MESSAGE FROM SOULVILLE-PRODUCED BY MARC MAC.
MESSAGE FROM SOULVILLE-PRODUCED BY MARC MAC.
It doesn’t seem long since I was choosing my twenty best new releases of 2012. That wasn’t an easy job, given how many albums I review each year. However, there were some albums that undoubtably, were going to be on that list. One of them was Visioneers’ Hipology, released on BBE Music. Quite simply, Hipology was a musical masterpiece, fusing musical genres, influences, breaks, beats and samples aplenty. On Hipology’s second disc, Marc Mac, the man behind the Visioneers, compiled an old school mix-tape. That wasn’t just an added bonus, but a tantalizing reminder of what a mix tape used to sound like. Now, just seven months later, Marc Mac is back, with another mix-tape, Message From Soulville-Produced By Marc Mac.
Message From Soulville-Produced By Marc Mac was released on Omniverse Records on 21st January 2013. This is the third album where Marc Mac has merged civil rights era dialogue with jazz, funk and soul infused hip hop instrumentals. The first instalment of this series was Extend The Knowledge, released in 2011. Then It’s Right To Be Civil followed in 2012. Like Message From Soulville, both albums are incredibly powerful, moving and soulful journeys. The focus of Message From Soulville is the role that black-Americans played in the Vietnam War.
The best way to describe Message From Soulville, is an old-school mix-tape that’s compelling, captivating and incredibly potent and powerful. It’s impossible to listen to the music and dialogue on Message From Soulville without being affected by it. Anyone, unaffected by the music and dialogue, must look at themselves closely.
During the twenty-two tracks on Message From Soulville, Marc looks at the role that black-Americans played in the Vietnam War. This is their story, how the Vietnam War affected them. Snippets of dialogue give a snapshot of their views on the war? Should it have even happened? How did this war come to effect them? Once many of these men returned home, were they ever the same? All these questions and more are posed and answered, against a backdrop of melancholy, wistful hip hop instrumentals.
These hip hop instrumentals on Message From Soulville, were produced by Marc Mac himself. All he needed to do so, were an Akai MPC, bass guitar, synths and a copy of Logic. Add to that, plenty of samples, crunchy hip hop beats and plenty of inspiration. To that, I’d hasten to add, a sense of injustice. Like many people, myself included, it’s like he’s giving a voice to a generation of forgotten men and women. They were sacrifice not just several years of their life, but their safety, wellbeing and ultimately, their lives. Then they were forced to fly halfway around the world, to fight in a foreign country, in a war that like all wars, they possibly neither understood, nor agreed with. These snippets of dialogue are their stories, their views and how the war came to change the direction of their lives.
Marc tales you on a twenty-two track and fifty-two minute, deeply powerful and moving musical journey. That musical journey is Message From Soulville. You’re taken on a journey where thoughtful, introspective and often, inspirational music, for the heart and the head is mixed with civil rights-era dialogue. Just like Extend The Knowledge and It’s Right To Be Civil, you can expect plenty of boom box beats, swathes of the lushest strings and some moving, inspirational dialogue. Dr. Martin Luther King and ordinary soldiers, who fought in Vietnam and lived to the tale, tell you their stories. It’s a snapshot of their views on the war and how it came to effect them.
Listen to some of the dialogue and you’ll realize that, like any war, there’s no real winners. Everyone, regardless of side, is affected. Many of the men whose stories you’ll hear, seem puzzled, confused and doubtful, that what they endured was worth the sacrifice. From the opening bars of Message From Soulville you get a sense of the opposition to the Vietnam War.
Soulville Intro which opens Message From Soulville demonstrates the strength of feeling against the Vietnam War, with the sounds of the anti-war movement. From there, Reason and Sanity offers another possibility to the conflict. Marc adds layers of strings, crispy beats and delay to the strands of dialogue, as they powerfully offer another alternative solution. Brand New Thinkin’ opens a call for change, equality and justice. Quickly, it gives way the soulful strains of Isaac Hayes set against a backdrop of crispy beats and crackly vinyl.
On Front Line Colors a melancholy, jazz-tinged piano solo is fused with the story of a frontline soldier, lacking in training, sent into battle unprepared and unskilled for what lay ahead. His message is a soldier’s race doesn’t matter, each man or woman were in this together.
On Feelin’ Like Clay the sound of Cassius Clay, refusing to enlist gives way to a heartfelt vocal. It soars powerfully and sincerely, above the arrangement, as if in admiration for his decision. Saigon Say No sees a call to defy the government gives way to a melancholy piano. Dialogue is then added, adding the potency of the track. Love Of Self sees choppy hip hop beats, angelic harmonies combined with dialogue, where there’s an air of positivity, that change is starting to happen. Suddenly, people are proud of their color, as the soldier says: “proud to be black.”
Re-Evaluate is one of the most powerful tracks on Message From Soulville. When you hear the mention of the caskets coming home, you realize the reality and enormity of the situation. By then, people’s opinions are changing. Which brings us nicely to Different Light. The dialogue mentions seeing people in a Different Light. What does this mean you ask? A good or bad light? Set against a pensive, melancholy and emotive backdrop of quivering strings and deliberate keyboards. Even more moving, meaningful and powerful is That’s What It Is, featuring an extract from a speech from Dr. Martin Luther King. He speaks of the struggle ahead, while other mention the problems of the South. Someone suggests the problem with the south is it’s run by “gangsters.” When the broody, moody and melodramatic music begins, bursts of the word “gangsters” proves a potent reminder of the racism that people had to overcome.
