On August 29, the first anniversary of Hurrcane Katrina, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band will release their interpretation of Marvin Gaye's classic LP What's Going On. Thirty-five years after its original release, the political and social themes of the album are just as relevant as ever. Along with many others along the Gulf Coast, the members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band lost their homes to Katrina. Their take on What's Going On is not only an attempt to express their feelings about this tragedy and other current events, but also a tribute to the spirit of their hometown of New Orleans.
Of all the life-affirming music made in response to Hurricane Katrina, this is perhaps the most radical achievement--a recontextualizing of Marvin Gaye's early-'70s classic in the wake of the devastation of New Orleans. Joining the Crescent City's leading brass band are an array of guest singers who give the interplay a different dynamic from Gaye's silky sophistication. From the harder edge that Public Enemy's Chuck D gives the opening title track through the redemptive prophecy provided by Guru on the closing "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)," the album takes the spirit of Gaye's social commentary and adds a contemporary twist. Among the other highlights, Bettye LaVette wrings every ounce of soul from "What's Happening Brother," Ivan Neville leads the call-and-response spirituality of "God Is Love," and the Dirty Dozen transform "Save the Children" into a symphony of syncopation and saxophones. Released to mark the first anniversary of the hurricane, with some proceeds benefitting relief efforts, the album deserves to have the staying power of Gaye's original
. --Don McLeese