John Legend & The Roots, Wake Up!
2010 has been dominated by The Roots. Along with their amazing work as Jimmy Fallon’s house band, they found to time to record their hip-hop masterpiece, How I Got Here, full fill a North American summer tour and put together their first collaborative effort with John Legend. Legend on the other hand, seemed to faded out of the limelight after his third release, Evolver, didn’t quite make the splash that executives expected. Still, I loved that record so much that it claimed top ten spot on my 2008 list.
The idea of Wake Up! came around when America elected Obama as their 44th president; the mixture of political turmoil and public optimism resulted in The Roots and Legend laying down some inspirational political soul tracks from the 60’s and 70’s that still have as much meaning now as they did back then. The covers here are meant to pass on the knowledge of our elders while giving them a musical update so that a new generation of listeners will have a strong foundation of understanding and hope in the social upheaval we have faced for decades.
Honestly, I’m average at best with my knowledge of 60’s/70’s Soul and R&B so, all these songs are new to me and I’m blown away by the intensity of the material. Every track features The Roots playing with emotion and poignant accuracy that results in Legend bringing his already superb vocals to another level of consciousness; like he is signing for all those lost souls drifting in the streets (See “Hard Times” and “Compared To What”). Melvin and the Bluenotes’ “Wake Up Everybody” is still a motivational classic provided with a socially conscious rap from Common and “Hang On In There” is perfectly produced with light bells and a slow jam groove that leads the listener out of the cement jungle and into a psychedelic haze. The 12-minute “I Can’t Write With My Left Hand” is easily the best track here, featuring an impassioned and fiery solo that should be found in contemporary rock records.
The end result of Wake Up! is meant to bring new listeners to these pioneers of change – I for one feel inspired to seek out the original artists who influenced our generation of R&B, Soul and Hip-Hop acts. (Columbia Records)
Rating: 4/5 Stars