Various Black And Proud, Volumes 1 & 2

These the two volumes of Black & Proud, subtitled "the Soul of the Black Panther Era," originate from that hotbed of Afro-American political awareness known as Munich, complete with liner notes in German. Doing a retrospective of the Black Panther legacy in musical form is an interesting idea, but these compilations take a more general point of view on Afro-American socio-political thought than is suggested by the titles and imagery of the packages. The liner notes recount the political stance and history of the Panthers in their all-too-brief period of notoriety and how this stance was diffused throughout the American musical environment. While all the songs are message-oriented, only some relate to the Panther stance of militant self-determination. Some artists are resolutely oriented to Dr. King (Staple Singers), some admire the proto-conservative black capitalism personified by James Brown (Cannonball Adderley, Hank Ballard) and some simply decry injustice (Sam Dees, Walter Heath). As a result, Gil Scott Heron and the Last Poets are grouped with artists they would have considered fashionable revolutionaries. Musically, this is the sound of early '70s soul and funk from across the U.S., with a few conscious hip-hop tracks thrown in. However, the pace is uneven on both collections and it sounds like not enough time was spent on the remastering, which reduces the impact of these compilations. This is an era well worth exploring, but these compilations would have been better if they pointed out the diversity of the political viewpoints proposed by these tracks rather than trying to tie them all together with a thesis that doesn't work. (Trikont)