1001 South African Songs You Must Hear Before You Go Deaf

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Archive for the category “Abstract Truth”

Pollution – Abstract Truth

Totum - Abstract Truth

Totum – Abstract Truth

About 9 years after Oliver Nelson released his crtically acclaimed album ‘Blues And The Abstract Truth’, a band emerged in South Africa who lost the ‘Blues’ and the ‘And The’. Abstract Truth’s first album, ‘Totem’ was also critically acclaimed, but it was on their second album, ‘Silver Trees’ that we find ‘Pollution’, a track that opens the album.

It’s a mellow start to the album, with gentle strummed guitars and a flute which initially blends in with the vocals, but is soon given flight to flutter around at will. There is a Jethro Tull influence to this folk rock track which relies more on the band’s instrumental prowess than on the singing, as there are but a few lines sung at the start of the track which points out evils of pollution (yes, children, people did care about the planet even back then) and violence. After this, its all about the music which is bright and joyous, almost as if the band are trying to create a pollution free world through sound. It is the sound of fresh air and harmony that comes through in the track.

Then about two thirds of the way through, a saxophone breaks in and lures the bass and guitar to a 60’s African jazzy sound as a celebration of this clean and beautiful world which has just been exposed to us. This roots the track in the country of its birth despite the influences of British folk rock bands like Jethro Tull and Fairport Convention.

So its not Blues and the Abstract Truth rather it is African Folk Rock and the Abstract Truth, giving us a few actual and hardcore truths that are as relevant today as they were back then. ‘Pollution’ in far from rubbish.

Where to find it:
Silver Trees/Totum – Abstract Truth (2005), Fresh, freshcd146

Video:

My Back Feels Light/What Can You Say – Abstract Truth

Abstract Truth

Abstract Truth

Jazzy, funky, strutty and that’s the Abstract Truth. Or rather one should say, that’s ‘My Back Feels Light/What Can I Say’ by the Abstract Truth’. This slightly obscure track appeared on the super difficult to get hold of album ‘Cool Sounds For Heads’, however we are fortunate enough to be able to catch this one on the brilliant ‘Astral Daze’ compilation from Retro Fresh.

‘My Back Feels Light/What Can I Say’ by the Abstract Truth’ moves between the laid back intro (think Jack Johnson for a modern equivalent), but then throws in some brassy sounds before going into a jazzy Hammond organ interlude. It then moves into the second part of the song, ‘What Can You Say’ which is introduced with a quacking saxophone and the organ moves from jazzy to a more frenzied 60’s psychedelic sound.

This is a song full of changing moods and sounds and it keeps the listener engagae from start to finish. If we didn’t know better, one could be forgiven for thinking this came from the ‘Woodstock’ soundtrack as it has a similar feel. Ken E. Henson, who is credited with guitars and vocals on the album, has been around the SA music scene for a long time and this little lost (and refound on ‘Astral Daze’) masterpiece is a great example of his contribution. What (more) can you say?

Where to find it:
Astral Daze – Various Artists, RetroFresh, (2005), FRESHCD148

Video:

Oxford Town – Abstract Truth

Oxford Town – Abstract Truth (A very learned song)

Abstract Truth - Totum

Abstract Truth – Totum

Abstract Truth - Silver Trees & Totum

Abstract Truth – Silver Trees & Totum

Abstract Truth were a band just crying out to be the first entry in an encyclopaedia of South African rock music and, if it hadn’t been for Kevin Abraham would have made it as the opening act of the Chilvers / Jasiukowicz ‘History Of Contemporary Music Of South Africa.’  Despite this minor set back, and the fact that the group only lasted a little under two years, they did leave a legacy of gems, one of which is the cover of Bob Dylan’s ‘Oxford Town.’

The song was written in response to Broadside’s magazine request for songs about a black student being enrolled in the University of Mississippi, a subject that would have been controversial in the States back in 1962 when it was written and would have been just as controversial in 1970 in South Africa when Abstract Truth did their version. Lyrics like ‘he comes to the door, he couldn’t get in, all because of the color of his skin’ would not have made this a censor friendly ditty, so no radio play then, I guess. Despite this, the album from which it was take (Totum) became one of those internationally sought after rarities, joining the likes of Freedom’s Children, Hawk and McCully Workshop.

Given that this is a cover version, one is obliged to make comparisons to the original and I am going to stick my neck out and say that Abstract Truth’s version is better than Dylan’s. I know that to some people this may be regarded as blasphemy, but there, I said it. I think the reason I regard Abstract Truth’s version as being better than Dylan’s is that Dylan was still learning his trade and forging new directions in music at the time his folky acoustic version was recorded while Abstract Truth had the benefit of a decade that saw rock music develop in leaps and bounds. They took Dylan’s simple arrangement, added some drums and a flute and moved the song from the heart to the head.

Where to find it:

Silver Trees / Totum – Abstract Truth (2005), Fresh, freshcd146

Lyrics:

Oxford Town, Oxford Town
Ev’rybody’s got their hats bowed down
The sun don’t shine above the ground
Ain’t a-goin’ down to Oxford Town.

He went down to Oxford Town
Guns and clubs followed him down
All because his face was brown
Better get away from Oxford Town.

Oxford Town around the bend
He comes to the door, he couldn’t get in
All because of the color of his skin
What do you think about that, my frien’ ?

Me and my gal, my gal’s son
We got met with a tear gas bomb
I don’t even know why we come
Goin’ back where we come from.

Oxford Town in the afternoon
Ev’rybody singin’ a sorrowful tune
Two men died ‘neath the Mississippi moon
Somebody better investigate soon.

(Written by Bob Dylan)

Video:

Family Tree:

Abstract Truth Musical Family Tree

Abstract Truth Musical Family Tree

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