Since I hit 100 blogs without realizing it, I figured I do something special for blog #105. The following list of LPs/ CDs are the FUNKIEST Soundtracks of all time according to www.funkaliciousblog.com – while all albums may not be comprised of all FUNK music, they are unquestionably FUNKY! Now, put on your favorite soundtrack, go ahead put it on… Let’s take a ride down memory lane and reminisce about what made you feel good when you heard any of these musical FUNKY gems.
“Ooo Superfly” – I saw this classic at a Drive-In movie. I remember my mom asking acquaintances if they thought the movie would was “too grown-up for children,” they replied “nahh.” My mother did the traditional covering of the eyes when the chocolate cheeks of Sheila Frazier hit the screen, but removed them after a few seconds. We were there… might as well allow the viewing to continue and then explain the visual to the child, now unexpectedly exposed to sex at the movies afterwards… and so she did. There’s no doubt in my mind that the experience lent to my sexual intrigue, as from that moment on I looked forward to ‘getting’ some in the tub’ ;-)… but about the soundtrack, “Give Me Your Love” was the track for the soapy wet love scene, from the LP that also features the hits “Freddie’s Dead,” “Pusherman” and the title track. The album not only features incredible music, it’s a soundtrack that was theme music for an era of time. Starring Ron O’Neal, Superfly’s character was about a man trying to get out of the business of drugs and be legitimate, during a time that black men were rising above the status quo. The 70s were a period when black men begun to be recognized and truly respected as MEN more than ever. The master mind of the late Curtis Mayfield is proof of this, as the soundtrack was originally released on his label imprint, Curtom Records in 1972.
The first time I saw this movie was on network television. It paled to the theatrical release that I eventually saw on cable, but the essence still came through. Released a year before “Superfly,” the “Shaft” soundtrack was nominated for an Academy Award. The campaign to make it happen was led by Quincy Jones, who recruited the support of others like Sammy Davis Jr. — The late Isaac Hayes told me this himself once in an interview. He won the Oscar for “Best Music, Original Song” for “The Theme from Shaft” and the album was also nominated for “Best Music, Original Dramatic Score” that year. Hayes went to the event with his mom on his arm that evening, he said couldn’t think of a better person to take. In addition to the title track, the musical opus features the tune “Cafe Regio’s,” which was used for years as a music bed for New York’s channel 5 or 11’s, Sunday Movie theme. Shaft starred, actor Richard Roundtree, in the title role.
James Brown’s soundtrack for the Fred Williamson movie “Black Caesar” has got to be among the FUNKIEST! It would be if for no other reason that it was performed and produced by “The Godfather of Soul” himself — The quintessential Pioneer of FUNK! The album features the tracks “Down and Out in New York City,” “Blind Man Can See It,” which was later sampled for the Das Efx smash “They Want Efx”; and “Mama Feel Good” a track sung by Lyn Collins. James Brown also did the soundtrack for the movie “Slaughter’s Big Rip-Off.” That movie starred another football star turned actor, like Williamson, it was Jim Brown.
Some time before I began working in music, I happily stood on line in Times Square the night “Purple Rain” was released to see it. Dressed in full on black punk fashion with shades of purple, I couldn’t wait to get inside to rock out to the new album that was set to an entire movie. Prince had gone into film now… Wow!!! What an exciting time, but wait, can he act? Okay, not so much, but nobody cared, it was PRINCE!!! More important than his acting, was the new music — and it was ALL THAT!!! It featured the hits”Let’s Go Crazy,” the title track, and “When Doves Cry,” which was at number-one on the Billboard Singles chart for 5 weeks. The soundtrack spent 24 weeks at No. 1 in 1984 and 1985 on the Billboard Album chart. The film won the Oscar for “Best Music, Original Song Score” in 1985.
The “Love Jones” soundtrack was a very welcome surprise for soul music lovers. A combination of R&B, jazz and smoothed out hip-hop, it’s success was compatible with that of the movie, if not more so. It made the film complete in the way Mayfield’s music completed “Superfly.” It was and still is a soundtrack that folks will play in their homes to enhance a gathering of friends. I’m playing it now as a friend is visiting, like characters in the film, we’re talking about friends less favored and those we can’t get enough of. The lyrics of the songs are in sync with the varying emotions of the character’s portrayed by Nia Long and Larenz Tate. This may sound crazy to some, but aspects of how the “Love Jones” soundtrack complimented the film are comparable and/ or parallel to how the soundtrack for “Garden State” accents it. Yeah, I said it, “Garden State” — watch both movies back-to-back and see what I mean — a great double-feature.
