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Today on Ecléctico you're listening to the Liberation Music Orchestra. The ensemble of twelve musicians was brought together by bassist and composer Charlie Haden—first in 1969 to protest the political actions of the Vietnam War era, then a second time in 1982 during the Reagan administration's actions in Central America. Each time, the group performed folk songs and originals, arranged by Carla Bley, with a collective fire and passion. You'll be rewarded when you let today's song roll into the ones that follow on the album. They're connected musically and thematically. It's a masterpiece of a record.
You'll go deeper with an excerpt from and a link to an essay by Tyran Grillo on Between Sound and Space: ECM Records and Beyond.
"The Ballad of the Fallen" by Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra
1983 | Big band inspired by social protest and led by legendary American bassist and composer
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[Charlie] Haden never chose his material in the authorial sense; the politics chose him. By the time of The Ballad Of The Fallen, the Reagan administration was pouring military spending into Central America, where Contra death squads left tens of thousands dead and corrupted countless others by covertly sponsoring dictatorial regimes and, by extension, their drug cartels. This brings us to Haden’s purism in another sense: as a onetime narcotics addict long since sober, he knew well the dangers of letting go of music’s hand. And so, through this second recording he and the [Liberation Music Orchestra] inscribed a poem of mourning for those who lost their lives in such conflicts, as well in the Spanish Civil War, for he might very well have become an indirect casualty had he not been awakened. Such motivations were never a gimmick in Haden’s hands, and the balanced arrangements, courtesy of Carla Bley, speak to (and for) hearts and minds committed to outreach.
“Els Segadors” (The Reapers), a song of revolt from the Spanish Civil War that would later become an anthem for the Catalan Republic, begins with a somber elegy for brass, which then flowers with the introduction of a funereal snare and glockenspiel. With this somber tone set, the heartrending El Salvadorean song that makes up the title track finds ground in Haden alongside [Paul] Motian’s drums and the acoustic guitar of Mick Goodrick. The words it only hints at were discovered on the body of a student protester, who along with others died by military hands during a university sit-in.