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Great Black Music : 110 essential albums (P. Robert)

Philippe Robert is a French critic and writer working for various great magazines (Les Inrockuptibles, Vibrations, Jazz Magazine).
He wrote a book which title (Great Black Music : Un parcours en 110 albums essentiels) could be translated as Great Black Music : A Journey in 110 essential albums
This list is interesting but the title can be misleading : it is not an anthology of Afro American music in general, but of “conscious” black music. The English title refers to a concept invented by the Art Ensemble Of Chicago. So mostly political content, social consciousness, and the will of creating some sort of communautary art.
That explains the omissions : very few blues. The blues wasn’t a protest music, at least in a direct way, the singers being to afraid of retaliation. When they sang about segregation (“Strange Fruit” or “Bourgeois Blues”) the songs were brought to them by liberal white people.
Everything that is suspected of being to “whitey-oriented” is left aside. So no black rockers from the ‘50s (Chuck, Fats et al), no Motown artists from the ‘60s. And Michael Jackson’s Off The Wall (with the original cover art, with a picture of him before any plastic surgery was done) is chosen against Thriller.
No more than one album per artist, which broadens the range but also means hard choices (like Stevie W)
These considerations aside, it is an interesting list, quite personal, not caring much about objectivity, and strongly relying on ‘70s soul and jazz. Very few rap, or old-school and avant garde stuff. For the soul and jazz lover, it is a gold mine. And a great source for the coming ‘70s polls..
The list follows

The list : part I (1954-69)

Billie Holiday – Lady Sings The Blues (1954)
Howlin’ Wolf – Moanin’ At Midnight (1959)
Max Roach – We Insist (1960)
Ray Charles – Hallelujah I Love Her So! (1962)
Sam Cooke – Night Beat (1963)
Solomon Burke – If You Need Me (1963)

John Coltrane – A Love Supreme
The Impressions – People Get Ready
Wilson Pickett – In The Midnight Hour
New York Art Quartet – s/t

Nina Simone – Silk & Soul
Sam & Dave – Soul Men
Arthur Conley – Sweet Soul Music
Aretha Franklin – I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You
The Supremes – Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland

Etta James – Tell Mama
Albert Ayler – New Grass
Otis Redding – The Dock Of The Bay
The Jimi Hendrix Experience – Electric Ladyland

Pharoah Sanders - Karma
Leon Thomas – Spirit Known And Unknown
Elaine Brown – Seize The Time!

the list : part II (1970-74)

Joe McPhee – Nation Time
Ike & Tina Turner – Workin’ Together
Sun Ra – Nothing Is...
Curtis Mayfield – Curtis
Art Ensemble Of Chicago – Les Stances à Sophie
The Temptations – Psychedelic Shack
The Last Poets – s/t
James Brown – Sex Machine
Demon Fuzz – Afreaka
William S. Fischer – Circles

Soundtrack – Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song
Sly & The Family Stone – There’s A Riot Going On
The Watts Prophets – Rappin’ Black In A White World

Alice Coltrane – Journey In Satchidananda
Marvin Gaye – What’s Going On
Isaac Hayes – shaft
John Lee Hooker & Canned Heat – Hooker ‘n Heat
Gil Scott-heron – Pieces Of A Man
Bill Withers – Just As I Am
Ohio Players – Pain

Archie Shepp – Attica Blues
The Staple Singers – Be Altitude : Respect Yourself
Al Green – Let’s Stay Together
Eart Wind & Fire – Last Days And Time
Miles Davis – On The Corner
War – The World Is A Ghetto
Bobby Womack – Across 110th Street
Stevie Wonder – Talking Book
O’Jays – Back Stabbers
Labi Siffre – The Singer And The Song
Mandrill – Mandrill Is
Joe Simon – Drowning In The Sea Of Love

Larry Young – Lawrence Of Newark
The Wailers – Catch a Fire
Lightnin’ Rod – Hustlers Convention
Donny Hathaway – Extensions of A Man
Roy Ayers – Coffy
Betty Davis – s/t
Herbie Hancock – Sextant
Terry Callier – What Color Is Love
Spinners – s/t
Cymande – s/t
John Lucien – Rashida

Commodores – Machine Gun
Millie Jackson – Caught Up
Graham Central Station – s/t
The Meters – Rejuvenation
Shuggie Otis – Inspiration Information
Minnie Riperton – Perfect Angel
Smokey Robinson – A Quiet Storm

The list : part III (1975-79)

Parliament – Mothership Connection
Burning Spear – Marcus Garvey
Fela Kuti & Africa 70 – Expensive Shit
Lonnie Liston Smith & The Cosmic Echoes – Expansions
Allen Toussaint – Southern Lights
Camille Yarbrough – The Iron Pot Cooker

Dollar Brand – Mannenberg Is Where It’s Happening
Leon Ware – Musical Massage
Lee Perry – Roast Fish Collie Weed & Corn Bread
Various Artists – Wildflowers : Loft Jazz New York 1976
Max Romeo & The Upsetters : War Ina Babylone
The Blue Notes – Blue Notes For Mongezi

