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Published: 2001/05/21
by Rob Kallick

"Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse" (reissue) – Eugene McDaniels

Label M 495733
If one minute and fourteen seconds into Eugene McDaniels’ song Headless
Heroes you hear something familiar, you probably aren’t alone. "Better
get it together/And see what’s happening," is the familiar refrain, sampled
by the Beastie Boys in Get It Together on "Ill Communication".
Originally released in 1971 (and recently re-released by Label M Records),
"Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse" is rare vinyl at its finest. Having only
recently gotten into the whole DJ/electronica sub-culture, this album caught
me off guard.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with people who sample other
people’s music. On one end of the spectrum there are people like Puff Daddy
(okay, it’s P. Diddy, but I really don’t care) who steal other people’s
music and call it their own. And then you have people like the Beastie Boys
who take elements of older music to enhance their own original sound.
Apparently, this album has been sampled many times over and I can see why.
The drum beats are tight and funky and the vocal work by McDaniels is
extremely unique and soulful. McDaniels sings about social issues with a
strong element of spiritualism.
"God is love can’t you hear me/Yes love is God can’t you see," he sings in
Lovin’ Man with enough heart and feeling that one can practically
hear him smiling. McDaniels sings like he is trying to heal the listener and
make him more aware of the things that go on around him. At no point,
though, does he come off as sounding cheesy or contrived. McDaniels has more
soul than he knows what do with.
The laid-back jazzy feel to many of the songs add a nice contrast to the
more upbeat and funky tracks that space out the disc. Susan Jane is a
short acoustic number that sparkles with life. Supermarket Blues is a
song about going to the supermarket and getting into a fight with the
manager and, eventually, the police. McDaniels is a great storyteller,
punctuating with an occasional "Goddamn!" and "yeah!". Most of the songs
contain a wide mixture of sounds — jazz, rock, folk, gospel. Each track
holds something new and surprising. This album hooked me from the moment I
first heard it and has been spinning in my player constantly for the past
week. "Headless Heroes" is a true gem that we are lucky to have re-released
on CD for a whole new generation of listeners to hear.

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