Afro Pride Soldier sees Marc tackle the subject of identity. The Afro Pride Soldier is stripped of his identity, his hair shorn, transformed into G.I. Joe. This was the ultimate indignity. Somehow, the army was going to change him, strip him of who he was and what he believed in. Boom Bap Dap again, looks at identity, but in a positive way. Through a unique handshake, soldiers from different parts of America are able to distinguish themselves, make themselves stand out and enjoy a sense of brotherhood.
Probably the most powerful and anthemic track on Message From Soulville is Revisionist (Walk On). After just a snippet of dialogue, Marc takes Isaac Hayes’ Walk On By and transforms it into an epic where soul and hip hop unite. To do this, Marc uses crispy beats, swathes of strings, soaring, soulful harmonies sung call and response style, plus filters. The filters help give the track its epic nature. Quite simply, this results in two of the best minutes of music on Message From Soulville.
Reflection Time hears a soldier recount that when they were off-duty, they reflected on what had happened. This was their Reflection Time. After the dialogue, a backdrop of sweet, soulful vocals and crispy beats enters. Filters are added, meaning the music drops in and out, as if recreating their Reflection Time. While they could be trying to relax, the soldiers would constantly be replaying horrors and tragedy that they’d been forced to witness and endure.
Keep Your Word is an almost ironic title for a song. After listening to the album, hearing the dialogue and how soldiers were affected, did the government keep their word to look after the veterans? Did the government keep their word to come back to a country where justice and equality prevailed? Ironically, the music that forms the backdrop to this track is one of the most beautiful on Message From Soulville is Revisionist (Walk On).
G.I. Resistance is an equally beautiful track, where Mac adds snatches potent dialogue. Soul and hip hop seamlessly unite. Similarly, music and social comment become one. One of the most powerful statements is when a veteran says if he had to return to Vietnam, he wouldn’t carry a weapon. On Fort Bragg Revolution the drama and tempo builds. Soul and funk are fused, as wave after wave of music grandly and dramatically builds and builds. Later, the music gives way to dialogue, as a veteran talks of how through time, he changed. Then before you can hear how and in what way, the song is over. You’re left wondering, how he changed and what became of that soldier? Was his life ever the same again? Soul Transformation seems the perfect track to follow Fort Bragg Revolution. It’s a pensive, thoughtful sounding track, where veterans recount how they heard of how America was changing, but not in a good way. Here they were, far from home, fighting for their country and their friends and family were being discriminated against. Like those they were fighting, their friends and family were victims, victims of injustice and inequality.
Clean Home is a track that demonstrates just what Marc Mac does so well. He fuses musical genres and influences peerlessly. In doing so, he creates a beautiful new track. Jazz, soul, Latin, funk and hip hop become one. Then a curveball is thrown, when a snippet of dialogue asks how can American solve another countries problems when it has so many of its own? A similar track closes Message From Soulville. I Am Mr. Simple is a quite beautiful, elegant fusion of musical genres. It floats along, with a scatted vocal drifting above the arrangement. Then later, the music cuts to dialogue of a radio show, where a man passionately makes his point of view, before ending his rant with: “Mr. Simple is here to stay.” How wrong could he be. He was the voice of reason, speaking with passion and dignity.
Whether you’re a veteran of Marc Mac’s legendary mix-tapes or a newcomer to their delights, then Message From Soulville is an album that you must hear. Message From Soulville is this one of the most moving, powerful and emotional albums you’ll hear this year. Not only does it tell the story of one of the longest, bloodiest and most deadly wars in living memory, but does so from a unique perspective, that of black-Americans. This was during a time when injustice and equality was rife. Black-Americans, who were being discriminated against, being denied equality, something many people now take for granted. Almost ironically, they were being asked to fight for their country. Can you imagine that? How must these men and women felt? Nobody would’ve blamed them if they’d said no.
Indeed, Cassius Clay said no. This cost him dearly. He was stripped of his world boxing titles, his reputation left in tatters, due to the way he was perceived by. Instead, his courage should’ve been applauded. Granted it was, but not by the majority of Americans who’d been whipped into a frenzy of patriotism. That is part of the story Message From Soulville tells.
Over fifty-two minutes and twenty-two tracks, Message From Soulville-Produced By Marc Mac, brings to life the story of these men and women. Each of them, had to fly halfway around the world, risking their lives to fight in a war many neither understood nor believed in. When they returned, many of them were never the same. Instead they were mere shells of their former selfs, never the same and forever changed and affected by the horrors and tragedy they endured and experienced. Message From Soulville, which was released by Omniverse Records on 21st January 2013 is a compelling, captivating album, where the story of black-Americans who fought in the Vietnam War is set to music. Marc Mac has payed homage to them, telling their story by fusing musical genres and influences. He fuses civil rights era dialogue with jazz, funk and soul infused hip hop instrumentals. For anyone who wants to hear Message From Soulville, they’d better be quick, as there are only 500 copies available. Believe me, Message From Soulville is one of the most powerful, moving and poignant albums you’ll hear this year. Enjoy the journey and the musical Message From Soulville. Standout Tracks: Re-Evaluate, Revisionist (Walk On), G.I. Resistance and Clean Home.
MESSAGE FROM SOULVILLE-PRODUCED BY MARC MAC.