Flashback Friday | Mickey Murray: People Are Together Review
Flashback Friday is a continuation of our Do Look Back series, in which we took time to look back at albums that are older, forgotten, or just plain undervalued albums from the past and give them a fresh listen. Our first Flashback Friday is the 1970 LP People are Together by soul artist Mickey Murray, an LP being re-issued by the local label Secret Stash.
It would be easy to make this review about the event and spectacle of Mickey Murray, of his record getting picked out of the dustbin of history and re-released by local imprint Secret Stash Records, and especially of his one-off show Saturday night at the Cedar in celebration of said re-issue—but I’m going to stick to the music. No matter the local pomp and circumstance around the release, if the record was a dud, it would put a definite damper on the festivities. Luckily the record is a resounding success. Hearing it actually makes the fact that it has been languishing in the shadows for more than four decades even more mysterious.
While Murray was brought in to take the place of James Brown on the King Record Label, his sound is definitely more refined and subdued than the work of the deceased King of Soul. The tracks on People are Together cover a range of soul music, from the gentle “Try a Little Harder” to the more upbeat material like the swampy organ-driven funk of “Fever” and the funky “Ace of Spades,” a song chock-full of sharp horns and impassioned vocals. Like many singers at the time, the album has tracks written and previously performed by other artists. The highlights are the shuffling funk of “Fat Girl,” an Otis Redding song, and the borderline psychedelic, wah-heavy take on the Motown classic “Money (That’s What I Want).” Interestingly, part of the story why the album wasn’t widely released is that the title track was too racially-progressive in 1970 for southern black DJs to play. I assumed before listening that it would be a riotous, hellfire-and-brimstone song. I was wrong. “People are Together” is a solemn, heartfelt track about working towards equality. It fits alongside the impassioned work of Sam Cooke and Mavis Staples as a song that is both depressing in light of the social reality and uplifting in the espirited people who continued to fight. It pains your heart to think that a song with a message as simple and clear as “People are Together” was not only ignored, it was purposely swept under the rug. The song is the epicenter of the record, tying together the album and really cutting open a vein to highlight Murray’s thoughtful, unadulterated lyrics and powerful singing in a way that should have made him a gigantic star.
In a surprise to no one, the world isn’t fair. Mickey Murray and his excellent LP did not get the credit they deserved. Luckily, we have labels like Secret Stash around that not only do the time-intensive crate-digging for records like this, but reproduce them so they can get into as many people’s hands and minds as possible. People Are Together is a profound and powerful record that also manages to be funky and fun—a success that somehow slipped through the cracks, but is seeing the light of day again—still as relevant and entertaining as the day it was recorded.
If you missed our interview with Secret Stash about the back-story on this album and some info on the one-shot concert they are flying Murray in for on Saturday, read the interview HERE.
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