Black Rock Coalition
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Black Rock Coalition


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The best kept secret in music


"Out of the box, onto the page..."

Over the past 20 years the BRC has garnered regular coverage from several on- and offline publications, including Rolling Stone, Billboard, Entertainment Weekly, The Village Voice, The Daily News, BRE Magazine, Vibe, and others, in addition to those that specialize in urban alternative coverage, like Fader, Blender, Vice, Flyer, CMJ, XLR8R and Orbit. - ***

"BRC shows, a great fact of New York life since 1985"

Black Rock Revive "Key"

Stevie Wonder classic comes to life at NYC show

Released in 1976, Stevie Wonder's Songs in the Key of Life is one of the greatest albums in pop history. It is also, strangely and sadly, one of the most forgotten, a distant milestone in ecumenical soul and emotional lesson.

On August 7th, at Summerstage in New York's Central Park, the Black Rock Coalition rescued the album and the instructive joy of Wonder's music in the first half of the 1970s from nostalgia purgatory with Songs in the Key of Life: Revisiting Stevie Wonder's Masterpiece; a twenty-seven-piece army of BRC singers and players, led by keyboard player and BRC artistic director Gene Williams, performed all twenty-one songs -- including the four on the original double-LP's bonus EP -- with historical faithfulness and the glorious pow of now.

The BRC's tribute shows have been a great fact of New York life since the activist group's founding in 1985; I've seen the BRC interpret and invigorate the works of Sly Stone, John Coltrane and Jimi Hendrix, among others. But in tackling the magnum grandeur and urban-warrior spirit of Songs in the Key of Life, the BRC -- devoted in part, in its own words, to "historical correction" -- also bluntly challenged the value of merely "keeping it real" in current rap and R&B. Will Power's jubilant rap and rubber-legged calisthenics in the color-blind history lesson "Black Man," the therapeutic church of Caron Wheeler's heated vocal counsel in "Have a Talk With God" and Gordon Chambers' resurrection-day delivery in "Joy Inside My Tears" reiterated the elementary lesson in Wonder's music: Reality is only the way things are, not the way they ought to be.

Guitarist Vernon Reid and singer Corey Glover of the BRC flagship band, Living Colour, both turned up to contribute. Glover led the crowd through a lusty singlong of "Sir Duke;" Reid negotiated the furious slalom melody of the instrumental "Contusion" with pinpoint fire. But the BRC has long been rich in underestimated talent -- in studio and road veterans who, in addition to pursuing their own careers, sing and play behind the likes of Freddie Jackson and Me'shell Ndegeocello -- and the show was as much an adventure in discovery as it was a celebration of Wonder. Vocal highlights included Kelli Sae's sultry immersion in "Ordinary Pain," Pierre Andre's immaculate poignance in the tenement-Bach of "Village Ghetto Land" and Tonni Smith's bravura finale, "As," which literally brought the sun out.

Granted, it took more than two-dozen people to interpret music that Wonder wrote, sang and played virtually by himself. Yet the quality and enthusiasm of the performances -- that particularly goes for the backing band's vibrant grip on Songs' wide world of genres -- were a powerful reminder of how Wonder and his prodigious gifts were once a vital, humanizing part of pop life. A quarter century later, Songs in the Key of Life remains his greatest achievement; the BRC showed that the music and messages therein still have a lot of living to do.

(Posted Aug 09, 2004) - Rolling Stone


History of Our Future (1991), Blacker Than That (1993), The Bronze Buckeroo Rides Again (2000), Rock 'N' Roll Reparations (to be released Fall 2005).



The Black Rock Coalition was founded in 1985 by guitarist Vernon Reid, journalist Greg Tate and producer Konda Mason in reaction to the constrictions that the commercial music industry places on Black artists. A collective of artists, writers, producers, publicists, activists and music fans assembled to maximize exposure and provide resources for Black artists who defy convention. To date, the BRC is the only national nonprofit organization dedicated to the complete creative freedom of Black artists.