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Kashmere Stage Band - Texas Thunder Soul: 1968-1974

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Artist: Kashmere Stage Band

Album: Texas Thunder Soul: 1968-1974

Label: Now-Again

Review date: Nov. 30, 2011

American public schools are pretty much hell.

That’s a gross exaggeration. We aren’t North Korea. But we do teach our young ones to show up on time, memorize a bit of poetry, some foreign language and maybe some 101 chemistry, and then we dump them on the street. We don’t give them much consumer math, basic sex ed or much else the average American will need. And most of us don’t get lucky enough to get a teacher like Charles O. Johnson.

A deeply troubled man, Johnson didn’t inflict his personal demons on his students (at least not in a mean way), and could nevertheless serve as a model for a complete revamp of America’s education system. He knew what knowledge he knew and he also knew his limits. He took in weird kids and encouraged them. And he taught them a new avenue of expression and allowed them to fashion their own work (which ranges from straight covers to deeply experimental revisions) largely on their own. Most of what you hear on Texas Thunder Soul: 1968-1974 is the result of Johnson’s rare knack for letting kids be wildly creative kids.

This collection rocks because it’s the work of troubled children under the oversight of a troubled teacher, working with "funk" as an idiom for the first time, whether putting their own spins on standards or doing something entirely new. It’s the thrill of discovery, and it translates. (Just to be clear, Johnson was never about "soul" or "jazz", and everything here is hard funk with no apologies.)

Now you can listen to "Holy Calamity" the way it was before dudes started sampling it. You can watch the DVD, and see Mr. Johnson’s awkwardness in front of big-city crate-diggers like Egon. And you can see that he never gave a fuck about being an influence. He just wanted to teach some young folks a particularly potent avenue of expression.

Our kids don’t need tax breaks, or vouchers, or cult-connected private schools. We just need more teachers like Mr. Johnson.

By Emerson Dameron

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