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“Compared To What” by Les McCann

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“Compared To What” by Les McCann

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“Compared To What” by Les McCann


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    “Compared To What” by Les McCann is a jazz song.
    The song was recorded in 1969 by pianist Les McCann and saxophonist Eddie Harris for their album, Swiss Movement, recorded live at the Montreux Jazz Festival.

    Song Title: Compared To What
    Artist: Les McCann
    Album: Swiss Movement
    Genre: soul, jazz, R&B
    Composer: Copyright © 1969 Gene McDaniels
    Lead Vocals: Les McCann
    Piano: Les McCann
    Bass: Leroy Vinnegar
    Drums: Donald Dean
    Tenor saxophone: Eddie Harris
    Trumpet: Benny Bailey
    Producer: Nesuhi Ertegun, Bob Emmer
    Recorded: 21 June 1969
    Released: 1969
    Label: Atlantic
    Number of listens: 5481
    Current rank: 2690 (updated weekly)
    Highest rank: 2514 (play the video all the way through to register a vote for this song)


    Summary quotation from Wikipedia:

    “Compared to What” is a composition, with lyrics, by Gene McDaniels. It was first recorded by Roberta Flack in 1969, but became better known following a performance by Les McCann (piano and vocals) and Eddie Harris (tenor saxophone) at the 1969 Montreux Jazz Festival, which appeared on their album Swiss Movement. The album was certified Gold in sales in the United States. The song has been covered by more than 270 artists, including Ray Charles.


    The lyrics contain a “topical rant against [President] Nixon and the Vietnam War”, and include the lines: “The president, he’s got his war / Folks don’t know just what it’s for / Nobody gives us rhyme or reason / Have one doubt, they call it treason”. Writer B. Lee Cooper suggested that the song “of social criticism attacked a variety of social practices as being based on hypocritically ‘unreal values’” and contrasted “the social myth of equality and the economic reality of poverty in the stratified American society.”

Roberta Flack version

    Flack recorded the song for her debut album, First Take. “Compared to What” was her first single. A contemporary reviewer suggested that her singing was “in a fiery rhythmic way reminiscent of the throbbing motion heard during congregational singing at Southern Baptist churches.” In 1969, Flack’s manager was Les McCann.

McCann–Harris version

    McCann and Harris had performed earlier at the Montreux Jazz Festival and agreed to play together on June 21, 1969, with Benny Bailey (trumpet), Leroy Vinnegar (bass), and Donald Dean (drums). The song was the first of the McCann–Harris set, and opens with McCann and Dean playing together. Vinnegar joins in, forming a trio that states the theme. Harris then enters, complementing McCann’s vocals. After four verses, Bailey has a solo, then the band plays together until the last verse. This is followed by solos from McCann and Harris, ending the performance. Their version of the song appeared on the album Swiss Movement; the single sold over a million copies and reached No. 35 on Billboard’s R&B chart.

    The commercial success of the McCann–Harris version allowed McDaniels to stop singing in night clubs. It was part of the soundtrack to Martin Scorsese’s 1995 film Casino.

—from Wikipedia (the Wikipedia:Text of Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License applies to Wikipedia’s block of text and possible accompanying picture, along with any alterations, transformations, and/or building upon Wikipedia’s original text that applied to this block of text)

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