Bernie Sanders, We Shall Overcome

Sorry, Bernie bros: stick a fork in him, he's done for 2020. But we would be remiss to close what may be his last presidential campaign without this odd musical footnote in politics, his 1987 album. In these hyperpolarized times it may be impossible to review this album without a political slant — if you love Bernie, you'll love this album no matter how bad it is, and likewise you'll hate it if you despise him — but let's take it on ear value and see how far we get. If you came to hear him sing, you'll be sadly disappointed because on this album at least, he doesn't. But he pulls no punches; like a socialist northeastern Rod McKuen, he turns his speeches into veritable beat poetry over five spirituals and anthems, berating "The Banks of Marble" and American jingoism asking "Where Have All The Flowers Gone" while reminding us that this land was made for you and me, with "thirty Vermont artists" faithfully playing the choir as he roars from his fiery secular pulpit. I have no quibbles with the polished production (if a bit maudlin) but this album has a specific purpose: it's a call for revolution, and that is its trump (ahem) card while simultaneously its biggest fault. This is red carbon-neutral Impossible Burger meat to be played at rallies and speeches, not relaxing after fattening up the wallets of the man or partying in the shadow of the one-percent. It may be unfair to say it's bad pop when it never really aspired to be, but that's the only non-partisan yardstick I've got. While it's the most fascinating political artifact I've ever encountered to date, as the recording equivalent of an anti-MAGA hat it just isn't good music. The CD reissue omits the "conversation with Bernie Sanders" on the original cassette's B-side which musically doesn't change anything. (Content: as stated.)