Stimulus Package

11 Mar

Download Here.

I’ve got your economic recovery plan, right here. It involves 35 minutes of blistering funk–no fluff, no earmarks, no filler. This mix is one heavy dose of soulful indignation over the bum luck and bad deals that continue to beleaguer the average American worker. Most of the songs were recorded on 45s in the late 1960s, and some of the topical references (“we’re still spending millions and sending people to the moon!”) have the musty irrelevance of old magazines. The curio value, however, diminishes pretty quickly when you consider how many lyricized complaints remain relevant to our current economic situation. Willie Jones might as well be singing about the disappearance of cheap, readily available credit in today’s markets; Lenny McDaniel evokes a retiree’s anxiety over entitlement programs. And Ed Bogas summons a cool but wary cynicism in his observations about exploitation–and its inevitability–in love and commerce.

The music on Stimulus Package presents itself as much more than a catalog of recurring late capitalist problems. At its best, the music reveals the profound, sometimes perverse, pressures that money imposes on personal relationships. Lucille Mathis, for instance, offers a sad, belated recognition that love and labor are not necessarily commensurable. What’s worse, the opener “I Got Bills to Pay” pits one lover’s greed against the other’s economic well-being in a standoff that suggests a total lapse in empathy. A warped, transactional basis for human affairs comes to replace the harder-to-quantify benefits of love and understanding. This bleak interpersonal estrangement drives the entire compilation.

None of the musicians here take for granted that the audience might extend sympathy where their friends and partners fail them. They phrase their most direct appeals as doubtful questions: “Ain’t there something that money can’t buy?” and “Have you ever seen the blues?” This last song by Yaphet Kotto constitutes an intimate address to “you” the listener that seems at once so desperate and hopeless, I can’t help but wonder if the singer might actually be seeking some kind of consolation within himself. Kotto claims he has seen you in the streets, walking tall and talking loud to squelch a secret, ever-pressing despair. He almost laughs at you. But then, perhaps Kotto plays witness to his own habits patterned among strangers who broadcast the same deceit.

Given my dark assessment, it might come as a surprise that Stimulus Package actually holds some promise in a better tomorrow. You won’t hear any redemptive narratives, but the music itself harnesses a consistently brash, uptempo groove, a beat that signals defiance and implausible uplift.

“You gotta get down to ever get up.”
–The Thompsons

Track List:
1. Johnny K – I Got Bills to Pay
2. Lucille Mathis – I’m Not Your Regular Woman
3. Lou Pride – Phoney People [sic]
4. Katie Briggs – Green Power
5. Willie Jones – Where’s My Money?
6. Lenny McDaniel & The New Era – Something Out of Nothing
7. DeRobert & The Half Truths – Fallin’ in Debt
8. The Exits – You Got to Have Money
9. Syl Johnson – Concrete Reservation
10. Ed Bogas – No World for Dreamers
11. Young Holt Trio – Ain’t There Something That Money Can’t Buy?
12. Harvey Scales – Trying to Survive
13. Yaphet Kotto – Have you Ever Seen the Blues?

One Response to “Stimulus Package”

  1. unscrupled August 18, 2012 at 12:01 am #

    Oh man, I’ve been scouring the internet for that Yaphet Kotto song. It’s not even available for purchase anywhere I’ve found. Thanks!

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