The Roots and John Legend to release covers album inspired by Arcade Fire

Taking its title from a track by the Montreal indie collective, Wake Up will feature protest songs from the 60s and 70s

The Roots and John Legend are recording a covers album inspired by an Arcade Fire song – but without any tracks from the Montreal collective making the final cut. Instead, Wake Up features protest songs from the 60s and 70s, including tracks previously recorded by Marvin Gaye, Nina Simone and Roberta Flack.

The plan, explained Roots mainman ?uestlove, was "to make something that was sample-able, like a 70s soul record". They initially planned to reinvent Arcade Fire's Wake Up, which saw a recent resurgence in Superbowl ads and even a Macy Gray concert. As they teamed up with R&B singer Legend, however, other tracks began to take precedence, like Gaye's Wholy Holy and Donny Hathaway's Little Ghetto Boy. While the album has kept the Arcade Fire title, it's now a tip of the hat to Wake Up Everybody by Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes, recorded here with Common. "Everything is certainly inspired by the original," Legend told Rolling Stone, "but we took our own creative licence with it."

Legend's collaboration with the Roots will be a companion to their own studio LP, How I Got Over, also due this summer. Both deal with the "midlife crisis of America", ?uestlove said, with Wake Up representing the hopeful side – "the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down". To accomplish this, ?uestlove pushed Legend to "get dirty" and sing with less polish than he usually does. "I wanted this to be his worst performance ever," he said. "For every vocal take he did, I tried to choose the one with the cracks."

As for making a covers album, ?uestlove said there's no shame in revisiting the past. "I wanted to choose cover songs that were so under the radar, so uniquely interpreted, that it would take you a second to realise that these are cover songs [at all]."


Sean Michaels

The GuardianTramp

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