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Classic Album Review: Cotton Comes To Harlem Soundtrack | MGM Soul Cinema Series

Galt MacDermot's high-energy grooves & Melba Moore’s soul make this a class act.


This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):


Who’s the cat who won’t cop out when there’s danger all about? Shaft. Damn right. But there’s plenty more where he came from.

Back in the swinging ’60s and ’70s, there were more blaxploitation movie heroes than you could shake your booty at — Superfly, Slaughter, Foxy Brown, Coffy, Friday Foster, Truck Turner, Sweet Sweetback, hell, even Blacula. And like John Shaft, when they went strutting down 125th Street in Harlem in their platform boots and ostrich-feather hat, it was usually to the funky backbeat of a personalized theme song by Isaac Hayes, Curtis Mayfield, Bobby Womack or James Brown.

Good luck finding most of those old flicks at your local video chain. But thanks to the Soul Cinema Series, you can get down to the original grooves. MGM has dug through the vaults and reissued the soundtracks to a slew of African-American movie classics, with every wah-wah guitar lick, soul-sister singer, conga-drum break and flute solo superbly intact. Here’s the score on the scores. Can you dig it?

Cotton Comes to Harlem

The Year: 1972.

The Plot: Harlem detectives Coffin Ed Johnson (Raymond St. Jacques) and Grave Digger Jones (Godfrey Cambridge) chase $87,000 stolen from a crooked preacher and hidden in a bale of cotton (don’t ask) in this tale directed by Ossie Davis from Chester Himes’ novel.

The Music: About a dozen high-energy cuts of ’60s Broadway groove-pop from Galt MacDermot, who wrote music for Hair, with a couple of sweet vocals from Melba Moore and others for balance.

The Best Line: “When cotton come to Harlem, we whupped cotton’s butt!” from the title cut.

The Funkiest Track: It doesn’t get much wilder than the title tune, which combines country twang with a big, bouncing backbeat.

The Love Theme: Moore’s slow-grooving gospel ballad My Salvation.

The Last Word: Like the film itself, a class act.