HUSTLE & FLOW
Whoa!!! Nobody saw this one coming… not the movie nor the soundtrack, but everybody who saw it knew, there was something undeniably special and different about how Taraji P. Henson said: “You know it’s hard out here for a pimp.” What!?!? Did she just say that? Sho’ Nuff, and the rest is history… The Three 6 Mafia clique from outta Memphis, Tennessee came up, scoring “Best Original Song” at the Academy Awards in 2005 for their song “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp.” The track was essentially the theme song, for actor Terrence Howard, who was nominated for “Best Actor” at the Oscars that same year. A performance that addressed the everyday struggle of a man making his way on the streets in this latter day, it wasn’t pretty, but the script was steeped in realism.
“Brothers Gonna Work It Out” – Whenever the title or the hook of a song becomes a catch phrase, it’s got to be FUNKY. The soundtrack wasn’t only Funky because of the hit track from Willie Hutch, but also because the movie’s production was so controversial. Set in Oakland, California, this is one of those movies that was really made on the streets, with real life pimps and hustlers appearing in the film. Frank Ward and his brothers were as much the stars of the movie as Max Julien and Richard Pryor. They were also escorts for the crew while they were shooting in Oakland, as it probably would not have been shot without their protection. The character of “Goldie’s” brother, is said to have used lines directly from speeches made by Huey P. Newton of the Black Panthers in the film. The Panthers were very prominent in Oakland at that time, and were rumored to have been paid for their cooperation while shooting.
The soundtrack for “Dead Presidents” is one of two directed by The Hughes Brothers, amidst the Top-20 FUNKIEST of All Time. Featuring songs from Isaac Hayes, James Brown, Sly & the Family Stone, Curtis Mayfield, Barry White, The Spinners, The O’Jays, Al Green and Aretha Franklin, the tempo and energy of the classic tunes chosen, grace the dynamics of a story about a Vietnam veteran. A man back home from war, he feels shut out and dismissed, which leads him to make an unfortunate choice in seek of riches. “Dead Presidents” stars Larenz Tate, Keith David, Rose Jackson, Chris Tucker, N’Bushe Wright, Freddy Rodriguez and Jennifer Lewis.
THE HARDER THEY COME
Jimmy Cliff starred in and scored the soundtrack for the 1972 film “The Harder They Come.” Based on the life of actual Jamaican criminal Rhyjing of the 1940s, the movie is an all time cult classic and was produced by the cult King of film Roger Coreman, through his company New World Pictures. In addition to the title track, the album featured the songs “Shanty Town” and “Many Rivers to Cross.” While the album or the film didn’t win awards, it was extremely popular and remains so today. A music lover factoid — the film is referenced in a line of The Clash’s song “The Guns of Brixton,” form the band’s album “London Calling.” Cliff did a cover of “The Guns of Brixton,” on his EP “Sacred Fire” last year.
MENACE II SOCIETY
The second of two entries among the Top-20 for a film directed by the Hughes Brothers, the music for “Menace II Society” is like Dr. Dre’s “The Chronic” among FUNKY soundtracks. “The Chronic” is like a soundtrack, with all of Dre’s additional production elements, but it ain’t — “Menace II Society,” is. The west coast dominated CD features tracks from Spice 1, MC Eiht, Too Short, Smooth, Brand Nubians, Boogie Down Productions, Pete Rock & CL Smooth, Hi-Five, UGK, Da Lench Mob and DJ Quik. IT’S JUST DOPE!
NEW JACK CITY
OMG New Jack City! Talk about a game changer!!! When the movie and the soundtrack “New Jack City” hit the streets in 1991, it was like when they started making music videos for songs, but in reverse. While there had been a multitude of soundtracks for film prior to the release of “New Jack City,” the excitement around the project revived the glamour of this musical marketing tool. Fueled by the smash hit “I Wanna Sex You Up” from one-hit-wonders Color Me Badd, it had the power of the then new record label, GIANT behind it. A subsidiary of Warner Brothers Records, Cassandra Mills and Irving Azoff were at the helm of operations for the new imprint. The title of the film was synonymous with that of the current music trend at that time, which was “New Jack Swing.” A term coined by producer Teddy Riley, the album featured his group Guy, of which he was also a member; Christopher Williams & Ice-T — who also acted in the film; Keith Sweat, Johnny Gill, Troop, Levert, 2 Live Crew, Essence and Queen Latifah. It set a new precedent for all soundtracks that followed. Wesley Snipes, Allan Payne, Judd Nelson, Vanessa Williams, Bill Nunn and Tracy Camilla Johns of “She’s Gotta Have It” fame, were among the ensemble cast — that also featured writer/ director Mario Van Peeples.
