Melvin Van Peebles – 1971 – Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song

One of the most fantastic soundtracks of the 70s – and maybe even of all time – thanks to a non-stop blast of insane styles and grooves – all quite different than other blacksploitation records of the time! For this, his masterpiece film, Melvin Van Peebles composed a non-stop collage of crazy sounds and funky jams, played by himself and a very young Earth, Wind, & Fire – then pasted together in a pastiche of music, dialogue, and sound effects that serve as an audio document of the film!

If you’ve ever seen the movie – and even if you haven’t – you’ll find that the soundtrack works as a 40 minute version of the film, shifting back and forth with a loose narrative progression. Of course, the real appeal is the funky music – and you’ll hear more than enough of that on tracks like “Sweetback’s Theme”, “Hoppin John”.

A1 Sweetback Losing His Cherry 2:45
A2 Sweetback Getting It Uptight And Preaching It So Hard The Bourgeois Reggin Angels In Heaven Turn Around 5:00
A3 Come On Feet 4:15
A4 Sweetback’s Theme 7:36
B1a Hoppin John 2:25
B1b Voices 0:11
B2a Mojo Woman 2:43
B2b Voices 0:15
B3a Sanra Z 3:47
B3b Voices 0:17
B4a Reggin Hangin On In There As Best They Can 2:58
B4b Voices 1:13
B5 Wont Bleed Me 2:41
B6 The Man Tries Running His Usual Game But Sweetback’s Jones Is So Strong He Wastes The Hounds (Yeah! Yeah! And Besides That Will Be Coming Back Takin’ Names & Collecting Dues) 4:25

Melvin van Peebles infamous feature film ‘Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song’ is noted for being the very first so-called blaxploitation flick. The fact that he – together with the help of the legendary Stax label in Memphis – set out to promote the movie through an accompanying soundtrack is another interesting detail. 

A very young, rough Earth, Wind & Fire can be heard on this schizophrenic, spooky album. It’s not a pretty LP… far from it. It’s nasty, dangerous, brutally realistic, over the top and ugly. 

The overall sound of the record could best be described as a filthy smorgasbord of unwashed funky vibes: a soundscape consisting of coarse movie dialogue, snippets of country church gospel wailings (tremendously authentic versions of “This Little Light of Mine” and “Wade in the Water” are recurring themes here), sleazy after hour jazz bar riffs and the protruding, thick funk of hypnotizing jams. 

It’s not a coherent album either… Songs segue into one and another, snippets of dialogue serve as bridges, those ghostly churchy choirs pop up when you least expect it, and the raging voice of Sweetback just keeps on roaring throughout: railing against the police, the bourgeois reggin (reggin – spell it backwards…) the bloodhounds, the Man, the system, everything… 

In short, it has the sheer attitude and political cynicism (“Since when are you [cops] so interested in black folk… dead or alive?” -“Progress.”) that elevates this far from beautiful album to the status of hardcore, socio-political funk manifesto.

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