Super review by Cal Gibson, of The Secret Soul Society and Scruffy Soul Recordings.
If you’re in the mood for some ecologically-minded folk funk from the mid-70s – and why wouldn’t you be? – then drop whatever you’re doing and head for Wilderness America, A Celebration of the Land, as this is one absolute peach of a reissue courtesy of the Ebalunga!!! label.
Taking as its starting point humanity’s continuous assault on our wonderful biosphere, what you’re offered is nine extended meditations on just how our stupidity, our greed, our rapaciousness, have denuded the land beneath our feet. Yes, we’ve got plenty of cars, plenty of roads to drive them on, plenty of factories churning out mindless tat for us to cravenly consume, but that amounts to the square root of jack sheeit once the planet has been terminally mangled: I’m not sure if the politicians – and their mindless lusting after growth and dollars – have quite taken that fact on board, but there we are.
All nine cuts are great but the highlight is probably Metropolis: an absolute killer mid-tempo glide, running down the inequities of the city and the baleful influence it has on the minds of our young. A freedom call, a lost voice railing against the conglomerations we’ve surrounded ourselves with. ‘Each of us has basic human needs’ runs the lyric and your head is nodding to both the sentiment and to the smoothed-out groove that sweetens the eco-despair. Given that this was recorded over forty years ago, we seem if anything to be going backwards: we’re more aware now, of course, but seem as shackled as ever to suicidal capitalism and its inherent death wish.
Manchild continues the theme: ‘Deep within your cities you are hungry and alone / have you somehow lost your balance from the things you have known’ – lyrics tied to weeping strings, emotional heft and tears for a lost paradise. Humanity composing its own funeral dirge. Beautiful and affecting: sadly timeless sentiments. Windsong gathers around a dwindling fire: a late night lament, mournfully meditative, drenched in harmonies and loss: sweeter than a dream deferred, a tip of the hat to the country-soul greats: The Flying Burrito Brothers repurposed as environmental crusaders, Joan Baez given a bump full of boogie. Its heartbreakingly sincere, naivety re-moulded as resistance: they shall not pass indeed.
It’s a great reissue, a reminder that this fight has been fought and fought time and time again – and it’s a fight that we simply can’t lose. Play it to the politicos, to the factory bosses, to the mining companies, to the luxury car makers, to the Rolex wearers: their riches are nothing in comparison to the riches we’ve already lost. What have we done? cries this album, and what are we going to do about it? Music can help to heal the wounds: the worry is that the wounds are probably already fatal.
Wilderness America, A Celebration Of The Land is out now, on Ebalunga Records.
Personally I’ve been after a copy for around a decade, after hearing Moonboots play Metropolis (Rob).
You can hear some fine soulful musical selections from Cal Gibson, on the first Tuesday of every month, between 4 – 6PM UK time, on his Holy Rollers Radio Show, for Universal Rhythms. If you can’t catch it live, you`ll can find it archived here.