In 1972, when Indianapolis vocal group The Embers merged with Crimson Tide, Amnesty was born into a cauldron of politics and funk. Locally, Amnesty opened up for groups like Kool & The Gang, Jackson Five and Bill Withers. They even managed to release two obscure 45-rpm records before breaking up and fading into obscurity. Now, thanks to the hard work of funk archivist and Now-Again record label owner Eothen “Egon” Alapatt, Amnesty is back with Free Your Mind, a full album of unreleased progressive funk and soul recorded at Moe Whittemore’s 700 West Studio in 1973.
Amnesty combined politically charged lyrics with the vocal harmonies of groups like The Temptations and added complex arrangements that were influenced by Earth Wind and Fire, Chicago and Blood Sweat and Tears. The result was a psychedelic progressive soul sound unique to Amnesty.
“Black bands used to think we were odd, because we were into a lot of white music. But those groups taught us the fundamentals of music like vamping and the bridge,” says bassist and Amnesty founder James “Red” Massie. “We were able to put together things a lot of artists weren’t able to understand.”
Politically, Amnesty always had a strong message. In “Lord Help Me,” they complained that the “price of meat, is almost higher than the dope on the streets.”
“We were in that love generation,” Massie says. “I was a straight hippie, plus I was into the Black Panthers and African culture. We weren’t tired of things being done to black people specifically, but things being done to people generally. It was never a black or white thing, it was a system thing. It was always about money.”
It was the band’s solitary release on Herb Miller’s LAMP Records, “Everyone Who Wants to Be Free,” which lead Egon to seek out more Amnesty material.
“When I first heard that song, I said to myself, ‘Why didn’t more groups record music like this?’ Gospel-ly sweet vocal harmonizing over prog-funk insanity with horns … I mean, what a combination! I paid big when the first copy of ‘Lord Help Me’ turned up and thought that was the end of the road,” he continues. “So imagine my surprise when I first met James, and he pulled out this worn cassette with all of Amnesty’s unreleased 700 West sessions. It was a dream come true.”