John Legend & The Roots: Wake Up (Review)

John Legend is one of my favorite singers and the Roots are one of my favorite groups – so this release has me excited.  Legend has teamed up with long time friends The Roots 0t release a cover album of some of music’s greatest tracks.

This album should be a great showcase for The Roots and Legend because they will be performing songs we already know are amazing.  Can they do justice to the covers of people like Gaye, Withers and Hathaway?  Let’s find out:

1. Hard Times:
This is a Baby Huey remake and it sounds great to me.  John Legend is a great singer and the Roots band is fantastic.  I am not sure how this album can be bad in fact.  So far so good. I think this version is a bit more upbeat than the original.

2. Compared To What
: Remake of a Roberta Flack song.  This is FUNKY – love the Roots band on this, and again John Legend kills it.  He is sounding top form on this album.

3. Wake Up Everybody:
A Harry Melvin remake.  A pretty classic song – and this Roots  version stays pretty close to it.  John Legend sounds great…I dunno about the common verse it wasn’t amazing but I guess it is a nice way to modernize it.

4. Our Generation:
An Ernie Hines remake here.  One of my favorite tracks so far – love the guitar work on this and Legend sounds great.

5. Little Ghetto Boy Prelude – Just a prelude, who cares?

6. Little Ghetto Boy:
Obviously a remake from the great Donny Hathaway.  This opens with a rap verse from Black Thought – great verse also.  Black Thought is really underrated.  This doesn’t touch the original – but it is still great in it’s own right.

7. Hang On In There: A Johnny Bristol remake.  John and The Roots took this song and went for it. A 7 minute opus that really showcases John’s voice.  If you like the original, no reason not to like this song.

8. Humanity: A Prince Lincoln remake, I am not sure at all about the original.  Maybe the only song I am not familiar with.  I am going to assume it is a reggae song because the Roots have a definite reggae vibe on the instruments.  I dunno if Legend’s voice really keeps that reggae feel but it is still an enjoyable song.

9. Wholey Holy: A Marvin Gaye remake.  This is a pretty ballsy choice because as good as John Legend is, Marvin Gaye might be the GOAT.  Both the Roots and Legend are great on this.  Maybe a bit religious for my tastes – but I could ignore that when Gaye sang it, and I can ignore it now.

10. I Can’t Write Left Handed:
A Bill Withers remake.  Another classic song that the Roots and Legend took on no problem.  It is hard to write much about these songs on first listen because I know all the originals.  All I can really say is if Legend and Roots do justice to the original.  Thus far they are batting 1.000.

11. I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free:
This is a song from the great Nina Simone.  Well it is the Roots playing some live instruments over her speaking.  A great quote and glimpse at one of the greatest artists of any age.

12. Shine: Maybe my advance copy isn’t 100% because this song is actually a remake of the one above.  Great message to this song and once again it is a remake that is done tastefully and with great results!

The Roots and Legend had no problem remaking songs from some of the most memorable artists of ALL TIME.  Simone, Hathaway, Withers and Gaye?  C’mon that is a who’s who of great soul/rnb singers!

I guess on one hand you might think “Why not just listen to the originals?”.  Sure I would argue that almost every original is better than the Roots/Legend rendition…but so what?  You can listen to BOTH versions.

This album is a showcase of the amazing skill of the Roots band and the great voice of John Legend!  They didn’t want to make a better version of the classics, they wanted to showcase some of the previous generations greatest music.  They did a great job of that.  Amazing musicianship, amazing singer doing amazing songs…what is not to like?  To top it off, all the songs have a great message that is particularly timely for the times we live in.

Check this album out and you will not be disappointed.



  • Ifs722

    Hang on in there is by Mike James Kirkland not Johnny Bristol.

  • Ahh ok - thanks for the heads up man.

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