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Pan-African manifesto It's Nation Time — African Visionary Music, out of print since 1972, is available once again via Motown. A poet, writer, theater director, activist and more whose career spanned five decades, Imamu Amiri Baraka (born LeRoi Jones) fearlessly vouched for racial equality until his passing in 2014. For It's Nation Time, his first album, Baraka was backed by many threads of African-American musical expression, including a funk band led by James Mtume and a free jazz quartet featuring bassists Reggie Workman and Herbie Lewis, pianist Lonnie Liston Smith, alto saxophonist Gary Bartz, and drummer Idris Muhammad.
More than four decades later, It's Nation Time is thrilling and evocative. Over an R&B groove, "Who Will Survive" ponders who will be left standing in the midst of Western carnage. ("Some Americans, very few Negroes, and no crackers at all," Baraka dryly reports.) "Who we are is the magic people / The black genius prophets of the planet," he insists in "Answers." In "Pull the Covers Off," Baraka calls for liberation in syncopation over Bartz's high-powered horn. On "Come Back Pharoah," he forms a call-and-response with backing singer Gwen Guthrie ten years before she was a solo star.
"An amazing record that's as powerful as the political message of the title – the hippest record ever cut by Amiri Baraka, and that's saying a heck of a lot! Baraka delivers a long and complex set of poetic reflections on the state of Black America, spiritual awakening, and political redemption – set to musical backings that shift from funky, to jazz, to avant, and back again. Players on the set include Gary Bartz, Lonnie Liston Smith, Idris Muhammad, and Reggie Workman – and there's a host of additional players, percussionists, and vocalists that join Amiri in the delivery of his message." Dustygroove