STOP THE WAR.
Stop The War.
Label: Kent Soul.
When the Vietnam War began on the ‘1st’ November 1955, Americans never realised that this bloody and brutal war would last nineteen years, five months, four weeks and one day. By the time the War ended on the ’30th’ April 1975 America was a nation divided.
Those in favour of military intervention saw themselves as patriots, while those in the peace corps were often labeled “pinkos,” “commies” and “traitors” by their critics. Often, families were divided with generations disagreeing on America’s involvement in the Vietnam War, especially during late-sixties when the peace movement was thriving.
The peace movement’s numbers grew as the casualties in Vietnam increased, and young American soldiers died fighting for their country in what was a brutal war, that deep down, many officers within the US military knew that they couldn’t win. So did many back home who joined the peace corps on a daily basis. They regularly clashed with those who were pro war and the two sides provided inspiration for authors, poets, songwriters and musicians during the fifties, sixties and seventies.
Many songs were written about the Vietnam War and this includes the twenty-three tracks on Stop The War, which is the third and final instalment in Kent Soul’s lovingly curated trilogy that documents America’s role in the Vietnam War. It features tracks by Michael Lizzmore, Dionne Warwick, William Bell, The Shirelles, The Emotions, The Pace Setters, Chairmen Of The Board, The Impressions, Stu Gardner, The Sensational Saints, The Staple Singers and R.B. Greaves.
Opening Stop The War is Promise That You’ll Wait by Michael Lizzmore which was released as a single by Capitol in 1972. This Skip Jackson composition was arranged by Horace Ott and produced by Phillip and Marian Colbert. It features an impassioned vocal that’s akin to a confessional full of hurt as he sings of the things he’s seen, how they’ve changed him and the woman he left behind who has found someone else. The result is a powerful, poignant and deeply soulful song that sets the bar high for the rest of the compilation.
Bacharach and David wrote and produced I Say A Little Prayer for Dionne Warwick. It was released by Scepter in 1967 and reached number four in the US Billboard 100. This resulted in a gold disc for this beautiful love song and future pop soul classic which struck a nerve with a generation of women whose boyfriends and husbands were fighting in the Vietnam War.
By 1962 William Bell was an up-and-coming soul singer when he received his call up papers and spent the next three years in the US Army. However, it took several years for him to reestablish his career and in 1970 covered Calvin Carter’s Lonely Soldier which he produced with BT Jones. It was released as a single on Stax and features a rueful vocal full of emotion where William Bell relies on his personal experience as he brings the poignant lyrics to life.
In 1962, The Shirelles enjoyed a hit single when Soldier Boy reached number one on the US Billboard 100 and three on the US R&B charts. Three years later in 1965, the released what was essentially the followup to the single,(Mama) My Soldier Boy Is Coming Home The Shirelles. Sadly, the single failed to chart despite a heartfelt but joyous vocal that’s delivered against a string-drenched arrangement.
Isaac Hayes and David Porter penned and produced Going On Strike which featured on The Emotions 1969 debut for Volt, So I Can Love You. Soul and funk are combined by the Stax house band as the trio sing of their commitment to fidelity and monogamy until their partners return home. The result is one of the strongest tracks on the album and a reminder of an oft-overlooked group.
The Pace Setters released My Ship Is Coming In (Tomorrow) as a single on the Chicago-based Mica Records in 1968. It’s an upbeat and joyous soulful hidden gem from the Windy where the group celebrate their homecoming after their tour of duty.
In 1971, Chairmen Of The Board’s released their third 1971 album for Invictus, Bittersweet. It featured the Greg Perry and General Johnson composition Men Are Getting Scarce which the pair also produced. Funk, soul and drama are combined during this powerful anti-war song that encouraged American women to use their collective voice to ask the American government to bring the troops home.
By 1972, The Impressions were about to release their third album on the Curtom label, Times Have Changed. It stalled at a lowly 192 on the US Billboard 200 chars. The group were no longer as popular as they had once been. However, one of the highlights of this oft-overlooked offering is the Curtis Mayfield song Stop The War which lent its name to this compilation. It’s a six minutes of thought provoking, poignant and powerful music.
When Stu Gardner released his sophomore album And The Sanctified Sound on Volt, in 1974, it featured his composition Leave Him Alone. He was providing a voice for all the American parents who watched on helplessly as their sons received their call up papers and were shipped off to fight in what many realised was a war they couldn’t win. Sadly, the album wasn’t a commercial success as Stax was struggling financially and hadn’t the resources to promote this underrated album.
The Sensational Saints were a gospel group who released The War Is Over (My Brother) on Cleveland’s BOS label in 1973. It features an impassioned soliloquy that’s delivered against James Bullard and Michael Chavers’ carefully crafted production as soul meets gospel.
The Staple Singers covered Bob Dylan’s John Brown for their Pray On album which was released by Epic in 1967. Pervis Staples takes charge of the lead vocal and recalls the horrors he’s witnessed during his tour of duty during this harrowing and chilling tale of man’s inhumanity to man.
Closing Stop The War is R.B. Greaves’ Home To Stay which was released as a single on Atlantic in 1969. His vocal is full of relief at being home safely after three years away from his friends and family as he delivers a soul-baring vocal.
Stop The War eschews the familiar and finds the compilers digging deeper for hidden gems that have passed previous crate diggers and curators by. Having said that, there’s still songs by familiar faces and tracks that many soul music fans will know and love.
The twenty-three songs deal with all aspects of the twenty year conflict ranging from the soldiers being shipped out to Vietnam to those returning home from the bloody and brutal war that was impossible for America to win. During these songs there’s a sense of anger, frustration and sadness that’s tangible. They’re part of Stop The War, which is the third and final instalment in Kent Soul’s lovingly curated trilogy that documents America’s role in the Vietnam War which was an important period in American history which divided a nation.
Stop The War.