1973, Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth finds its way into stores and magnifying its release. “The pain grows deeper in the ghetto”, chanted by a voice that reverberates in the simple accompaniment of a piano, this is the opening one of the most cult and unrecognized albums of the Stax label. She is Kathleen Kent. She is part of 24-Carat Black, a collective of 25 musicians held together by the sole force of Dale Warren. Spotted in Cincinnati, where they reign supreme, the former Ditalians dream of becoming the future Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye circulated by Motown. Why did Warren believe so much in them? He left very quickly in the early beginnings of Motown to join Stax and orchestrate notably the album of Isaac Hayes (Hot Buttered Soul, The Isaac Hayes Movement). Inexperienced, the kids from Ohio do not immediately embrace the project Warren has been carving out for them for months. In an America where the water is always murky for African-Americans, the class struggle has turned from a dead pacifism with Malcolm X to the affirmation of the black identity, with its culmination one year prior, at the Wattstax festival. “I am black, I am proud, I am beautiful, I must be respected”, shout the arena of Black Woodstock after having listening to Warren’s Salvation Symphony. With Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth, the conductor intends to develop the subject further.
Serious sobriety, purity without pretense, ample funk arrangements carefully decorated by his craftsmanship, the work does not tick the boxes of the commercial formula which is quickly stamped "conceptual". With an eye clearly on the formats explored by progressive rock, its eight cleverly titled titles exercise the blues and gospel roots of black music, with it totaling 55 minutes. Synopsis One: Kathleen Kent's uncompromising monologues about black suffering precede Princess Hearn's gospel prayers on God Save The World. Then Hearn finds Ernest Latimore for Poverty's Paradise, a sublime requiem stretching over twelve minutes. Valerie Malone takes care of the classy Mother's Day and Ghetto: Misfortune's Wealth. If the scores are already ready when they arrive in the studio, Brown-Baggin’ and 24-Carat Black will come from jam-sessions, while Foodstamps will be entirely from Warren. Possessing a rare quality, the songs draw their strength in the precocity of Carat-Black. Hearn, Malone and organist Billy Talbert were not even fifteen when they started working on the project. After six months of sleepless nights spent on rehearsals, a twelve-hour session would be enough to record everything. Only the voices would be transplanted afterwards. A year later, 24-Carat Black would separate after having conquered the crowd of the Holiday Inn Memphis. Shortly then after, Shotgun is born and the alcoholism of Warren. In his descent into a dark place, he will have time to see his work reach a cult status. A cult that will give so much to hip-hop as it is sampled by its golden age who go on to take torch, like Digable Planets, Jay-Z, Nas, RZA and even Madlib. © Charlotte Saintoin/Qobuz