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Classic Album Reviews: Monkey Hustle / Black Mama, White Mama Soundtracks | MGM Soul Cinema Series

On their own, these albums no big deal — but together, they're not a bad double bill.

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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?

Monkey Hustle / Black Mama, White Mama

The Years: 1976 / 1972.

The Plots: In Monkey Hustle, Yaphet Kotto and Rudy Ray Moore are con men who hook up to stick it to the man; in Black Mama, White Mama, Pam Grier and Margaret Markov are female inmates who are chained together on the lam.

The Music: Fittingly, former actor Jack Conrad’s Monkey Hustle tunes are heavy on the disco thump; meanwhile, veteran arranger Harry Betts takes a more traditional tack, laying on the congas and flutes next to stabbing horns in his action-packed score.

The Best Line: Foxxister Transistor is the coolest song title of the series; pity it has nothing to do with the actual tune.

The Funkiest Track: Monkey Hustle’s title cut will have you shaking your groove thang.

The Love Theme: With tunes like Day in The Oven, Luis’ Work Shed and Bloodhouds, Black Mama, White Mama is anything but a love story.

The Last Word: On their own, no big deal — but not a bad double bill.