Jonny Guitar Watson – A Real Mother For Ya
Junior Murvin – Police & Thieves
The Congos – Heart Of The Congos

Ornette Coleman – Body Meta
Chic – C’est Chic
Cecil Taylor Unit – One Too Many Salty Swift And Not Goodbye
I Jah Man – Haile I Hymn (Chapter One)
Funkadelic – One Nation Under A Groove

Linton Kwesi Johnson – Forces Of Victory
Michael Jackson – Off The Wall

the list : part IV (1980-2005)

Basement 5 – 1965-1980 (1980)
Bad Brains – Bad Brains (ROIR Sessions) (1982)
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – The Message (1982)
ESG – Come Away With ESG (1983)
Prince – Sign O’ The Times (1987)
Eric B. & Rakim : Paid In Full (1987)
Boogie Down Productions – Criminal Minded (1987)

Public Enemy – Fear of A Black Planet (1990)
Mos Def – Black On Both Sides (1999)
Milford Graves – Stories (2000)
Saul Williams – Amethyst Rock Star (2001)
Meshell Ndegeocello – Cookie : The Anthropological Mix Tape (2002)
Antipop Consortium – Arrhythmia (2002)
Madvillain – Madvillainy (2004)
Carl Hancock Rux – Apothecary Rx (2004)
Billy Bang – Vietnam : Reflections (2005)

Re: Great Black Music : 110 essential albums (P. Robert)

Great list, though I wish this could've been extended to 200 by focusing on the '80s through present more. ('70s were the halcyon days for this kind of music though, no doubt.)

There's definitely some avant-garde on there, though, as well as a bit of Motown. It is sort of odd that Off The Wall would be considered in this vein and NOT Chuck Berry or Little Richard, I don't think I get the distinction.

Still, so much great stuff, even if I quibble with some of the individual choices. (Weird Nina Simone pick, and why Talking Book over the both more political and higher quality Innervisions?) Great to see Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, Donny Hathaway, Gil Scott-Heron, Betty Davis, Larry Young, etc. getting appropriate props.

Re: Great Black Music : 110 essential albums (P. Robert)

Sonofsamian, I really thought of you when posting this list, and I'm glad the connoisseur of this type of music that you are appreciated it.

Robert gives an extra list of additional albums at the end of the book, which is twice as long (with a Little Richard, a Bo Diddley and a Fats, but still no Chuck...)
In the book, every record gets his treview, with more albums and artist recommendations...
This unstoppable apetite made me think of your never-ending lists !!
About Stevie : he said it was tremendously hard choosing between the 4 masterpieces (TB, Innerv., FFF, SIKOL), but he chose TB for its "aesthetic involvement". And speaking for myself, I think I prefer TB to Innervisions too. i couldn't tell why, though; probably because I discovered it before ? Or for "Superstition" and "Big Brother" ?

Re: Great Black Music : 110 essential albums (P. Robert)

nj does like that list, too..

... +summ extra chili coodohs for the Talking Book symbolizzmamomdazmizzemm..

Re: Great Black Music : 110 essential albums (P. Robert)

in other words, I've also found Innervisions somewhat gaspingly gasping gassy considering its considerable artificial seam of aesthetics and involvement. next time way harder ya shall try, album with no Superstition or I Just Called To Say underneath me flexy groove all around his fleshy neeeddle: shame, shame, shame!!!

Re: Great Black Music : 110 essential albums (P. Robert)


first FFF. then Innervisions. then Syreeta..

Re: Great Black Music : 110 essential albums (P. Robert)

Ahhh, Syreeta! And I forgot to mention Demon Fuzz being in the list! Afreaka! is some crazy stuff. Wonder if Eugene McDaniels got his sorely-due shout-out in the appendix?

Though the "aesthetic involvement" quote is worrying -- what the hell does THAT mean? Will have to get the book anyway, of course.

Re: Great Black Music : 110 essential albums (P. Robert)

wow... now would you guess, dearest sonofsam,
the spot of my dad's record collection that really haunted me when I was five years /dumb/,
was indeed the Demon Fuzz cover artwork...
all along with the Ike_woan't_want_yu for the Reagonomics avocado colored pasture cake festival down here in Birdland, the prequel ...

Re: Great Black Music : 110 essential albums (P. Robert)

well, the "aesthetic involvement" that was a bad literal translation... must sound weird in English
anyway I don't think I understand it either in French
and, thanks nj for your remarks now everything id clearer for me...

Re: Great Black Music : 110 essential albums (P. Robert)

nic, this is great

love that leon ware record, and the terry callier

ok, time to queue some shit up on soulseek

Re: Great Black Music : 110 essential albums (P. Robert)

I've heard a couple Demon Fuzz tracks : awesome.
How can records of that quality be forgotten like this ?
That says a lot about the 70's general level in music
Btw, the guy who wrote this made a book called "Rock, pop, un itinéraire bis en 140 albums" (so a kind of best-of forgotten/underrated stuff) and an anthology of experimental musics... interesting