PM Press Blog, Review

`It is Right To Rebel’ LP Supports Peltier, Remembers George Jackson In Song

From Protest Folk Magazine

A blog to encourage creation of non-commercially-motivated homemade, public domain, topical, politically left protest folk songs by non-professional working-class songwriters and musicians, that express a different consciousness than that expressed by most of the commercially-motivated songs that get aired in 21st-century on corporate or foundation-sponsored or government-funded radio stations..

If you’re a music fan who liked Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore’s Songs Of Freedom and Working-Class Heroes cds, liked Bob Dylan’s early 1970s “George Jackson” song and wishes to see U.S. political prisoner Leonard Peltier released, Mat Callahan and Yvonne Moore’s 2022 double LP, It is Right to Rebel, is an LP you’ll find interesting to listen to.

As the double LP, consisting of 15 tracks, notes in its liner notes, It is Right to Rebel is intended to be “a battle cry, a wake up call, an invitation to join the struggle of our time, a celebration of rebellion and social movements and a musical thumbs up to all the people that realize that big changes have to be made.” So the songs on the LP, all written and composed by Labor Movement singer-songwriter Mat Callahan, deals lyrically “with topics such as the Zapitista uprising in Chiapas, political prisoners” (like Leonard Peltier and the 1971-slain George Jackson)”and environmental issues.”

Musically, most of Callahan’s new songs included on It is Right to Rebel are “rooted in the folk music tradition with the uniting elements of rhythm, group singing and acoustic music.” The lead vocals on each song track are sung by either Mat or Yvonne; and 3 background vocalists are also heard on many of the tracks. In addition, It is Right to Rebel also utilizes 5 musicians to provide the musical background for Mat’s new songs.

Lyrics of the initial track, “Free Peltier”, calls for Leonard Peltier’s release, notes that “more than 40 years have come and gone” and “to fight for Leonard’s freedom, is to fight for everyone,” tells how he came to be imprisoned, and relates his legal case to how U.S. government has historically treated Native Americans.

The “War Against Forgetting” second track, which has a very melodic and catchy tune that Yvonne Moore sings in a great, spirited way with Mat, further describes how indigenous people were subdued, “cause if no one remembers, no one can forsee” and “their lies are what disarmed us.”

The third track, “High John the Conqueror Root”, based on an African American slaves’ folk tale that kept dream of freedom alive during slavery, features more singing by the 3 background vocalists with Mat of a song that reminded me of some of the tunes on The Band group’s late 1960s vinyl albums.

Yvonne joins Mat in another melodic, but slower track 4 tune, “Fire Isn’t Fire”, which lyrically questions way some folks in capitalist societies still seek to turn everything into a commodity to make a lot of money, although “if the truth were told, what we all are seeking is what can’t be bought or sold.

Track 5, a song about George Jackson, “99 Books”–which I think is lyrically better than the “George Jackson” song that Bob Dylan wrote and recorded in early 1970s, because its lyrics include both more details about how George survived intellectually while unjustly imprisoned before he was murdered by San Quentin prison guards in 1971–is sung by Mat and Yvonne to a catchy melody that remined me, somewhat, of Neil Young’s “Old Man, Take A Look At My Life” tune. The “99 Books” title refers to number of books that George had in his cell on day he was killed; and a rare audio of George Jackson, himself, speaking can be heard at end of track 5.

“Say Yes”, sung by Mat on track 6, uses a soul music-type tune; and its lyrics reflect both need for optimism and a more historically optimistic feeling that “together we’ll find a way” by “sayin’ if you want peace and justice for all humanity.”

With a melodic tune that reminded me, somewhat of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Ohio” song about the 1970s Kent State Massacre and with Dylanesque lyrics–like “Come gather round my friends, let’s sing us a song, let’s bring us a verse, let’s not speak falsely, then so full is the heart, so empty the purse“–track 7’s “High Time For A High Time”, was one of the songs I most liked on this LP. Yvonne and Mat sing the song together well as a duo.

The jazz-influenced anti-war “Pick Your Poison” track 8 song about the futility of war notes in its lyrics that even if you call it “freedom,” when you only “got a choice between arsenic and cyanide” (i.e. U.S. imperialism or right-wing religious fundamentalism), the only actual choice you’re getting is to “pick your poison.”

In his note to his “Cross My Heart” track 9 song that lyrically satirizes Big Techie capitalism–as Mat, Yvonne and their 3 background vocalists sing an early 1960s-sounding vocal group type of melody–Mat writes: “The Entrepreneur: Made into a hero by the `tomorrow-makers’ of Silicon Valley elevated to near sainthood by pundits at the Wall Street Journal, this personage is also a type of pathological liar, who ise behind the mask of sanity, is utterly without conscience or obligation to anything but self-enrichment.”

Singing in a way that reminds me, somewhat, of Bev Grant’s singing style, Yvonne joins Mat and the vocalist group of friends in an Afro-American rhythm & blues-sounding tune with topical disaster folk song lyrics like “Fire come a-runnin’ down the power lines, Burning all directions, fire swallowed Paradise,” referring to what happened in California in 2019, in Mat’s track 10 song, “Another Message Comin'”.

The “Stand and Fight” track 11 song is a song with Bob Marley-like lyrics that declares “to rebel is right” and a late 1960s-type CSNY group melody. Mat wrote this song to mark the Occupy Wall Street Movement. And in his note for the track 12 “Different Worlds” song, Mat indicates that it was written to help “keep spirit of utopia alive in the heart of the oppressed.”

The three remaining songs on It is Right to Rebel are “Sellavision”, “Sweep the Money Changers From Your Soul” and “The Last Word.”

Lyrically, “Sellavision” is about mass media manipulation and includes lyrics like “call it television, lies are all they ever tell.” And the “Sweep the Money Changers From Your Soul”–with its “Sweep The Money changers from you soul…You are the savior” and “there is no Elvis can do this for you” lyrics–reminded me, somewhat of John Lennon’s early 1970s “God Is A Concept” song.

“The Last Word” song, that reminded me somewhat of the “Blowin’ In The Wind” song, with lyrics like “whisper questions for those who are listening,” also contains a chorus with a very melodic hook that Yvonne and Mat sing in a call and response-type way.

The Encylopedia of Political Record Labels book author Josh McPhee, of the Just Seeds Collective, produced the cover art that comes in a sleeve of Mat and Yvonne’s & friends vocally and musically sophisticated and professionally-sounding It is Right to Rebel album. And the tracks are available to be heard or purchased music sites like Spotify, Apple Music, Bandcamp and PM Press.