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Soul Jazz Records getting inspiration from Paris DJs? (Can You Dig It ? The Music and Politics of Black Action Films 1968-75)

Can You Dig It Soul Jazz21st Century Blaxploitation
Various - Can You Dig It? (Parts 1 & 2) - The Music and Politics of Black Action Films 1968-75
(two sets of 2xLP) Soul Jazz Records SJRLP214-1/SJRLP214-2, 2009-09-29

Ah ha! The fine folks at Soul Jazz Records must be recurring visitors of the Paris DJs website... They'll be releasing a vinyl compilation of "Black Action Films" from 1970-1975 at the end of september, 2009, with a very nice Pam Grier artwork on the sleeve. Some of you might remember the 21st Century Blaxploitation mix by resident DJs Grant Phabao & Djouls from february 2009, featuring the same Pam Grier photo on the artwork cover I designed...

Can You Dig It Soul Jazz
Various - Can You Dig It? (Parts 1 & 2) - The Music and Politics of Black Action Films 1968-75
(2xCD/two sets of 2xLP) Soul Jazz Records SJRCD214 /SJRLP2141/SJRLP2142, 2009-09-29

Tracklisting :
01. Roy Ayers - Coffy Is The Color
02. Gene Page - Blacula
03. Johnny Pate - Shaft In Africa
04. Willie Hutch - Brother's Gonna Work It Out
05. Don Costa - Charley - Main Theme
06. Marvin Gaye - 'T' Plays It Cool
07. Bobby Womack - Across 110th Street
08. J.J. Johnson - Willie Chase
09. James Brown - Down And Out In New York City
10. Quincy Jones - They Call Me MISTER Tibbs
11. Martha Reeves and J.J. Johnson - Keep On Movin' On
12. Dennis Coffey - Theme From Black Belt Jones
13. Curtis Mayfield - Freddie's Dead
14. The Blackbyrds - Wilford's Gone
15. Willie Hutch - Theme Of Foxy Brown
16. Isaac Hayes - Run Fay Run
17. Isaac Hayes - Shaft
18. Curtis Mayfield - Pusherman
19. Joe Simon - Theme From Cleopatra Jones
20. Johnny Pate - You Can't Even Walk In The Park
21. Brer Soul and Earth, Wind and Fire - Sweetback's Theme
22. James Brown - Make It Good To Yourself
23. Isaac Hayes - Pursuit Of The Pimpmobile
24. Grant Green - Travelling To Get To Doc
25. Booker T and the MG's - Time Is Tight
26. Roy Ayers - Aragon
27. Edwin Starr - Easin' In
28. Gordon Staples and The String Thing - Strung Out
29. Nat Dove and The Devils - Zombie March
30. The Impressions - Make A Resolution
31. Solomon Burke and Gene Page - The Bus
32. Jack Ashford - Las Vegas Strut
33. Don Julian - Lay It On Your Head
34. Galt MacDermot - Ed and Digger


Links :

Press Release :
'Can You Dig It?' charts the rise of 'Black Action Films' from 1970-75. As well as featuring a double-CD collection of the stunning music from these films, 'Can You Dig It?' comes with a 100-page booklet, limited-edition mini-film poster cards and stickers. The vinyl is on two monster loud separate double albums.

'Can You Dig It?' charts the rise of 'Black Action Films' from 1970-75. As well as featuring a double-CD collection of the stunning music from these films, 'Can You Dig It?' comes with a 100-page booklet, limited-edition mini-film poster cards and stickers. The vinyl is on two monster loud separate double albums.

The Black Action Films of the early 1970s gave the Hollywood industry its first African-American cinema – actors, directors, cameramen, editors and writers. These films discussed aspects of the African-American experience in the form of entertainment. Storylines interwove post-civil rights revolution with action stories, many involving pimps, prostitutes, drug dealers or private detectives.

The films also featured the finest funk and soul black music of the time as stars such as James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Willie Hutch and Roy Ayers produced some of their finest work, with film budgets allowing for the addition of huge orchestral arrangements by jazz legends such as Quincy Jones, Johnny Pate and JJ Johnson.

As Malcolm X and Martin Luther King had offered two aspects of the same civil rights struggle, two significant polemical African-American novelists at the time – Iceberg Slim and Chester Himes – greatly influenced the genre of Black Action Films. Whilst Iceberg Slim wrote about his real life experiences as a pimp in Chicago, Himes wrote detective stories centred around two black detectives, Coffin Ed and Grave Digger Jones. Himes' novel 'Cotton Comes to Harlem', was made into a film in 1970, featuring a predominantly black cast portraying black life in Harlem in all forms - one of the very first Black action films (before either 'Shaft' or 'Superfly'). The film was directed by Ossie Davis, one of the earliest black actors in American cinema and a celebrated civil rights activist who had spoken at both Malcolm X and Martin Luther King's memorial services.

In the early 1970s, Black Action Films exploded into the cinema with three extremely successful films – 'Shaft', 'Super Fly' and 'Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song'. The most profound statement of these films was their actual existence – black actors and black directors entering the previously closed Hollywood film industry.

Black Action Films were a representation of politically everything that had gone before and stylistically of everything that was current. Civil rights, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Black Power, Black Panthers, Vietnam sit alongside the criminal worlds of policemen, private investigators, bail bondsmen and the criminals, drug dealers, pimps and hustlers that they parole.

Black American culture is reflected in the scorching soundtracks, some seriously funky clothes and the language of the street. Rarely does ten minutes pass when someone will expound 'Right on!', 'Can you dig it?', 'Stay loose' or the eponymous 'Is it Black enough for you?'.

