Record Review: John Legend & the Roots – “Wake Up”

It’s been said that art should reflect the era in which it was created, that it should act as a bookmark in history. With wars wagged and fought, poverty and joblessness hitting record numbers, a world facing a recession and the revolutionary event of an African-American United States president, the world as we know it has changed drastically. Even still, Wake Up is just that.

Wake Up does this amazing job of drawing from the triumphant and politically-charged music of the 1960s and 1970s to bookmark our current times. The songs were specifically chosen by John Legend and the Roots’ iconic drummer, Ahmir “?uestlove” Thompson, for their relevance and then played live in the Roots definitive Philadelphia hip-hop style.

On songs like “Hard Times”  – a cover of  Baby Huey & the Babysitters’ 1971 song –  ?uestlove’s drumming sets the mood for Black Thought to summarize the desperation of our economic times. Meanwhile, “I Can’t Write Left Handed,” Bill Withers 1973 anthem for a soldier shot in the Vietnam War, the Roots’ guitarist Kirk Douglas changes the original’s tone from sympathetic to absolutely triumphant. Combined with John Legend’s voice, you get this song that pulls you in to the story of a wounded soldier, and then ignites your soul for his courage and his struggle. Every song on this album contains a very valuable message.

John Legend’s voice belongs on an album like this. At times he reminds you of Marvin Gaye in his rawness and intensity. With the legendary Roots behind him, these covers sound like new songs created with for our time, something rare for a cover album. Wake Up is a must have album for anyone that enjoys live, positive and soulful music. – Orrett Morris

“Wake Up Everybody”

1 comment
  1. Jules said:

    A GOOD read! Kudos Mr. Morris!!

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