What The... You Mean I Can't Sing?

What The... You Mean I Can't Sing?

by Melvin Van Peebles


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What The... You Mean I Can't Sing?

Almost 30 years after the fact, the Water Records reissue of Melvin Van Peebles' What The....You Mean I Can't Sing?, originally issued by Atlantic, is a breath of fresh air. Forget all that blaxploitation jive (the way this record gets labeled in the revisionist 21st century), a categorization white people use to make themselves feel better about something they can't understand or explain. There isn't anything kitschy about What The....You Mean I Can't Sing?. It's hilarious in places, but those parts are intentional. Van Peebles' record, his first on which he sang rather than spoke, is as essential to listen to as Sly Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On. It was meant to be popular art that never got popular. Recorded at the height of Watergate madness, it is a deeply musical, funky masterpiece of rage, righteous indignation, and soulful killer grooves. Van Peebles has no less a voice than Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen, and it can be argued that on tracks such as "A Birth Certificate Ain't Nothin' but a Death Warrant Anyway," "Save the Watergate 500" ("If the Lord's eye is on the sparrow/What's wrong with Big Brother watchin' you?"), and "Come On Write Me" ("I've been cool all that I can stand/I don't wanna be, hee hee/Who gives a damn? No more...."), he gets into the gut and gets what's in the lyric across. That's what a singer is supposed to do, right? Interpret the material. And Van Peebles, with a requisite sense of prophecy, humor, and an uncanny historical accuracy, gets down and does it. There are two sets of liner notes in the Water reissue set, one by Chicago critic Mitch Myers and one by Van Peebles himself where he tells it as he sees it on this album itself. There is only one problem with this amazing, wooly, greasy, funky record: there are no musician credits. Normally this might not be a problem on a little-known reissue, but the grooves and riffs here are so gritty, in the pocket, and sweaty that it would be nice to know who made them. This is urban music about race and class that pulls no punches and gives nothing away for free. Highly recommended.

Product Details

Release Date: 09/16/2003
Label: Water
UPC: 0646315712223
catalogNumber: 122
Rank: 214294

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Melvin Van Peebles   Primary Artist
Rhetta Hughes   Background Vocals
George Davis   Guitar
Tasha Thomas   Background Vocals
Kenny Altman   Bass
Bob Babbitt   Bass
David Cohen   Guitar
Leopoldo Fleming   Percussion
Jerry Friedman   Guitar
Arthur Jenkins   Keyboards
Bob Mann   Guitar
Barbara Massey   Background Vocals
Christie Thompson   Keyboards
Harold Wheeler   Conductor,Keyboards
J. Steven Soles   Guitar
Tali Jackson   Drums
George David   Guitar
Warren Smith   Percussion
Andrew Smith   Drums

Technical Credits

Tony Bongiovi   Remixing
Stephen Y. Scheaffer   Engineer
Harold Wheeler   Arranger
Stevie Wonder   Composer
Melvin Van Peebles   Composer,Producer,Liner Notes,Concept
Dave Rubin   Cover Design
Abdullah Rahman   Artwork
LeBaron Taylor   Executive Producer
Michael Myers   Liner Notes
Pat Thomas   Reissue Producer
Charles Blackwell   Executive Producer
Mark Rubin   Cover Design

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