Up until the end of the 1960s, few African-Americans had made inroads into Hollywood. Gordon Parks, Snr. became the first African-American director in Hollywood with 'The Learning Tree' in 1969. He followed this with 'Shaft' (1971), the blockbuster action movie starring ex-model Richard Roundtree as the black private investigator with one foot downtown, dealing with 'the man', and one uptown in the streets of Harlem. The film also features Isaac Hayes' classic soundtrack, a tension-filled wah-wah funk meets orchestral pulse that became the template for all future Black Action Film soundtracks

Sidney Poitier's rise to the top of Hollywood coincided with the civil rights movement. By 1967, Sidney Poitier was the first black star and the highest paid actor when he played the Philadelphian policeman Virgil Tibbs in the groundbreaking 'In The Heat of The Night', a film directly dealing with issues of race in the southern states. Poitier's again portrayed this striking character in the follow up 'They Call Me Mister Tibbs!'(1970).

A year after his father had made 'Shaft', Gordon Parks Jnr directed 'Super Fly' (1972). Yin to the Yang of 'Shaft', 'Superfly' told the story of a drug dealer who wants to escape his criminal life and start afresh. As Ron O'Neal's character Youngblood Priest explains how drugs are simply a means to an end for him, Curtis Mayfield's powerful soundtrack condemns his actions and how they affect society.

Add to this Melvin Van Peebles guerrilla-made 'Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song' (1971), a politically charged film about a ghetto pimp who kills a racist cop (and featuring the music of then unknown group, Earth, Wind and Fire), and Black Action Films had become a financially lucrative genre, exploiting the lack of films being made for (and by) African-Americans. The genre even got a name.

The term 'Blaxploitation', was created by a writer for Vogue magazine, a confused word implying exploitation of African-Americans. 'Exploitation of black', or 'black exploitation films'? Black characters in these films are nearly always strong, the bad guys are usually white bad guys, and the resolution of the narrative in most of the films is nearly always morally correct (although sometimes complex) and as Gordon Parks noted at the time, 'it is ridiculous to imply that blacks don't know the difference between truth and fantasy and therefore will be influenced in an unhealthy way'.

Black Action films faced criticism from the start. The common themes of criminality - drugs, prostitution, theft - left a number of African-American activist groups, including the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), pressurising studios to change storylines, denouncing the films as 'exploitive of black life in America' and of creating stereotypes.

And whilst it's true that Hollywood up until this point was a closed door to most African-Americans, the first black action films 'Shaft', 'Super Fly' and 'Sweet Sweetback' (and 'Cotton comes to Harlem') are all directed by African-Americans. Similarly Black Action Film stars Pam Grier, Richard Roundtree, Fred Williamson and Jim Kelly did not portray negative stereotypes, rather larger than life super-heroes. Indeed the main consequence of the NAACP's position seems to have been to make it hard for a caucus of black actors to establish careers in Hollywood, leading to the unemployment of the main stars after the genre had become passé.

In 1973 that the first black female lead roles were created. Pam Grier starred in 'Coffy' and the follow up 'Foxy Brown', and Tamara Dobson in 'Cleopatra Jones', all three films featuring incredibly strong female lead characters created specifically for these two black American actresses.

For the next few years, Black Action Film mutated across genres, weaving its way through black cinema versions of horror ('Blacula'), martial arts ('Black Belt Jones'), westerns ('Soul of Nigger Charley') and any permutation thereof.

By 1975, Black Action Films were practically no more as audiences gradually lost interest and studios stopped making money. And whilst the building blocks of a new African-American cinema were perhaps temporarily dismantled, new films such as 'Car Wash' (1976) and 'Thank God It's Friday' (1978) and the comedies of Richard Pryor would signal a more mainstream entry for African-Americans in Hollywood. Similarly, the decline of funk and soul coincided with the rise in disco - central to the storyline of both these films - similarly representing the integration of dance music with white American taste.

French Press Release :
Les meilleurs morceaux des films Blaxploitation compilés par Soul Jazz! Inclus livret 100 pages, cartes d'affiches de film et stickers.

Can You Dig It? retrace l'ascension et la chute des films noirs d'action des années 70/75. L'incroyable musique de ces films a été assemblée par Soul Jazz sur un double CD accompagné d'un livret de 100 pages, de mini cartes d'affiches de film et de stickers.

Ces films du début des années 70 ont donné à Hollywood son premier cinéma afro-américain – des réalisateurs aux acteurs en passant par les auteurs, caméramans et éditeurs. C'est notamment le succès de trois films – Shaft, Super Fly et Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song - qui a permis aux acteurs et réalisateurs de couleur de s'introduire dans l'industrie jusqu'alors très fermée du cinéma hollywoodien.

Avec des histoires mêlant fond politico-social (les droits civils, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Black Power, Black Panthers, le Vietnam) et cinéma d'action (impliquant pour beaucoup prostituées, dealers et détectives privés), ces films étaient une manière d'aborder l'expérience afro-américaine de façon divertissante.

Ces films ont aussi apporté le meilleur du funk et soul de la musique noire à une époque où des stars telles James Brown, Curtis Mayfield, Willie Hutch et Roy Ayers ont réalisé leurs meilleures productions grâce à des budget de film permettant l'ajout d'énormes arrangements orchestraux dirigés par des légendes du jazz telles Quincy Jones, Johnny Pate et JJ Johnson.

Can You Dig It? compile le meilleur de ces bandes-sons mortelles!


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Arne Arne ·  11 August 2009, 17:44

I don't know man... a lot of these tracks have been comped and reissued more than enough. Some more surprising choices would have been nice. Loking forward to booklet though.

Djouls Djouls ·  11 August 2009, 18:58

Yeah, lots of classics here. Soul Jazz Records booklet are most of the time quite a treat though, I agree. Even if we're a bit surreal with our "21st Century Blaxploitation" thematic mixes, it's a different kind of diggin'...

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