McDaniels, Eugene - Outlaw [Neon Red Vinyl] – New LP
Colored vinyl reissue (July 2020) of 1970 album.
With his “Compared To What” composition becoming one of the anthems of 1970, with McCann-Harris’ live version (and Roberta Flack’s studio version) released in 1969 (and over the years covered by over 200 artists), Gene returns to the States in 1970 with something to say about the state of the nation with this one-of-a-kind long player, calling himself Eugene or The Left Rev. Mc D, the album sometimes seeming like a recording of a funky rap-poem play, backed with a crackerjack team and offering a mix and fusion of rock, jazz, and funk. If you dig something different, this is an essential listen. -- winch (green noise records)
"Eugene "Gene" McDaniels first broke through in the early '60s with pop soul hits like
"A Hundred Pounds of Clay." But that was a different time…and a different man. By
the time McDaniels recorded his 1970 album Outlaw, he had re-christened himself
"the left rev mc d" and penned the soul-jazz protest anthem "Compared to What,"
first recorded in 1966 by Les McCann and turned into a standard by McCann and
saxophonist Eddie Harris on their 1969 album Swiss Movement. Indeed, the front
cover of Outlaw left no doubt as to the radicalization of McDaniels' politics. As Pat
Thomas puts it in the liner notes that we have added to this reissue, "One sees
Middle America's worst nightmare coming to life. There's the badass Reverend Lee
himself holding a bible. Righteous Susan Jane in a jean jacket and black French
resistance turtleneck is wielding a machine gun, and McDaniels' then-wife Ramona
appears as a soul sister with cross your heart Viva Zapata! ammo belts. In the
forefront is a large human skull, just in case you didn't already get the message. The Nixon White House sure got the message; legend has it that the administration wasso offended by the lyrics to "Silent Majority" ("Silent Majority is calling out loud to
you and me from Arlington Cemetery") that either Spiro Agnew or Nixon's Chief of
Staff personally called Atlantic, asking them to stop working with McDaniels. Politics
aside, Outlaw offers a heady blend of soul, jazz, folk, and rock grooves played by Ron
Carter, Eric Weissberg, and Hugh McCracken among others, with legendary
producer Joel Dorn at the controls and cult favorite William S. Fischer operating as
Musical Director. Oft-sampled, and never more relevant, 50th
anniversary release of Outlaw comes in a neon red vinyl pressing limited to 700
copies. And those liner notes we mentioned previously? They come with some pithy
McDaniels quotes that confirm his revolutionary fervor remained unquenched till his death in 2011."
"In the early- to mid-'60s, he was a successful singing star whose carefully orchestrated records, full of production polish, split the difference between R&B and pop. He hit the charts with the singles "A Hundred Pounds of Clay," "Tower of Strength," and "Chip Chip" and was a popular performer on-stage and on television. However, he was a more thoughtful and politically conscious man than his hits would suggest, and after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., he left America to live in Sweden and Denmark and focus on songwriting. When he returned to the United States in 1970, he was billing himself as Eugene McDaniels, and his music took a sharp turn into a new direction. Few would recognize the guy who sang "A Hundred Pounds of Clay" and the artist who made 1970's Outlaw as the same person unless they were told, and even then they might not believe it. On the opening title track, a loose country-rock number about liberated women, he sounds remarkably like Mick Jagger (an interesting creative choice since he would record "Jagger the Dagger," an unflattering appraisal of the Rolling Stones' frontman, on his next album, 1971's Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse). Even when McDaniels' vocals more closely resemble his early hits, his music is radically different. Outlaw is a set of songs that exist in a place bordered by jazz, rock, and funk, and McDaniels' phrasing is expressive and adventurous in a way it had never been before. Most importantly, as a songwriter McDaniels had eagerly embraced the counterculture and the issues of the day, and Outlaw is full of smart, pointed lyrics that speak of race, class, and cultural division in a style that's articulate and just a bit theatrical, as if this were the original cast album to an off-Broadway revue about the turbulence of the early '70s. The musicians (who include Ron Carter, Hugh McCracken, and Ray Lucas) bring an unflashy virtuosity to their performances, and Joel Dorn's production is suitably clean and unobtrusive, giving the music a welcome sense of focus. At a time when African-American consciousness was exploding in new and provocative directions in popular music, Outlaw shows he was at the vanguard of this revolution, even if the album didn't find an audience until it became a cult item decades after the fact."