a rough-edged voice that works very well with the funkier backings of the set – handled by a team that includes Bernard Purdie on drums, Richard Tee on keyboards, and Cornell Dupree on guitar – and this rough vocal style also fits the themes of the tunes, which are still as political and righteous as other work in the genre, but a bit more down to earth as well. ..”
Now, I realize that Dusty Groove exists to sell records, aside from their pedagogical function of turning the people of the world onto righteous music. And they sometimes are guilty of a wee bit of over-hyping the rarities in their own stock in order to generate enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is a good thing. I rarely post about an album I am not enthusiastic about.
But let’s get something straight right here and now. Bama (George McCord) was no Gil Scott Heron or Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka), and can’t hold a candle to the flames of The Last Poets or the likes of Jayne Cortez. In my opinion, if it wasn`t for the players on this album like Bernard `Pretty Purdie` and Cornell Dupree, nobody would care at all about it at this point.
McCord has his moments, but its mostly the musical arrangements that keep you listening. The opening track “I Got Soul,” has integrity, dealing as it does with how suffering – even suffering the horrors of state-sponsored racial discrimination – can make an individual who he is, leaving him to say that if he had his life to live all over again he would still “do it black.” It’s a cool poem with great instrumental backing, that shows Bama in a light of a no-frills, sincere, and rough-around-the-edges street poet. So far so good. “Welfare Slaves” is another decent tune, a cynical slow rap over a suitably slow blues, and observations that should be required listening for those lost souls of the American Right-Wing who still go around thinking and saying that people actually *want* to be on welfare. So far so good. The next track, “Nothingness” is when things start to get a little shakey. Two and a half minutes of Bama philosophizing about nothingness over a spacey electric piano chord sequence, wherein he concludes “that after many years of nothingness, I have found nothingness to be something. But compared to something, it was still nothing. Nothing.” Deep, man. Deep.
Alright so one clunker doesn’t make me give up on a record. However, the next one was almost the final nail in the coffin-lid of my first experience with Bama. The next track, “Thanksgiving” is just Pretty Purdie giving a tom-tom-heavy drum solo while Bama recites his poem. Wherein Bama makes profound observations like, “Them pilgrims was a bunch of phonies.” He then goes on to give his counter-narrative to the white American vision of Thanksigiving, while simultaneously getting in some paternalistic condescending remarks about “the Indians were too slow to learn,” and some bitter critiques about the invasion of North America being an `indepedence` for some. Once again, Bama is sincere and means every word of it. But it’s just hard for me not to bust out laughing when he lets loose with poetic stanzas like:
“You give thanks for destroying an innocent people who weclomed you in when your own deprived you of a right to pray.
You give thanks for taking the land of a people who gave you a place to stay.
God have Mercy.
Eat your turkey.”
All of this delivered in his gravel-gargling voice that is very reminiscent of Red Foxx. Immediately on first hearing this track, the following image was born inside my mind`s eye:
Side two of the album. Surprisingly, given everything I`ve written above, is that one of the best things on the record is the relatively unaccompanied “The Right to be Wrong” (which has only a heart-beat thumb of a drum machine accompanying it). A reflection on non-judging of our fellow humans that would be worthy of a Buddhist monk if it wasn’t for some latent homophobia (…”this would even give the homo a right to be wrong”). Next track – Blessed Marie, rather unremarkable and trite paen to falling in love with (and having married) a prostitute. Followed by “Justice Isn’t Blind,” which is by far the grooviest track here, both musicially and lyrically sharp, with the band laying down a latin-fringed funk of low-key atmosphere. But then when in the final eight-bars or so the band just works the groove with no restraint, I start wishing this was just an all-instrumental LP.. “Social Narcotics”… I can`t really comment on critiques so sophmoric as those on this track. It`s just kind of embarassing to listen to. “Blackman, My Brother,” is intense, however. Backed again only by Bernard Purdie, its a relentless rejection of white culture and its white-washing of American history, of its underbelly of violence, rape, and subjegation, and also shatteres any rose-colored glasses looking at a utopic, romantic vision of the Civil Rights movement, and an angry recuperation of self-respect and pride in blackenss. It’s delivered with the same directness and sincerity as the rest of the stuff on this album, but its got a sophistication that is lacking in a lot of the other poems.
