Review Summary: A great soul record with a timeless, peerless intro.
Let's get one thing straight - Pieces of a Man
doesn't even start until the third track. Don't get suckered in by the two before it.
The much-referenced "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" is a great song, worthy of its plaudits as a furious and funky call to arms and an important early touchstone for the emerging hip-hop subculture in America, both in its anti-establishment stance and its dizzying patchwork of cultural references. It creates a problem for this album, though, because what follows from "Lady Day & John Coltrane" to "The Prisoner" sounds nothing like it - so for logical, but entirely misguided reasons, Heron bridges between the single and the album proper with "Save the Children".
"Save The Children" is awful. It is sentimental, soppy, sub-"Heal The World" pap of the highest order. It's as if Heron thought "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" was too intelligent, too angry, too damn good
, and went out of his way to make something dumb, limp-dicked, and crap to immediately make up for it. It has absolutely no business being on an album this good and this smart - it belongs on Michael Jackson's Invincible
, or on a compilation of Estonia's best ever Eurovision Song Contest entires. Not here. Anywhere but here.
But then the album proper kicks in - and it's very, very good. The last 8 songs on here all fall in line with the soul of the very early '70s - think a Curtis
that replaces an orchestra with a chamber band, or a What's Going On
that replaces head-in-the-clouds wistfulness with earthy indignation, or a There's A Riot Goin' On
without the drugs. It's smooth in its execution, but it's stern and solid in its message - "Home Is Where the Hatred Is", "Or Down You Fall", and "The Prisoner" being the finest examples of the latter. But there's also traces of hope - "Lady Day & John Coltrane" being a sensitive, deeply soulful song about the healing power of music.
Effectively, if you buy this album, you're getting a seriously solid soul record, with a single stuffed at the front that has a stunning A-side and an atrocious B-side. It's best to think of it in those terms, because if you take the last 8 tracks here as an album on their own, they stand up to anything Marvin or Sly put out during the same period, and I shouldn't need to tell you how impressive an endorsement that is.