For many, the name Playing for Change is a very familiar name. For others maybe not so much. For those people, the organization was launched in 2002 as a global music project by Grammy® Award-winning producer/engineer and award-winning film director Mark Johnson and fellow film producer Whitney Kroenke. The organization went on in 2007 to spawn the Playing For Change Foundation, which helped to create music schools for children around the world. Playing for Change as an organization has also released four studio recordings and a live recording between 2009 and 2018. Some of the organization’s members even formed a smaller group known fittingly as the Playing for Change Band, and on June 24, that collective released its debut album, The Real Revolution. Recorded at Tuff Gong Studio with members of Damian Marley’s band, the 10-song record is a strong first outing for the Playing for Change offshoot. That is proven both through its musical and lyrical arrangements. One of the most notable of the songs that makes that clear comes early in the album’s run in the form of ‘Young People.’ It will be discussed shortly. ’54-46 That’s My Number,’ which comes just past the album’s midpoint, is another notable addition to the album and will be examined a little later. ‘When The Music Comes,’ the record’s closer, is one more (but not the last) of the songs that shows what makes the album’s overall content engaging and entertaining. When it is considered alongside the likes of ‘Right Foot Forward,’ ‘Mi Pierdo,’ ‘Run’ and the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes The Real Revolution a real enjoyable overall World Music offering.
The Real Revolution, the debut album from the Playing for Change Band, is an impressive first outing from the group, whose members are all involved with the bigger Playing for Change organization. Its appeal comes through its musical and lyrical content alike. This is made clear early on in the song, ‘Young People.’ This song’s musical arrangement opens with a warm, Hammond organ line that pairs nicely with an infectious saxophone line and unique approach to what is an otherwise standard reggae guitar line. The whole of the instrumentation and vocals makes the song a unique reggae and World composition all in one that is fully immersive, engaging and entertaining.
The lyrical theme that accompanies the song’s musical arrangement is just as appealing as that musical content. As the title infers, the song’s lyrical theme centers on today’s youth. It is a call to action for young people today to care for one another and for the planet. From early on, the call to reduce pollution and to respect one another is clear. As the song progresses, it encourages young people to take their education more seriously and to respect their teachers. Young listeners are encouraged here because they are told they are the ones who will inherit the planet. This is such a moving message that will resonate with the young people addressed because it is delivered in such casual, relaxed fashion. It would have been easy for the group to be more preachy in its message here, but thankfully it did not go that route. To that end, the theme, paired with the song’s equally enjoyable musical arrangement, makes the whole just one of the most notable additions to The Real Revolution. ’54-46 That’s My Number’ is another song that shows what makes the album so enjoyable.
’54-46 That’s My Number’ presents a musical arrangement that is the polar opposite of that featured in ‘Young People.’ In the case of this song, the arrangement is a purer, blues-based composition. The reggae leaning is still there but is far more subtle alongside the song’s more present blues influence. The instrumentation – the horns, piano, guitar, and even beat from the drums – lends the song to comparison to works from the likes of Robert Randolph and the Family Band, the Derek Trucks Band, and others of that ilk. It is fully infectious and in turn, engaging and entertaining.
The lyrical theme featured in this song is a little difficult to decipher sans lyrics to reference. That is because it is delivered in full-on reggae style. The mention of “the police man” and the subject wanting the public hear what he says, it comes across as a social commentary, perhaps about what is going on in the world in regards to police relations with the public. Again, this is just this critic’s interpretation. If in fact this song is the social commentary that it seems to be, then that seeming message, the way in which it is delivered, and the musical accompaniment together make the song in whole yet another positive addition to the album, showing even more what makes the overall content worth hearing.
’54-56 That’s My Number’ is just one more of the songs that makes The Real Revolution stand out. ‘When The Music Comes,’ which closes out the album, is one more example of what makes the album so strong. ‘When The Music Comes’ is interesting in that it keeps things varied right to the album’s end, in terms of musical content. In the case of this song’s composition, it blends some vintage country music leanings with the reggae influences that run through the album for yet another unique composition. The subtlety of the pairing, the way in which the two genres are blended, makes the overall laid back work so immersive.
Lyrically, the song comes across as just a happy, relaxed work that celebrates the relaxing nature of music. This is inferred in the song’s lead verse, which states, “I’m so strange in this world/The word is so strange to me/I’m a stranger in this world/I have no place to be/I’m so bored in this world/Ain’t got nothing to eat…Got my feet on the ground/When my ears hear the sound/Then no one can bring me down/When the music comes around.” This is clearly a message about the positive power of the music. It hints at someone feeling alone in the world and who is put at ease by music. The seeming message continues in the song’s second verse, which states, “I’m so cold in this world/The world’s so cold to me/So cold and alone in this world…I’ve got my feet on the ground/When my ears hear the sound/Then no one can bring me down/When the music comes around.” Yet again, here is that affirmation of the power of music. So again, what audiences get in this song is a composition that lyrically is just as uplifting in its lyrical content as its musical arrangement. The whole makes the song just one more of so many engaging and entertaining works featured throughout the album. When it and the other songs examined here are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes the album overall one more of the best of this year’s new World Music offerings.
The Real Revolution, the debut album from The Playing for Change Band, is a strong first outing for the group, which has been performing together for some years. The record’s appeal comes through its musical and lyrical content alike, as is noted through the songs examined here. When those songs are considered along with the rest of the album’s entries, the whole makes The Real Revolution one more of this year’s top new World Music albums.
The Real Revolution is available through Ingrooves. More information on the record is available along with all of the latest Playing for Change news at:
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