“Boss Soul - 12 Poems By Sarah Webster Fabio” by Sarah Webster Fabio - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1972Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s

TJR says

Debut album from the 44-year-old mother-of-five / poet / literary critic / teacher, one of those people who put you to shame with their work/life balance and creative dynamism - it's said that she wrote over 500 poems, and that she was early starter, aged 7. As her youngest daughter, Cheryl, recounted:

All of Sarah’s albums were created after a near-death experience, which brought an urgency to her wanting to leave a legacy, and made her four-albums-in-five-years output understandable. Returning to the Bay Area from Los Angeles on New Year’s Day in 1971 after celebrating with friends and family, a sudden fog between Bakersfield and Fresno caused her to lose control, and her car skidded off the road. She cracked her ribs, had broken facial bones and the seat belt caused her to fracture her writing arm. She had to have her jaw wired shut, and was in a cast for nearly a year. The tediousness of her recovery ended up replenishing her artistic spirit, leaving her with a thirst for life. She collaborated with intensity. She knew her four albums on Folkways would translate her poems from the page to a permanent, lasting expression. She picked from her body of work the poems that would take her further than written text could ever promise. Around the time her albums started coming out, she started pursuing a PhD in American and African Studies at the University of Iowa, and took a teaching position at the University of Wisconsin. It was there she was diagnosed with colon cancer, which ultimately took her life November 7, 1979.

“Boss Soul” is a family affair, and all the more fascinating for it. Accompanying Sarah's rap/readings are Cyril Fabio (eldest son, congo), Wayne Wallace (guitar), Michael Holland (bass), Ronald Fabio (son, bass), Vicki Jordan (vocals), Carolyn Fabio (vocals) and Thomas Fabio (son, narration). Even the album cover was shot by daughter, Cheryl Fabio. Recording informal sessions of poetry set to music was becoming a bit of a thing at this time, with Sarah's album following on from the likes of The Last Poets, Nikki Giovanni and Gil Scott Heron. The album was compiled from two shows at Elmhurst Junior High School, an East Oakland school, and at Woodrow Wilson High School in the Hunter's Point area of San Francisco. This was made possible through San Francisco State College's "Poetry-in-the-Schools," a National Foundation of the Arts programme.

The set gets off to a flyer with the super-funky “Work It Out”. Thomas Fabio's voice is first to be heard on the album, as he pretty much recites from his mother's liner notes: “Drum talk, moving rhythms, slant/slick rhymes, liberated minds, soaring spirit, having vision filled with concrete images, earthy associations, street idiom, combine to give us the metaphor of what it is to be black here in this time and space as we tell it like it is. Like our music — our response to time and place in rhythm which is the ritual of our spirits; like our dance — the ritual of the body; poetry is the ritual of the mind. Soul. Boss Soul.” The party manifesto is duly set. “Glimpses” is another first half highlight, echoing the positivity of James Brown and Nina Simone in recent years: “Glimpses of a memorable past, fragments of the dimmed soul of a people of destiny to fix as image to mirror us in our Negritude - our collective Afro-based consciousness. Nobly, irrevocably, we emerge to become who we are, and we are black, beautiful, precious, proud.” Over on side two, four of the pieces are expressly delivered in tribute; “After Birmingham” (for Martin Luther King), “A Lesson Twice Learned” (for John F. Kennedy), “Panther Caged” (for Huey Newton, chairman for self defence, Black Panther party) and “A Mover” (for Langston Hughes who, for almost a half-century was acknowledged Dean of American Negro Poets and The Spiritual Father Of The Race, May, 1967).

Throughout, she sounds tough, sharp, spirited and not a little funky, with a purity of purpose, every bit as alive to her heritage as to her situation. I dig this soul sister's shindig.

The Jukebox Rebel

A1 [02:51] 8.6.png Sarah Webster Fabio - Work It Out (Sarah Webster Fabio, Wayne Wallace, Ronald Fabio) Disco / Funk
A2 [02:25] 6.1.png Sarah Webster Fabio - Boss Soul (Sarah Webster Fabio) Poetry
A3 [03:27] 5.5.png Sarah Webster Fabio - Soul Through A Licking Stick (Sarah Webster Fabio) Poetry
A4 [04:35] 6.9.png Sarah Webster Fabio - Glimpses (Sarah Webster Fabio, Wayne Wallace, Ronald Fabio) Hip Hop / Rap
A5 [03:37] 4.7.png Sarah Webster Fabio - Fungi And Calau (Sarah Webster Fabio, Wayne Wallace, Ronald Fabio) Caribbean
B1 [02:21] 5.6.png Sarah Webster Fabio - After Birmingham (Sarah Webster Fabio) Poetry
B2 [03:38] 7.1.png Sarah Webster Fabio - A Lesson Twice Learned (Sarah Webster Fabio, Wayne Wallace, Ronald Fabio) Poetry
B3 [01:38] 5.6.png Sarah Webster Fabio - Panther Caged (Sarah Webster Fabio) Poetry
B4 [02:46] 6.3.png Sarah Webster Fabio - Black Back (Sarah Webster Fabio, Wayne Wallace, Ronald Fabio) Hip Hop / Rap
B5 [02:52] 5.5.png Sarah Webster Fabio - Rainbow Signs (Sarah Webster Fabio, Wayne Wallace, Ronald Fabio) Hip Hop / Rap
B6 [06:30] 5.0.png Sarah Webster Fabio - A Mover (Sarah Webster Fabio, Ronald Miller, Bryan Wells) Soul Ballad

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