Friday, March 18, 2016

Esther Rolle-The Garden Of My Mind (1975)


With the spring season having arrived (well, at least in my neck of the woods) and outdoor gardening at the forefront of my mind, it somehow seemed fitting that I took some time to enjoy the view with the beautiful music paradise that is "The Garden Of My Mind". This is the only known music album released by the late Esther Rolle, the iconic actress well-known for her role of Florida Evans on the American television sitcom, "Good Times". And a special album it is, too—one that's delivered in spoken word format, as Esther reads a series of thought-provoking passages designed to instill new ways of perceiving the world to the listener, all with delightful, ear-pleasing grooves and, occasionally, a unified cast of harmonious vocalists reinforcing every selection's theme. The opener, "One More Baby Child Born", was by far my favorite stop in this spiritual journey, a story about the new birth of a baby boy who has not yet learned what his true purpose in life. I like Esther's contrast of him possibly being being a president versus being stuck in the ghetto cement. "Bridge To A New Age" (her voice is so divinely sophisticated, exquisite and polite on this one) is a very short stop along this spiritual journey. It really is like an actual 'bridge' of sorts, connecting the reading of "Anywhere The Grasses Grow" to the soul-shaking "The House I Live In", where the lady singing solo in background (so impressive and powerful is this lady's soulicious voice!) with the piano and organ behind Esther's preaching gives it a humbling, gospel feel. Perhaps even more humbling is the dedicatory "Song To The Elders" (the soulful hums of the backup voices grip into me deep) and "I Can Feel Him Moving", where Esther's recitation of the familiar biblical passage of Psalm 23 reinforces the meaning of the backup voices chiming together with 'I can feel him moving on the altar of my heart'. The "Good Times" actress is having a good time of her own as she leaves you in a state of wonder on the upbeat offering, "Maybe It's". The themes of goodness and positivity continue on "You Got The Life", one that struck a chord with me because I think it has that perky 70's sitcom TV introductory theme song air about it. Love Esther's sophisticated voice on this one, especially when she says 'no no no' at one point during the beginning of her speech. Then she leaves you much to think about on the concluding piece, "What If?", a presentation largely consisting of a list of speculatory questions and the potential results of fulfilling each suggestion. And on that note, I wonder what would happen if you allowed the garden of your mind to be opened up and you took Esther's sweet words of wisdom to heart>

1. One More Baby Child Born
2. Anywhere The Grasses Grow
3. Bridge To A New Age
4. The House I Live In
5. Songs To The Elders
6. I Can Feel Him Moving
7. Maybe It's
8. You Got The Life
9. What If?

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