“Trouble Man” is an album I visit periodically today. A low-key presentation, it’s sound is the opposite of anything that would cause “Trouble” — very smooth. Produced and composed by the late great Marvin Gaye, it followed his hugely successful LP “What’s Going On.” Considering the success of soundtracks by Mayfield and Hayes, the consensus was like ‘Why not’? “Trouble Man” didn’t share the same notoriety as “Superfly” or “Shaft,” but is recognized as an accomplishment for the R&B singer turned producer. Gaye had acted in two films at this point, “The Ballad of Andy Crocker” and “Chrome and Hot Leather,” neither of which met with critical acclaim. Like Motown, Gaye relocated to Los Angeles, in hopes of greater opportunities. “Trouble Man” starred actor Robert Hooks and was released in 1972. Chico DeBarge did a remake of the classic Gaye track in 1997. It was featured on his CD, “Long Time No See.”
A soundtrack that features a plethora of classic soul, “Jackie Brown” is one of the Top-20 FUNKIEST of all time, not only because of the hits on the record but because Blaxploitation goddess Pam Grier made her “comeback” in the film. At a point when Grier was only taking on supporting and/ or cameo roles in her career, Quentin Tarantino adapted the film “Jackie Brown” from Elmore Leonard’s novel “Rum Punch” specifically with Pam in mind for the lead. The album includes songs from Bobby Womack, the Brothers Johnson, Bill Withers, Randy Crawford, Minnie Riperton, Bloodstone and The Delfonics. The movie also stars Samuel L. Jackson, Robert DeNiro, Bridget Fonda, Chris Tucker, Robert Forster and Michael Keaton.
The “Boomerang” soundtrack hit the market like a cannon! A year behind the release of “New Jack City,” it featured music from new R&B sensation Toni Braxton, Babyface, Aaron Hall, Keith Washington, Boyz II Men, A Tribe Called Quest, Shanice, PM Dawn, Johnny Gill and Grace Jones, who was also a principle character in the film — remember “Stran-Je, Stran-Je”! A romantic dramatic comedy starring Oscar Nominee Eddie Murphy, the movie boasts an ensemble cast including Oscar-Award winner Halle Berry, Martin Lawrence, David Alan Grier, Robin Givens, John Witherspoon, Geoffrey Holder, Eartha Kitt and Chris Rock.
ABOVE THE RIM/ JUICE
The soundtracks for “Above The Rim” and “Juice” were a toss up. Two films that feature rapper/ actor Tupac Shakur, both CDs feature gems by a combination of hip-hop and R&B talent. Among them Al B. Sure, SWV, Eric B. & Rakim, Naughty By Nature, The Lady of Rage, Nate Dogg & Warren G., the Brand New Heavies w/ N’Dea Davenport, and several others. Aaron Hall is actually featured on both CDs, as well as the aforementioned “New Jack City” and “Boomerang” soundtracks. Hall kinda made the rounds, as he also appears on the soundtracks for “Hurricane,” “Dangerous Minds” and “Jason’s Lyric.” Two films based on varying levels of friendships in “Da Hood,” both have gun violence in them. One starring Shakur as the predator, while the other features him as a victim.
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER
The minute you hear “Saturday Night Fever”, three things come to mind… John Travolta, the white suit, and the music — quickly followed by the Bee Gees. One of the biggest soundtracks of all time, it’s got to be FUNKY. Spearheaded by the Bee Gees, the double gate-fold album featured music from Tavares, Samantha Sang, Yvonne Elliman, Walter Murphy, Kool & the Gang, M.F.S.B., KC & The Sunshine Band, the Trammps, David Shire and the recently departed Ralph MacDonald. It was an album that became the soundtrack for people’s lives during the time of it’s release, as practically every song on it was being played daily on the radio in various formats. The movie made John Travolta a household name and the initial shipment for retail was an unprecedented 15-million copies. The album stayed atop the album charts for 24 straight weeks from January to July in 1978, and stayed on Billboard’s Album charts for 120 weeks until March of 1980.
LOVE & BASKETBALL
Like the songs on the soundtrack for “Love Jones,” those featured on the album for “Love & Basketball” capture the emotions of the main characters. Directed by Gina Prince-Bythewood and produced by Spike Lee, the film starred Sanna Lathan and Omar Epps in the leading roles. The FUNK about the music in “Love & Basketball” is that it was always in sync with the film. You felt ‘Monica”s pain when she was playing one-on-one with ‘Quincy’ as Me’Shell Ndegeocello sang “Fool Of Me.” The CD also included contributions from Bilal, Donell Jones, Roger, Angie Stone, Guy, Lucy Pearl, Al Green, Rufus featuring Chaka Khan, MC Lyte, and the Black Eyed Peas featuring Les Nubians.
