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February 02, 1969 - Image 2

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1969-02-02

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Sunday, February 2, 1969



The Believers: Voices from the black experience

Jessie De Vore brought the Voices, Inc.
to Ann Arbor last night and also a pow-
erful message. The Believers, a B 1 a c k
Experience in Song, did not use whip-
like tactics. This last point annoyed many
white viewers who were distressed over
not having been flagellated, publicly. But,
for those who came for enjoyment they
left with the satisfaction of having seen
an artistic and vocal gem.
Simply clad, in plain red dresses or
black slack and turtlenecks, the company
displayed a wide and powerful range of
voices. The tunes, traditional in ' the
black idiom, were skillfully arranged and
carried out with machine-like precision.
Mr. De Vore showed a beautiful bass voice
which excelled when he sang or spoke.
The acting was at times a bit exagger-
ated but this was part of the message.
The black experience in America has
never been one in which black people were
not exposed to excess - of work, of bru-
tality, of exploitation. With a group of
eleven actors and actresses, the group
acted out some of the meaningful episodes
of the black man's existence.
Commencing with a scene of a free.
Africa-pre-white folks days-the ensem-

ble proceeded to illustrate the significant
contrast between free men and servile
chattel. The most dramatic and moving
scene was the removal, in chains, of the
African to the "new world." Introduced -by
moans and groans and in almost total
darkness, the scene was the one most of
the audience was moved by because it
was the beginning of what was to later be
"the Negro problem." As the scenes of
brothers and sisters in slavery were acted
out, one could see the demeaning effects
of the "peculiar institution" and also the
black man's desire to be free, by any
means necessary.
In church and in, drink, blacks sought
an effervescent escape. While both the
church scenes and those of 'party-time'
were well done, one could sense they were
only stops along the road to a confronta-
tion. Free bodies with slave minds can
co-exist but so long, no matter how sooth-
ing the god or how potent the spirits.
Voices, Inc., in a brilliant manner, at-
tempted to show in the scenes and songs
of the' freedom riders and sit-ins how op-
pressed blacks were still willing to give
whites one last chance to do our thing-
freedom - their way - non-violently. It
failed. After a journey, in song, which had

-~ music
Janis Ian: Getting past her past

It's tough for me to talk about Janis ian, playing at Canterbury
House this weekend, solely in terms of her music because she kindles
such innate resentment in me personally.
I've seen her sing a couple of times before and each time I was
almost made nauseous by what I supposed was a phoniness, the
magnitude of which boggled the mind. I disliked her affected, cliched
speech, her conscious hipness, and her, childish contempt for people
she obviously considered inferior.
But it's not fair to talk about that kind of thing for obvious
reasons so let's instead try conscientiously tb look at her performance
and ignore past prejudice.
She's playing at Canterbury House accompanying herself on
guitar and piano backed up by Dave Friedman on vibes and Johnny
Miller on string bass.
I've never been particularly in love with her style of singing or
guitar playing but it can be moderately effective, as proven last night
on a song she did about "working on a mountain" which{ was her
best song of the set.
Janis Ian wrote one really nice song, "Society's Child," which
was a large'hit in 1967 after Leonard Bernstein had her on his rock
special and some adventurous radio stations picked it up. As far as
I can remember, this is the only song she's ever created that embodied
tension, perhaps the crucial aspect of music.
(Just to be snotty, a valid argument might 'be made by those
who have heard her do "Society's Child" live that it's "tension"
was solely 'the result of superb production in the recording studio.
But I'm trying not to be snotty.)
Since then, she's done a lot of songs which she'll sing for you
at Canterbury like "Pro Girl" and "Janey's Blues" which aren't reali
terrible songs, but just don't do anything to you.
As evidepced by her work last night, and her latest album though,
Miss Ian is getting more ambitious and possibly more adept at song-
writing' but she still can't quite bring it off. I think there's probably
some good stuff kicking around inside her but it's having difficulty
being articulated. She's bright and she has a childish sense of true
drama that someday . may mature into a very powerful source of
artistic energy, but for now, it's a little boring.
As for her particular show here in Ann Arbor, Miller and Fried-
man are .a pleasure to hear unto themselves. Miller is a familiar,
maybe' even famous face to Michigan music people and he's developed
into a superb bassist. Friedman messes around behind Janis' guitar
and piano and though the combination doesn't generate a frenzy of
excitement, it does all right.1
Maybe if Janis could have spent a long time growing up in a
shoebox somewhere, trying lots of musical things out, discarding what
wasn't hers and keeping what was, she could soon present to us
tough, perceptive, challenging music.
But recording contracts and the media hold no store in shoe-
boxes, so we'll have to suffer along with her. Someday it might be
worth it.



-Daily-Peter Dreyfuss
- - .





Shows Today at
1 -3-5-7-9 P.M.


Everybody's favorite dirty old man is back in town. Putting it
down' once more for a whole new generation of potential
Fields' cultists. And a whole generation of devoted Fields'
addicts. Whatever the subject, whatever the treatment, W. C.
Fields' humor is more up-to-date than the hippest of contem-
porary flicks.
Catch "My Little Chickadee" with the incomparable Mae
West. Then see "You Can't Cheat An Honest Man." That's all
it should take to make W. C. your favorite dirty old man, too.
with MAE WEST-7:30

DON'T.. ,s
y1~'- 'o>



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