April 26–May 3, 2001
cd reviews| r&b
Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse
Nixon made big mistakes. Watergate. The White House tapes. But his biggest blunder was inadvertently unraveling the promotional machine behind 1971’s Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse and the powerful, prayerful politics of its creator Eugene McDaniels. McDaniels, like Gil Scott-Heron, Terry Callier and Melvin Van Peebles, was a child of the ’60s/’70s Black Power generation, an eclectic musician with a righteous polemic. In fact, his fuzzy-fusion jazz, gurgling funk and breezy folk aesthetic comes off as a blend of those three. But one thing McDaniels had that they did not was the power of the Lord behind him. In emotive clarion tones McDaniels voiced the gospel of necessary change, evoking God as his co-pilot-in-rage at every turn. Change for McDaniels — and his crew of crackling soul-fusion folks like drummer Alphonse Mouzon, bassist Miroslav Vitous and producer Joel Dorn — didn’t just mean provocation where race-in-America was concerned as on the black (both meanings) comic "Supermarket Blues." Nor did McDaniels speak only of African-American blight. His gentle, hammy croon calmly attacks Caucasoid crimes against Native Americans on "The Parasite" with stinging, bittersweet, poetic rhetoric. Ultimately though, McDaniels’ strongest point is one wrought by God, by love. Super-elastic bass, moistened Fender Rhodes, funky-drummer paradiddles and McDaniels’ humble Curtis Mayfield-like guitar riffs provide "The Lord Is Back" and "Lovin’ Man" with blaxploitative oomph. His most apocalyptic tunes, "Headless Heroes" and "Freedom Death Dance," leave little doubt as to what God will do, having been so savagely provoked millennium after millennium. Maybe Nixon — who, according to the liner notes, allegedly had VP Spiro Agnew call Atlantic Records to bury McDaniels’ masterpiece — was scared that bringing the Lord to bear on world affairs was unfairly tilting the scales. Luckily, Nixon and Agnew are dead; Label M owner Joel Dorn is not and this new testament walks amongst us again.