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DOLEMITE/ THE HUMAN TORNADO (1975/1976)

Music composed by Arthur Wright.

22 Tracks (Playing Time = 50:35)

CD reissue produced by Matthew F. Jacobson. Featuring the Soul Rebellion Orchestra conducted by Rudy Ray Moore. Vocals by Ben Taylor, Mary Love, and Revelation Funk. Music recorded at Ted Brinson Studios, Los Angeles. Mastered by Scott Hall. Design by Orion Landau.

Relapse Records RR-6694-2

Rating: ***

 

The 1970s kicked off with Melvin Van Peebles amazing SWEET SWEETBACK'S BAADASSSSS SONG. It was a film that broke ground in a lot of ways and led to a series of other films often collectively referred to as Soul Cinema. Those of us outside of the gritty urban areas depicted in many of these films only occassionally got a glimpse of them when they moved up into the mainstream as did Shaft. By the mid-1970s, there were many of these so called ‘blaxpoitation” films and the scores to two of these appear here for the first time on CD. Arthur Wright is listed as the composer for both of the scores included here in the film information but goes uncredited for the tracks on this CD.

Rudy Ray Moore had a varied career that led to a series of very successful comedy albums. The ribald and very outrageous material was groundbreaking in its own way. But, Moore adapted a spoken word tradition from African-American storytelling called a “toast.” In essence, a “toast” can be considered a predecessor of modern rap style. The texts were often rhyming rants filled with boasting of ones personal abilities and prowess.

The story of DOLEMITE comes from this tradition and Moore included this toast on his highly successful album “Eat Out More Often.” Moore related his tale while being accompanied to funk music. By 1975, Moore decided to try his hand at turning this story into a film. This he somehow managed on a shoestring budget and with mostly amateur talent. The results were an undoubtedly low-budget, outrageous film that has resulted in its achieving its cult following. The film made over $10 million in 1975 which is a remarkable achievement (ticket prices averaged $3 a person then!). A sequel, THE HUMAN TORNADO would follow in 1976 and is considered by many of Moore’s fans as their favorite of his films.

The soundtrack for DOLEMITE was also a low-budget affair. The hired musicians were pulled together for sessions in LA and collectively called the Soul Rebellion Orchestra. The title track is sung by Ben Taylor who also adds vocals to the ballad “Do You Still Care.” Also appearing in two love ballads is soul vocalist Mary Love. Also appearing on the soundtrack is an Ohio group, Revelation Funk. They came to LA hoping for great things. A young James Ingram was among the group and you can hear his keyboard work here.

Even if funk music is not your favorite music, you will still be hard pressed to dislike this music. It is filled with high energy and some pretty groovy music. The Mayor’s Get-Away” is one lengthy vamp that is filled with classic groove ideas and styles. These musical ideas are great contrast with the ballads performed superbly by Love. “White Green” has the kind of gentle sound of other urban 70s scores. Generally ideas revolve around small motives and ideas repeated with a variety of interesting instrumental combinations. The music has the kind of improvisational feel that pulls you along for the ride and “Ghetto Expressions” has to be one of the more interesting of the many instrumental cues in this style.

The CD includes some bonus material. The title track is included with Moore’s narration which is an excellent example of a toast. The film version of the track “Flatland” also appears. There are two song tracks from THE HUMAN TORNADO. The disc is rounded off with two radio spots for DOLEMITE and one for THE HUMAN TORNADO.

Also superb is the extensive booklet providing a wealth of information about the film and a large collection of stills and somewhat psychedelic period art work that enhances the text. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of information about individual tracks related to the film, though many are self-explanatory for the most part.

The source for the release sounds like it was transferred from LP sources. It plays a lot like an old 45 RPM sometimes. That can be charming in places and mildly distracting in others. There is also some distortion typical of low budget pop music recording. Tracks have a tendency to be cut abruptly instead of faded out. It is not clear either if any noise reduction process was attempted to help clean up the sound. This should not distract fans of the music and as an historical release of 1970s music, the release is a must have which will illicit many a “wow” and “cool” from listeners in tune with the groove.

If you are a fan of the film, you may even wish to check out the site at www.dolemitesoundtrack.com.

--Steven A. Kennedy , 30 June 2006

Comments regarding this review can be sent to this address: stev4uth@hotmail.com


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