Love Letter to America
Unspoken Dreams of Light
Few listeners could have anticipated the radical reinvention Eugene McDaniels would undergo with his 1970 release Outlaw. Those paying close attention might have noticed clues when, in 1969, he showed up as songwriter on Les McCann and Eddie Harris’ ferociously indignant rendition of “Compared to What,” a damning indictment of American hypocrisies that foreshadowed Outlaw’s caustic survey of the late-‘60s political scene. McDaniels’ pointedly critical songwriting certainly occupies center stage here, but the album wouldn't be such an engaging listen without the outstanding instrumental contributions of Atlantic session regulars like veteran jazz bassist Ron Carter and drummer Ray Lucas. This crack rhythm section gives understated but insistently propulsive backing to tunes as diverse as the low-slung country rock of “Reverend Lee” and the neck-snapping funk of “Cherrystones.” McDaniels’ following album, Headless Heroes of the Apocalypse, would be an even darker collection of insurrectionary funk, but Outlaw remains one of his most compelling releases.