Tuesday, 12 August 2014

"Can You Dig It? The Music And Politics Of Black Action Films 1968-1975" by VARIOUS ARTISTS - A Review Of The 2009 Soul Jazz 2CD Set With A 100-Page Booklet In A Card Wrap...



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“…A Hell Of A Tester…” - Can You Dig It? The Music And Politics Of Black Action Films 1968-1975 by VARIOUS ARTISTS (2009 Soul Jazz 2CD Set with 100-Page Booklet in Card Wrap)

Fans of Funky and Soulful Soundtracks have always had to pay out huge sums of money for certain LPs – many of which are now over 40 years old. Well at last – Soul Jazz Records of London have done them all a fur coat by collating together the very best of the Blaxploitation period. And what a garish piece of audio jewelry it is.

2CDs are housed in a card wrap with a truly sensational 100-page booklet slotted in beside the double jewel case (there are also two VINYL DOUBLE ALBUMS (Disc 1 and 2) which are now sought after in themselves). Released October 2009 in the UK – “Can You Dig It? The Music And Politics Of Black Action Films 1968-1975” on Soul Jazz Records SJR CD214 (Barcode 5026328202143) breaks down as follows…

Disc 1 (56:40 minutes):
      1.     Coffy Is The Color by ROY AYERS (Coffy, 1973)
      2.     Blacula by GENE PAGE (Blacula, 1972)
      3.     Shaft In Africa by JOHNNY PATE (Shaft In Africa, 1973)
      4.     Brother’s Gonna Work It Out by WILLIE HUTCH (The Mack, 1973)
      5.     Charley by DON COSTA (The Soul Of Nigger Charley, 1973)
      6.     “T” Plays It Cool by MARVIN GAYE (Trouble Man, 1973)
      7.     Across 110th Street by BOBBY WOMACK (Across 110th Street, 1972)
      8.     Willie Chase by J.J. JOHNSON (Willie Dynamite, 1973)
      9.     Down And Out In New York City by JAMES BROWN (Black Caesar, 1973)
      10.  They Call Me MISTER Tibbs by QUINCY JONES (They Call Me Mister Tibbs, 1970)
      11.  Keep On Movin’ On by MARTHA REEVES (Willie Dynamite, 1973)
      12.  Theme From Black Belt Jones by DENNIS COFFEY (Black Belt Jones, 1974)
      13.  Freddie’s Dead by CURTIS MAYFIELD (Superfly, 1972)
      14.  Wilford’s Gone by THE BLACKBYRDS (Cornbread, Earl And Me, 1975)
      15.  Theme Of Foxy Brown by WILLIE HUTCH (Foxy Brown, 1974)
      16.  Run Fay Run by ISAAC HAYES (Three Tough Guys, 1974)

Disc 2 (65:47 minutes):
1.     Shaft by ISAAC HAYES (Shaft, 1971)
      2.     Pusherman by CURTIS MAYFIELD, Superfly 1972)
      3.     Theme From Cleopatra Jones by JOE SIMON (Cleopatra Jones, 1973)
      4.     You Can’t Even Walk In The Park by JOHNNY PATE (Shaft In Africa, 1973)
      5.     Sweetback’s Theme by BRER SOUL and EARTH, WIND & FIRE (Sweet Sweetback’s Baadassss Song, 1973)
      6.     Make It Good To Yourself by JAMES BROWN (Black Caesar, 1973)
      7.     Pursuit Of The Pimpmobile by ISAAC HAYES (Truck Turner, 1973)
      8.     Travelling To Get To Doc by GRANT GREEN (The Final Comedown, 1972)
      9.     Time Is Tight by BOOKER T & THE M.G.’s (Uptight, 1968)
      10.  Aragon by ROY AYERS (Coffy, 1973)
      11.  Easin’ In by EDWIN STARR (Hell Up In Harlem, 1973)
      12.  Strung Out by GORDON STAPLES (Mean Johnny Barrows, 1975)
      13.  Zombie March by NAT DOVE and the DEVILS (Petey Wheatstraw, 1974)
      14.  Make A Resolution by THE IMPRESSIONS (Three The Hard Way, 1974)
      15.  The Bus by SOLOMON BURKE and GENE PAGE (Cool Breeze, 1972)
      16.  Las Vegas Strut by JACK ASHFORD (Blackjack, 1978)
      17.  Lay In On Your Head by DON JULIAN (Savage, 1973)
      18.  Ed And Digger by GALT MacDERMOT (Cotton Comes To Harlem, 1970)

DUNCAN COWELL and PETE REILLY did the remasters at London’s Sound Mastering and despite the huge number of different licensed sources – the audio quality is uniformly superb – full of detail, bite and great atmosphere. But the booklet is in the stunning Bear Family league at 100-pages. Expertly compiled and wonderfully written by STUART BAKER – as the fat inlay is oversized and actually bound into a mini paperback – the read is great and photos from each of the films a visual blast. Each of the movies gets a couple of pages as do the major players (actors and musicians) – Pam Grier, Sidney Poitier, Jim Brown, Oscar Micheaux, Isaac Hayes, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly – as well as themes like “Pimps And Pushers”, “Motown At The Movies”, “Stax Action” and “American International Pictures”. And not to be outdone by all that black male macho posturing – the dark skinned ladies more than have their day (Pam Grier gets the cover and rightly so). But on pages 24 and 25 there is a two-page colour photo spread of the truly gorgeous and sexy TAMARA DOBSON in “Cleopatra Jones” – what a woman and surely one of the great beauties of the time (sadly lost to us in 2006).

Musically all the big boys are here – Isaac Hayes with his album version of that most iconic of all “Shaft” – Curtis with Superfly, Brown with Black Caesar and of course Marvin with his utterly brilliant “Trouble Man” gem. It’s nice to see that the compilers simply didn’t load it down more of that obvious quad – but instead went after Dennis Coffey, Willie Hutch, Joe Simon, Grant Green, Galt MacDermot (of “Hair” fame) and Johnny Pate.

I love the way the Instrumentals sit so well alongside the ‘bad brother on the streets’ vocal themes – it makes for a funky and enjoyable boogie (and both discs run to realistic listening times/neither is crammed). Admittedly there are only so many Shaft high-hat rhythms and Blacula wah-wah pedal guitars a body can stand – but overall – the consistency of the movie music on here is deeply impressive. And no mater how many times I hear Booby Womack’s wonderfully evocative “Across 100th Street” (lyrics above) I get a kick - and always think of Pam Grier on that airport walkway at the beginning of Tarantino’s “Jackie Brown”.

“Can You Dig It?” is a truly brilliant compilation – and that it sounds so good and is presented in such an awesome way – makes it all the more impressive.

Besides – you just know your life is half-full and your home a lesser place without a compilation that has the track “Pursuit Of The Pimpmobile” on it. Yeah Baby…



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