BERNIE SANDERS AND 30 VERMONT ARTISTS – We Shall Overcome (1987)

Review by: Roland Bruynesteyn
Album assigned by: Ali Ghoneim

Well, what do we have here?
 
Oh, Freedom – In principle a nice gospelly, anti-slavery tune, performed very generically, with a weird monologue (presumably by Bernie) in the middle. After that he joins in the singing, which doesn’t really add anything of quality, to put it mildly.
 
The Banks of Marble –  Bernie starts singing solo this time, and it’s pathetic: his phrasing, his diction, his (total lack of) sense of rhythm. He sounds like a priest, recorded separately, with music added later. With the (little) chorus you can hear the other singers desperately trying to make up for Bernie’s lack of talent. Second verse is more of the same. Loving Phish, Adam Green, Ween and many 60’s artists, I’m no stranger to silly lyrics but this beats everything, and detracts from the musical enjoyment, such as it is.
 
Where Have All the Flowers Gone –  This starts with a traditional drumming pattern that reminds me of an old Christmas song that I can’t be bothered to check. Some electric piano creeps in, and then Bernie with a pacifist sermon. He really likes long enumerations. When the chorus starts, hearing several professional voices comes as a relief: some are a little whiny, but they’re certainly adequate.
 
This Land Is Your Land – A reggae-ish intro doesn’t make things any easier for Bernie; his delivery is painful to hear and sounds insincere. This is strange, come to think of it, as most likely Bernie believes what he’s ‘singing’ and probably had a hand in his lyrics as well. The music and the ‘back-up’ singers are certainly OK, but it still sounds like a low budget version of songs like We are the world of the same era.
 
We Shall Overcome – “In many ways, the world in which we’re living today is an extremely depressing place. It’s hard to deny that, and it’s wrong to deny that”. No Bernie, it isn’t difficult or wrong to deny that. Having a choir sing We shall overcome (with nice electric guitar) may be true in most cases, but it doesn’t help your message. A message that, even thirty years ago, seemed to imply that government can solve all life’s problems, on an individual level, for society as a whole, and even for the whole world: just give politicians more power!
 
What to make of it? Curiosity value? Certainly, with him being a current presidential candidate and all. Musically it’s nothing special: happy gospel music with dated 80’s production values. Some nice voices, a nice organ tone or electric guitar here and there, but even without Bernie’s ‘contributions’ it’s nothing special. ‘Bland’ is the word I think.
 
It’s also very short, 5 songs, half an hour, but already too long to not bore the hell out of you. Lyrically it’s even more outdated, bordering on the insane: with a mix of faith and socialism Bernie tries to make the listener feel guilty, failing miserably but making a fool of himself.
 
Emotionally charged? Sort of. I switched between outright laughter, frustrated anger and annoyed mockery, so on an emotional level he certainly got to me, once. But I will absolutely never listen to it again. Bernie lost any sympathy I might have felt for him as an underdog in the American presidential elections. I’d even prefer Trump over Sanders as the worlds’ next US president, and that’s saying something.
 
In fact I’d prefer most tv evangelists of the 80’s and 90’s over his pathetic semi-religious hippy shit. Any tune can be a nice singalong song at any of his campaign meetings, but playing the cd (including his spoken parts) out loud at these meetings, is bound to make him lose the nomination.
 
In the end, this half hour taught me a lot about American politics I more or less feared and did not want to know…
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Author: tomymostalas

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