Since its inception in 1988, David Byrne's Luaka Bop label has been a sure-fire source of some of the best music I've ever heard, from its compilations of Brazilian and Cuban music to bands like Cornershop, Os Mutantes, and Tom Ze. Though Byrne is no longer running the label, it continues to blaze a remarkable musical trail: its next album will be The Time For Peace Is Now, a collection of "secular gospel" rarities from the 1970s, "focusing not on Jesus or God, but instead on ourselves, and how we exist with each other."
The music was recovered from "obscure 45s found in attics, sheds and crates across the American south" and it captures "an intense, soul-stirring version of gospel, unvarnished and honest, devout but never doctrinaire."
Macarthur-prizewinner and science fiction writer Jonathan Lethem provided the liner notes. They read, in part:
Music as permanently strong and meaningful as this doesn’t come from where—it comes from the opposite of nowhere. It comes from individual inspiration fired and forged and upheld by community, tradition, and context. Some of these songs are made by unknown persons who remain hidden from view; some by working musicians who moved from occasion to occasion and circumstance to circumstance. In either case, the creators in question left behind the particular piece of amazement collected here as a testament of one moment of synchronicity. This music has arrived here to change the world at last, or again.
The songs on The Time For Peace Is Now are resplendent with love and yet are not love songs. They speak of life and death, care and disrepair, exultation and release, sorrow and pain, and exhort the listener to hold on, seek peace, let light shine, know joy, recognize the love in one’s fellows. All of this music fits naturally into a context of people trying to speak to other people about the condition of being alive. These tracks are here for you, to show you perhaps not the light but some light, and they remain ready, proud, strong and true.
The connection these songs avow to certain spiritual beliefs places them at the same Crossroads—of pop or soul, and their Church upbringing. These crossroads have long been trafficked in both directions. By now they’ve been reverse-engineered, turned into a giddy playground. The body of songs in this collection, thematically and lyrically, make a distinct commitment to staking out their turf right there at the cross
The album drops on Sept 13. Pre-order here (I did).