The final track, `The Drunken Sister`… just kind of fizzles out compared to the previous track. Not much to say here, really. Nothing bad, but nothing too great.
So if you haven`t deduced it already I am ambivalent or perhaps just indifferent to this record. It has historical value but more for the people who played on it than for the poetry contained in it, although it might reflect a bit more realistically the spectrum of black urban poetry in the early seventies (I mean, it couldn`t ALL be brilliant, right?). But the next time I decide to reorganize my LP collection, I am going to have a tough time deciding whether this album belongs in the section with Gil Scott-Heron and The Last Poets, or is maybe better suited to the section with Richord Pryor and Red Foxx…
The key to all your social justice needs is found in the commentaries. Read them and stop weeping.
Always loved this album, top post
wow,thank you for that discovery!
Thanks for this, 'I got soul' is a wonderful track.
Well, this is quite something different and probably needs some careful listening to be understood!
It's kinda true what you say about Dusty Groove. Personally, I haven't found much on their site in the past 5 years for MPB. Thank God for the bloggers or we'd never have an idea of how wonderful Brasil was in the 60's & 70's.
Did any of you actually know Bama personally? You should have heard some of the stuff that was never recorded. Bama was not only a Great Poet in the Harlem Community, but he also was loved and admired by the youth in Coney Island where he onced lived on W. 23 St. I met him in 1982 there. The children would run up to Bama like he was their Grandfather and beg him to; "do me a poem Bama". He was also, an artist and wood sculptor. The best at his craft. His last and greatest performance was on March 23, 2002 at the Afrikan Nationalist Pioneer Movement in Harlem for a 5th anniversary clean and sober acknowledgement for me. Someone is now getting rich off of Bama's work while he died broke due to many of the thieves in the industry who exploited him. His work is still in the lobby of the apollo and Afrikan people and other's will remember Bama, The Village Poet. See the history on Facebook that will be up by the 5th of the month. O_G_runako-gamba profile…. Afrikan Power! R.I.P. "Bama" I am Runako-Gamba @ firstname.lastname@example.org
Uncle Scotchie, Uncle Bru, Bama, Super had many names. He stayed with us for many years and I grew up listening and admiring his many gifts. His brother(my Dad) taught us so much! I still have some of his carvings!!
Hi Runako-Gama, please leave another post when you have that Facebook page up and running, and I will most definitely include it in the description.
Please don`t be put off by my irreverent style of writing. There is a lot on this record that I am quite fond of, and as you can see from the comments preceding yours, there are plenty of people who simply love this album wholeheartedly.
As you say – "you should have heard some of the stuff that was never recorded" – only piques my interest about the circumstances of this recording. As I mentioned, one of my favorite things here is the unaccompanied "The Right to Be Wrong", and while although its cool and all to have Bernard Purdie and Co. jamming on this record, that track made me very interested in what it would be like to just hear Bama doing a straight reading of his material. This album strikes me as an idea somebody had, and not necessary Bama himself, to get his message across in another format.
Thank you for the comment and the information about this artist who I quite obviously know very little about. I look forward to seeing the page you are putting together. Respect, F.
MEGAUPLOAD IS SHUT DOWN PLEASE RE UP THE LINK
new links are up
Worth owning and listening if for no other reason than it containing the absolute best solo drum performance of Bernard Purdie ever recorded. I would love to know how that came about. It almost sounds as if Purdie conceived the solo to fit the words of "Blackman, My Brother".
The poet is great yes Bama -George Mc Chord is great !
any chance the link can get updated?
I was introduced to ghettos of the mind in 1972 while in college. I am still listening to it. I think that it is an excellent work.