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Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song [LP]
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Performed by a then-unknown Earth Wind & Fire with contributions by Van Peebles, who also composed the soundtrack, the music is funky, slippery, gritty, and soulful. Featuring a combination of hymn-based vocalization and jazz rhythms, Van Peebles created a sound that foreshadowed the use of sampling in hip hop music and captured the spirit of the time. Consistently hailed as a landmark, genre-defining album, MOJO Magazine recently rated Van Peebles' eclectic, grooving opus #32 on their top 1000 Soundtracks of all time. This brand new vinyl edition features new in-depth liner notes by Jeff Weiss (Passion of the Weiss, La Weekly, Pitchfork) and Melvin's son Mario Van Peebles, director of New Jack City (1991) and Baadasssss! (2003), a film he wrote and starred in that chronicles the making of his father's landmark film.
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Like the film Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, the soundtrack was also produced on a very low budget with much of the money coming out of Melvin Van Peebles' own pocket. The score was written by Peebles himself and the musicians who performed were a relatively, unknown Earth, Wind, & Fire. Again just like the film, the soundtrack is very raw and gritty. The vocals can come off rough, the chords can be repetitive, and the structure can be disjunct so don't expect anything like "Shining Star" or "September". But these flaws (or attributes) distinguish the soundtrack from all others of the era - a true jazz-funk masterpiece.
My favorite tracks are as follows. "Sweetback Losing His Cherry" is the film's opening track and has a very nice drum 'n bass rhythm which would be especially appropriate for break dancing. "Come On Feet" is a high-energy, fast tempo piece that serves as the background music for Sweetback after he takes out the cops in the pool hall. "Sweetback's Theme" is the music most of the film is centered around and has a sleazy, low-riding vibe to it. There are only about two piano-chords used for the main rhythm throughout most of the song while EWF goes crazy with saxophone solos here and even performs one on the electric keyboard. "Hoppin' John" takes the rhythm from "Sweetback Losing His Cherry" and adds brass and the organ to it with some soulful vocals thrown in the mix. "Mojo Woman" is funky r&b and also the only track featuring female vocals. It's one of the less experimental tracks and is more fitting with James Brown era funk. "Sanra Z" is a bluesy instrumental with lots of brass and the only song with the electric guitar. "Won't Bleed Me" is a shortened rendition of "Sweetback's Theme" plus it has vocals and protest against White oppression in it's lyrics.
In conclusion, despite it's poor budget and uneven production, Sweetback's Baadasssss Song is essential for any hardcore Blaxploitation soundtrack collector or funkateer. But be warned this album is not for everyone; I'd suggest listening to it before hand. I would recommend buying the 2014 Japanese import of this as soon as possible for three reasons. It's temporarily the cheapest option to choose right now. It will become a rare collectible (only 1,000 copies produced!). And the Japanese pay a lot of attention to the packaging and mastering of their CDs. So put the album on, sit back, and let the music transport you back to 1971 South Central Los Angeles...