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Artist: AMIRI BARAKA & THE SPIRIT HOUSE MOVERS
Title: Black & Beautiful, Soul & Madness
Format: CD
Label: Sonboy
Country: USA
Price: $16.00
"Restocked. The original 1968 studio recording of Black & Beautiful, Soul & Madness by Amiri Baraka & The Spirit House Movers is finally available. Originally released on Barakas legendary Jihad label (along with the Sun Ra/LeRoi Jones collaboration A Black Mass. "After 40 years of constant chatter and occasionally a snippet heard by some radio DJ who had a copy, this record has for most people been something that they heard about but never heard. Beautiful Black Women was both a love song and an anthem coming to us in the midst of the fire that was the 60s. Madness was always my favorite because it spoke about the ultimate conclusion of a society going mad. It is even more relevant today than it was then. With this release, Sonboy Records continues its commitment to re-issuing the entire Jihad catalog." - Thomas J. Porter. "The spoken word/soul/jazz album Black & Beautiful, Soul & Madness is both an invaluable artifact of its political and musical moment, as well as a challenge to contemporary listeners to listen harder and more thoughtfully about what our music is daring us to do. The opening track, Beautiful Black Women, features Baraka reciting, or rather expounding, his poem with accompaniment by an understated bass by Bobby Lyle and the Singers cooing the refrain from Ooo Baby Baby by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles. Anticipating the mash-up genre by several decades, Baraka and the Spirit House Movers throw down the gauntlet immediately: here we have, in one track, the soul-pop hit and Barakas exhortation to and excoriation of a Black American culture obsessed with Whiteness, the one sound commenting on and complementing the other. The juxtaposition is precisely the point. The performance is an embodiment of Barakas blues people (articulated in his eponymous book), the continuum of Black music and art that, he argues, resists a (Western) aesthetic that would divide art into high and low or folk and serious. We are not allowed to simply sit back and groove, although the groove is still there. The album could almost be played at a party; if enough drinks are passed around, the party guests might not notice Barakas conclusion that "The White man, at best, is corny"...The work is not merely historical or documentary (although that aspect of the recordings is crucially important); these records must be heard, in all their shocking beauty and ugliness, as part of a living art." - Brent Mix/Junkmedia.org. "Black & Beautiful, Soul & Madness was the first word-music record I did completely devoted to this form. One piece on a New York Art Quartet side earlier, but Black & Beautiful was recorded at my home and in the small theater my wife, Amina, and I built there The Spirit House (33 Stirling St.) shortly after I had returned home to Newark, NJ, after the implosion of the Harlem based Blacks Arts Repertory Theater-School. Spirit House, like the Black Arts, was created to present Black theater, poetry, music and political dialogue. B&B was not the only side done on those premises, under the record label we created, Jihad A Black Mass with Sun Ra & His Myth Science Arkestra was another. Sonnys Time Now with Sonny Murray and Donald Ayler the third. B&B featured Yusef Iman, an actor I met at the Black Arts who began to come to the Spirit House after the Arts folded. Yusef was a member of the Spirit House Movers & Players which we shortened to The Spirit House Movers (inspired by the dudes in a bar we went to who worked for a moving company). The singing group B&B, the Jihad Singers, was an R&B singing group that Yusef was a member of, the lead singer Freddie Johnson, who I never saw again after the record date. All the musicians were local. Singer Aireen Eternal was Yusefs wife. In our mind we wanted to create world-music that reflected the Motown vibe so popular in the late-60s. Beautiful Black Women used Smokey Robinsons OOOH Baby, Baby as a model. Black And Beautiful was created by Yusef & Freddie and seemed a classic R&B du-wop send-up. But we also had a clear vision of what we wanted to say regarding the Afro-American struggle for equal rights and self-determination, at least we thought of ourselves as cultural workers, revolutionary artists pushing the program as some of our cultural nationalist comrades were wont to say. I think you can feel our excitement and commitment." - Amiri Baraka, September, 2009. The Spirit House Movers: Freddy Johnson (lead & tenor), Leonard Cathcart (tenor), Aireen Eternal (2nd tenor), Gilbert Monk (baritone), Yusef Iman (bass), LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka) (spoken-word).

