WE INSIST!: ALBUM REVIEW
Through all the think pieces, social media posts, and peaceful protests, there is real anger right now. Not the passive, white, anger that will likely dissipate in a few weeks once the country moves on and forgets, but true black anger at the damage our country has done to our communities. That anger will not be settled any time soon, but that same anger has been expressed in different ways in every decade of American history. Max Roach’s “We Insist!” helps to express this rage in a more powerful way than words.
In 1960 Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln recorded "We Insist!" as a tribute to the Emancipation Proclamation in five songs. The album morphs between genres and evades all conventions. Each song addresses a different time in American history, tracking the black experience through the decades. Songs like “Freedom Day” are relatively traditional tunes, while on “Triptych” Abbey Lincolns vocals become screams over free-jazz intonations from the backing band. The album is meant to evoke the struggle for freedom and what resistance meant at the time.
The album is overwhelming, at times even suffocating. There are few reprises in the tracklist and few chances to catch your breath. Even in the quieter moments on the project, Lincoln's vocals cut through the silence with lines like “Keep a movin' with that plow Driva' man'll show ya how.” Each song on the album is great and brings something new to the table and since so many musicians were involved in creating “We Insist!” there are always new ideas being thrown at you. Even when the music starts swinging, it seems as if it is just seconds from breaking apart.
“We Insist!” is an album driven by a quiet rage. Through every single track, you can hear the spirit of black anger, and each track on this album demonstrates a reason for why that anger still exists. So, when people go out to protest it is important to remember what you are protesting and who has protested before you. You are not the first to be angry. You are not the first to want change.