Les McCann and Eddie Harris – Compared To What

In light of the passing of the great Gene McDaniels, writer of this song, I figured I’d visit a record that helped to jump started me in the Jazz category, as well as many artists on Blue Note Records. I remember getting a copy of Swiss Movement in the early 90’s and going crazy for it. Let’s take a look at one of McDaniel’s most famous tunes done by the mighty Les McCann and Eddie Harris from 1969, “Compared To What” from the Swiss Movement Lp.

Written in 1967 by Gene Daniels, we first saw this recorded by Roberta Flack for her First Take Lp. This version is hot, a real groover with a killer bass line and horn stabs that accentuate the point of this message. Just in case you were wondering, the LP was presented by Les McCann, so there’s a Funky introduction of how nice he is. Fast forward to two years later and McCann and Harris are performing at the newly started Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 1969. There’s a lot of struggle going on in the world at this time: The Civil Rights Movement is still in full swing in the United States, the Vietnam War is still in effect, and although there were many other Black Power and Black Conscious records released, “Compared To What” was a side that said it all. In fact, if you take a look at the lyrics, a lot of the issues McDaniels wrote about and McCann and Harris relayed through their music (as well as a huge amount of other artists up until today), they are all still relevant. So no matter who was belting the tune out: Brian Auger or the Roots and John Legend, the message can still be applied to that time. When the Les McCann Trio and the Eddie Harris Quartet played Montreux respectively (both to great accolades), their decision to play together made history. With the edition of Benny Baily on trumpet, Donald Dean on drums, and Leroy Vinnegar on bass, Swiss Movement was permanently etched into the tablet of Jazz history with that live performance. McDaniels had his protest song, but this performance solidified it (along with some firm GOD DAMN IT’s) as one of the best of all time. I have written about both of these artists solo, but bringing them together puts this record as I said earlier, as not only one of the best protest songs ever, but a message that can still be applied to what’s going on in today’s world. Rest in Power Gene McDaniels, your words will go on to be heard for many generations.

“Compared to What”

I love the lie and lie the love
A-Hangin’ on, with push and shove
Possession is the motivation
that is hangin’ up the God-damn nation
Looks like we always end up in a rut (everybody now!)
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what? C’mon baby!

Slaughterhouse is killin’ hogs
Twisted children killin’ frogs
Poor dumb rednecks rollin’ logs
Tired old lady kissin’ dogs
I hate the human love of that stinking mutt (I can’t use it!)
Try to make it real — compared to what? C’mon baby now!

The President, he’s got his war
Folks don’t know just what it’s for
Nobody gives us rhyme or reason
Have one doubt, they call it treason
We’re chicken-feathers, all without one nut. God damn it!
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what? (Sock it to me)

Church on Sunday, sleep and nod
Tryin’ to duck the wrath of God
Preacher’s fillin’ us with fright
They all tryin’ to teach us what they think is right
They really got to be some kind of nut (I can’t use it!)
Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what?

Where’s that bee and where’s that honey?
Where’s my God and where’s my money?
Unreal values, crass distortion
Unwed mothers need abortion
Kind of brings to mind ol’ young King Tut (He did it now)

Tryin’ to make it real — compared to what?

Download or Listen to Les McCann and Eddie Harris – Compared To What from the Atlantic Lp Swiss Movement

Les McCann and Eddie Harris – “Compared to What” Live

Roberta Flack “Compared to What”

Keep Diggin’!

2 responses to “Les McCann and Eddie Harris – Compared To What

  1. Pingback: Free Soul Music Saturday for August 6, 2011 – PART 1: EPs, LPs and Singles « Dreamchilde’s Weblog·

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