They say every picture tells a story. And this is actually a story I’ve told before on my previous blog. Personally? I found the 1990’s in my area anyway culturally and socially trying. Sometimes insurmountable. Towards the end of the decade along with the Y2K conspiracy theory? A Christmas gift from my parents,a twofer O’Jays CD on The Right Stuff label,ended up on my CD player on that dark,snowy Maine morning of January 1st,2000. The title of the 1980 CD was The Year 2000. And the title song was the first thing that came on.
It all starts off with a hi hat drum roll-into which emerges a heavily processed Fender Rhodes electric piano. Like the rhythm guitar which accents it? The piano is playing a short,bluesy melodic phrase. Following this twenty seconds of spare musicality? There is a brief pause before the swinging,percussive Philly medium tempo dance rhythm comes with the Rhodes still leading the way with the strong,fruity vocal harmonies of the O’Jays kick in for the chorus. On the melodic refrain? The strings that swell and fall climatically throughout the song are themselves phased through a futuristic,Leslie type filter. And this all sustains itself until the song itself fades out.
Before and after this? I’ve heard a lot of The O’Jays music from the 70’s and 80’s. There are many personal favorites of course. Yet something about this particular song sticks out for me as a musical statement. It goes far beyond any selfish form of nostalgia on my part. From what I’ve heard? This song is basically one of the final representatives of the early to late 70’s Philly dance sound pioneered by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff. It continues a very futurist,cinematic space funk theme courtesy of MFSB,with many jazzy melodic and rhythmic accents that I could already hear with the O’Jays on late 70’s numbers such as “Travellin’ At The Speed Of Thought”. So it was instrumentally extending on a strong idea.
Lyrically? The the song is both beautiful,telling and on a personal level mildly haunting. Andresmusictalk is a blog whose most essential ingredient is hope. Hope for an instrumentally and thematically sustainable future for music. This is also a blog that celebrates and advocates for well rounded assessments. And sometimes that means that this hope may arrive from a questioning point of view. On this song? Eddie Levert sings the line “Will there still be wars/I hope and I pray they will cease to be/look at the time we’ve wasted/this is one of things that got the world in such a mess”. It looks back on a troubling recent past and towards a more human and joyous future.
What troubled me for some time is that 21 months after adopting this song as my personal anthem for the new millennium/new century? 9/11 occurred. And the weary “war on terror” lingered on for over a decade after. So in all frankness? No-Eddie’s prayer’s were definitely not answered. What does seem to be happening now though is that millions of Americans are starting to ask the same questions this song,which arrived at the tail end of what I call the “people music” era of the 60’s and 70’s,was striving for answers to. Would war continue to be the only way to protect freedom? Would poverty be the defining aspects of so many lives? If one can ask the question? Especially as this song did at or at least near the start of the Reagan era? Than Eddie Levert,The O’Jays and Philly soul did their good deed very well with this song.