Nat Turner Rebellion – Laugh To Keep From Crying (2021)

Nat Turner Rebellion – Laugh To Keep From Crying
Vinyl rip in 24-bit/192 kHz | |  Soul, funk
Philly Groove Records, Chrysalis – PGRV101

The Nat Turner Rebellion – the musical act, not the historical event – was a promising group from Philly that imploded before they ever really got off the ground, featuring vocalists Joe Jefferson, Major Harris, Ron Harper and Bill Spratley. With only a pair of singles issued while they were together, their planned debut record got shelved and sat collecting dust among the holdings of label Philly Groove Records before ending up in a stash of donated material at Drexel University, waiting almost half a century to finally be released.  With their name, and cover photo of stylish dudes giving the Black Power salute, you might think you are about to hear a blast of blistering militant music reminiscent of The Last Poets.  But their music draws more from the psychedelic era of Sly Stone, The Temptations, and other popular vocal groups, along with nods to black rock (there’s a musical quote from ‘Proud Mary’ tucked away in one song) and brass arrangements that owe as much to the horn-rock of Blood, Sweat & Tears as they do to the J.B.’s.

It’s a stimulating stew, though, where most of even the slower tunes land with a lean, crisp heaviness that is a pretty far cry from the lush sonic tapestries we associate with the Philadelphia sound connected to some of the players here.  There are some fuller arrangements though, like “Ruby Lee” which clearly was intended to be a hit single.  There is political content, like ‘Tribute To A Slave’, that might have gotten them on Spiro Agnew’s notorious watch-list had it been released. That song is pretty deep, actually, so listen close.

In any case, their music had heart, and comes from that unique and brief stretch of time where the black and white countercultures were more intermingled, when pleasure-principled hedonism featured as just another salvo in a repertoire of revolutionary strategies.  As such, the production choices and approach, like the electric sitar on several tunes, definitely ‘date’ the music squarely in the early 1970’s.  As does the lyrical content, with songs like “You Are My Sun Sign,” “Plastic People” and another song that features dinosaurs getting high, or your family getting high with dinosaurs, or some shit like that.

A1 – Fat Back
A2 – Laugh To Keep From Cryin’
A3 – Tribute To A Slave
A4 – McBride’s Daughter
A5 – Care
A6 – Right On We’re Back
A7 – Getting Higher Together
B1 – Love, Peace & Understanding
B2 – Fruit Of The Land
B3 – Never Too Late
B4 – Plastic People
B5 – Ruby Lee
B6 – Can’t Go On Livin’
B7 – You Are My Sun Sign

More information:

Phonographic Copyright ℗ – Reservoir Media Management Inc.
Copyright © – Reservoir Media Management
Licensed To – Chrysalis Records Ltd.
Recorded At – Sigma Sound Studios
Mastered At – Sterling Sound
Published By – Reservoir 416
Published By – Screen Gems-EMI Music Inc.

Design – Ryan Art
Executive-Producer [For Reservoir] – Faith Newman
Liner Notes – Melissa A. Weber
Mastered By – Ryan Smith (2)
Project Manager [For Chrysalis] – Dermot James
Restoration, Mixed By – Toby Seay

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