THAT’S THE WAY OF THE WORLD
Earth, Wind & Fire’s “That’s The Way of the World” dropped in 1975. This was rare during this time and probably the first time a black band created a soundtrack for a major motion picture. Starring Harvey Keitel, the flick was about a record producer trying to change the system of which he was highly favored. I can recall interviewing the band in the latter 90s, and them noting that soundtracks and the business of music had evolved into an entirely different animal, compared to when “That’s The Way of the World” was released. It wasn’t taken anywhere near as serious as it was when “New Jack City” was released. EWF’s album features treasured favorites like “Reasons” and “Shining Star,” in addition to the title track.
“Friday” the movie was highly anticipated and heads were definitely ringin’ to the music of the soundtrack. Featuring the hit “Keep Their Heads Ringin'” by Dr. Dre, it also included tracks from Cypress Hill, Rick James, The Isley Brothers, Rose Royce, Funkdobiest, Roger, 2 Live Crew, Mack 10, Scarface, The Alkaholiks, and the song “You Got Me Wide Open” from Bootsy Collins & Bernie Worrwell. Starring Ice Cube, Nia Long and Chris Tucker, “Friday” takes it’s place among the list of classic stoner flicks in the vane of Cheech & Chong’s “Up In Smoke” and Dave Chappelle’s “Half Baked.” Bootsy and Bernie being featured on the CD was a special treat. It’s no secret that West coast rap, produced and performed by Dre and Cube, made the best use of funk from the likes of them and Parliament-Funkadelic.
WAITING TO EXHALE/ SPARKLE
A film with an All-Star female cast, it was complimented by a soundtrack with an All-Star female collection of singers. The movie starred Angela Bassett, Lela Rochon, Loretta Devine and Whitney Houston in her second film after “The Bodyguard.” Houston was chosen for the first single “Exhale (Shoop Shoop),” which debuted at Number-One on the Billboard Hot 100 Chart. Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, TLC, Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Chante Moore, Faith Evans, CeCe Winans, Brandy, SWV and Patti LaBelle were all featured on the album. So many women were able to take part in a project centered around a movie adapted from another woman’s — Terry McMillan — book… THAT’S FUNKALICIOUS! A soundtrack of this caliber may not have come to pass if it weren’t for previous releases featuring female singers like Franklin and Gladys Knight, for the likes of “Sparkle” and “Claudine” respectively. Houston is the Executive Producer and stars in the forthcoming re-make of the movie “Sparkle,” which also stars American Idol winner Jordin Sparks, Derek Luke, Mike Epps and Cee-Lo Green. R. Kelly, who worked with Houston on her last album and sung at her funeral, is attached to the new soundtrack. This gives Mayfield two albums among the FUNKIEST TOP-20(2) Soundtracks of All Time…
I hope you’ve enjoyed taking this trip with me. An idea I’ve been pondering in my head for a while, I had to do it. As self-endulgent of an act as writing a blog may be, this is a list among several lists ranking soundtracks in the name of FUNK. There are certainly several other soundtracks that you and I can deem to be FUNKY, however considering commercial success and popularity, I stand by this list. SistaToFunky has comprised an impeccable list of famous Blaxploitation albums, and a few of the FUNKIEST above are among them. Some other soundtracks that I believe are FUNKY that didn’t make this list include: “IN COLD BLOOD” by Quincy Jones, the first black man to score a film with “THE PAWNBROKERS” in 1964, this soundtrack was nominated for “Best Music, Original Music Score” in 1968; “BOOGIE NIGHTS” “Feel, feel, feel, feel my heat”; “JASON’S LYRIC” Remember the love scene in the poppy field?; “CAR WASH” essentially a Rose Royce album, “I Wanna Get Next to You” is featured on the soundtrack for “Friday”; Spike Lee’s “JUNGLE FEVER” because the whole thing was done by Stevie Wonder, his third soundtrack btw — Lee’s soundtracks for “MO’ BETTER BLUES”, “DO THE RIGHT THING,” which featured Public Enemy’s “Fight The Power” and “GIRL 6,” because it featured a collection of songs by Prince. Soundtracks for Spike’s films alone warrant an entire blog, if for no other reason than that Terrence Blanchard scored all his films, except for those scored by his dad Bill; and “SUPER BAD” because it dropped some delicious funk throughout the film that was totally unexpected. That’s a freakin’ six-pack…
Here’s a couple sites for outstanding soundtracks that I discovered in comprising my list below:
TIME MAGAZINE’S TOP-25 SOUNDTRACKS:
AMC Film Site – America’s 100 Best Movie Soundtracks:
for the love of FUNKY Music