John Legend And The Roots / Wake Up! / Sony
John Legend and The Roots recently took a page out of Marvin Gaye’s book, but rather than ask ‘What’s Going On’ like the soul singer of yesterday they decided to urge listeners to Wake Up!. While they may not be listed in the title billing, other artists are very much involved with project; Common and Melanie Fiona lend vocals to the single “Wake Up Everybody” and spoken word poets CL Smooth and Malik Yusef contribute as well. Despite the assistance, the majority of tracks on the album are flavoured with John Legend-soul rather than phat ?uestlove beats – a marked difference from the last time the two musical entities crossed paths.
The handpicked covers from the 60s’ and 70s’ are laced with bluesy feel-good messages about the power of communities to overcome difficult economic times, and individuals from meager backgrounds improving their lives. How can songs not take on a feel-good tone when they’re being sung by John Legend? The positive tone is an impressive feat in itself, especially when those songs happen to address topics such as, in the Bill Withers cover “I Can’t Write Left Handed”, a soldier asking someone to write a letter to his mother for him after he’s had his right arm shot off.
Download: “Little Ghetto Boy”, “Wake Up Everybody”