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article imageReview: Stax reissues soundtrack to 'Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song'

By Adrian Peel     Jun 10, 2017 in Music
Los Angeles - Melvin Van Peebles' groundbreaking soundtrack is out now on 180-gram vinyl and high-resolution digital audio. The LP is part of a series of releases celebrating Stax Records' 60th anniversary.
Regularly hailed as a genre-defining classic, this landmark soundtrack initially came out in 1971, the same year as the film. Featuring performances from a then-unknown band called Earth, Wind & Fire - and with contributions from Van Peebles himself - this new vinyl edition boasts audio remastered from the original analogue tapes.
Van Peebles, now 84, wrote, directed and edited Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song. He also wrote the score and orchestrated the marketing campaign. The movie went on to gross more than $10 million, the highest total ever for an independent film at the time, and paved the way for 'Blaxploitation' flicks such as Shaft and Super Fly.
The Stax 60 celebration will showcase the hits, as well as many rarer and lesser-known cuts, from the Memphis-based label's heyday of the 1960s and '70s. It will include releases from those who helped create the 'Stax sound', legendary figures such as Otis Redding, Booker T & the MGs, Isaac Hayes and Sam & Dave.
Getting things under way on this trailblazing 'opera' is "Sweetback Losing His Cherry," which begins as a gospel-style number before deviating into free-flowing jazz, and then back again.
Highlighting that spirit of rebellion for which the film is known, the uptempo pleading on "Come on Feet" is followed by the sirens of a police car, which then leads into the laid-back "Sweetback's Theme," the standout moment on side one with its free-flowing jazz piano, liquid saxophone fills and handclaps.
Side two gets off to a flier with "Hoppin John," which has a bass line so groovy, you can't help but nod along. The same can be said of "Mojo Woman," the first song up until this point to feature a female lead vocal. The lovely "Reggins Hanging on in There as Best They Can..." leads into gunshots and open acts of defiance - something that continues on the powerful "Won't Bleed Me."
Side one of this soundtrack is more of an interesting and historical work of art - an occasionally shocking snapshot (more so at the time) of the African American experience in Los Angeles in the early 1970s. Side two, on the other hand, has more sublime musical moments - veering from funk and gospel to soul and jazz.
It is the excellent side two that contains the more listenable tracks - instrumental and vocal-led - that make this album a very welcome re-release.
The Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song soundtrack is out now in high-res and standard digital formats, as well as on vinyl.
For more on Stax Records, visit their official website.
More about melvin van peebles, sweet sweetback's baadasssss song, stax records, Shaft, super fly
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