Friday, February 17, 2023

Various Artists - Sun City [w/Little Steven, Afrika Bambaata, Bob Dylan, George Clinton, Peter Gabriel, Joey Ramone & more!] (1985)

Artists United Against Apartheid's Sun City
U.S.A. For Africa, Live Aid, Farm Aid and similar fund-raising efforts illustrate a recent return and growth of social consciousness in rock music. The Sun City project is a blatant politicization of this consciousness, an open and above-board call to arms against South Africa’s abhorrent official policy of racial segregation and oppression known as apartheid. In support of this project, founder Little Steven Van Zandt, ex-guitarist for Springsteen’s E Street Band, collected the combined efforts of over 50 artists in the creation of the Sun City album.

Artists United Against Apartheid is the name taken by these artists, and it includes some big league talent: among others, Sun City features the contributions of Afrika Bambaata, Pat Benatar, Bono of U2, Bob Dylan, George Clinton, Miles Davis, Peter Gabriel, Joey Ramone, Lou Reed, Herbie Hancock, Gil Scott-Heron, Peter Townshend, and the ‘Boss’ himself, Bruce Springsteen. The result is no feeble entertainment all-star sing-a-long … Sun City is not only an important social statement (perhaps the most important of the decades to date), it is an inspired use of talents and abilities. Both Van Zandt and co-produced Arthur Baker are old pros in the studio, and they use the collected entourage to its fullest.

The six songs on Sun City (including two versions of the title cut) are intelligent and exciting, stylistically ranging from the rocking title track to the Afrikan instrumentation of “The Struggle Continues” to the rap/spoken word “Let Me See Your I.D.” The most chilling moment of Sun City, though, is a song that no lyricist could write the words for: “Revolutionary Situation” is a collection of scraps from speeches from both sides of the issue set to a musical backing. Listening to the point/counterpoint from Bishop Tutu, Ronnie Reagan, South African Prime Minster Botha, and unnamed protesters underlines the relevance and controversy of this struggle.

All artist royalties from Sun City go to the Africa Fund, a non-profit organization working towards freedom and equality for South Africa’s 20 million blacks. (Manhattan Records, 1985)

Review originally published by The Metro, November 1985

Buy the CD from Amazon: Artists United Against Apartheid’s Sun City

(Editor’s note, 2022: The Sun City album and single raised more than a million U.S. dollars for anti-apartheid projects, and inspired other musicians (notably Johnny Clegg) to create their own local organizations. Apartheid would come to an end in 1994 when former state prisoner Nelson Mandela was elected president of South African and his African National Congress (ANC) party won 60% of the seats in the legislature.)

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