Artist: BARAKA (LEROI JONES) & THE SUN RA MYTH-SCIENCE ARKESTRA, AMIRI
Title: A Black Mass
Format: CD
Label: Sonboy
Country: USA
Price: $16.00
"Repress, originally released in 2000. Surprise reissue of the most infamous and difficult to procure Sun Ra artifact; originally issued on Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones)s Jihad label (home of the original Sunnys Time Now by Sunny Murray as well). This is the first release on the DC-based Sonboy label officially sanctioned by Baraka (and mastered from the original tapes that have been sitting in his basement all along). Other unreleased sessions from the Jihad library of tapes are still rumored to follow this release. Originally issued in 1968, A Black Mass was personally distributed by Baraka via a network of radical Black literature bookstores and was not commonly found in the channels that records of the time moved in. As a result, it has enjoyed a mystical status for the better part of its 30+ year existence, and many hard-core Ra completists have never seen a copy. A strange and revolutionary play by Baraka, with musical interludes by the Myth-Science Orchestra. Very, very historic. "The play A Black Mass was written in Harlem in 1965, much of it probably at my desk at The Black Arts Repertory Theater School at West 130th Street and Lenox (now Malcolm X. Blvd.). It was first performed at the RKO Proctors Theater, Newark as a companion piece to J-E-L-L-O, a satire on the Jack Benny show where Rochester turns militant. The reason it was Newark is because late in 1965, I decided to walk away from the BARTS because with the mounting internal strife, the phenomenon of diminishing returns had set in so disruptively that the vision of bringing Black Art into the community and creating what we were later to understand as Cultural Revolution could no longer succeed at that venue. Black Mass shows the heavy influence of the Nation of Islam even though, after Malcolms murder, I became alienated from that Nation, essentially as a means of registering my allegiance to Malcolm. Even the Jacoub story I had gotten from Malcolm when he was still more directly motivated by Elijah Muhammads teachings. Sun Ra was one of the most consistent and supportive artists associated with the BARTS. He was there several days a week, teaching all who would listen. At any rate, when I conceived of doing Black Mass to music, Ra was the only musician in my mind. Not just because of the otherworldliness of the tale, but the sensuous outness I knew Ra, with his Myth-Science Arkestra, would bring, which I felt would give a material life to the text. The work was recorded in The Spirit House, on the first floor theater we had created by tearing down the walls of my rented one-family house, just as we had done at The Black Arts. With Sylvia Robinson (Amina Baraka, a Newark artist who would shortly become my wife), Yusef Iman (a BARTS original), Newarks Marvin Camillo (he and Yusef are both gone now), and Barry Wynn (Amun Ankra), we tried to recreate the staged version which we had just done. And while there is something to be desired in our collaboration, the recording stands not only as a record of what The Black Arts was doing, but points I think into the future of the spoken word and the possibility of expanding what can be recorded and what kind of collaboration between word and music can come. The theme The Satellites Are Spinning is the dramatic musical mise-en-scène throughout, though close listeners will hear some of the music which characterized the Myth-Science Arkestra rising and falling through the mainly improvised music-drama. In total, the music is rich and evocative by itself. Heard with the text of The Black Mass, both connect and extend each other with a dramatic gestalt of Myth-Science music and the mythologized history deepens our emotional perception of what is being told. For me, re-heard with the benefit of study and another kind of thoughtfulness, it even projects a rationale thats more scientifically based, search-lighting some evasive facts of human history as well as projecting the premise which I have long held, that art is creation, and that we must oppose the creation of what does not need to be created." -Amiri Baraka, 9/6/99

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