What's Going On
Shout! Factory, 2006
REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 10/02/2006
I’m going to be upfront about something. This CD from the legendary New Orleans jazz/funk/fusion outfit The Dirty Dozen Brass Band is very tough for me to be objective about. Last night I watched the reopening of the Superdome and about three-fourths of the Saints’ win over the Falcons. That said…
What’s Going On is a fund-raiser for the Tipitina’s Foundation, a non-profit set up to bring music back to New Orleans and support musicians who lost property and homes in Hurricane Katrina. This is not an intellectual exercise for the DDBB; three of their members lost everything, and two more had serious damage to their homes. This CD is a cover, not of a song, but of an album: Marvin Gaye’s ground-breaking 1971 album What’s Going On.
Mind you, it’s not a note-for-note cover – most of the tracks are redone with some brass stylings and New Orleans spice. The brass sound is particularly nice; there’s real substance and depth to the musicianship, especially on tracks like “Right On” and “Save The Children.”
If What’s Going On has a failing, it’s in the guest vocalists. Bettye LaVette’s take on “What’s Happening Brother” is brilliant, and Chuck D’s anger is controlled and focused on the title track. But Guru’s take on “Inner City Blues” didn’t do much for me, and I really did not like either the arrangement or G. Love’s vocals on “Mercy Mercy Me.” This is one of the greatest songs every written – why mess with it to the point where it’s barely recognizable?
Should you buy What’s Going On? Indubitably. It’s both a good CD and a good cause. I just wish that it would have been a great CD, and I think a little less manipulation of the original material would have accomplished that.