Jungle Fever. Spike Lee. Boyz N the Hood. Juice. Ice Cube. New Jack City. Oh, really? "Black" films have been around for decades, and they've always been skewed by the life fact that tellin' it isn't the same as livin' it. Shaft and Superfly were just as real as the new breed's crop, which is to say about as real as fiction, which most movies are. Maybe it's racist, but I always got a huge kick out of blaxploitation cinema, and the oldies are extra dope now that they're dated - bell bottoms and wack "street" slang leading the hoots parade.
What isn't dated about the Seventies oldbloods is the music. A couple of years ago Jorge Hinojosa and Ice-T realized this and set forth to compile a ten-track album, recently released under the title Pimps, Players & Private Eyes. It's twice as def as anything T himself has recorded since "Freedom of Speech." Bobby Womack peels the paint with the indelible "Across 110th Street," from the movie of the same name. This mother has a hook bigger than the body count in Iraq. The Impressions equal the dazzle factor in "Make a Resolution," from Three the Hard Way, and the Four Tops find the sweet spot via the Shaft in Africa track "Are You Man Enough?" (even if it does borrow heavily from the O'Jays' "Back Stabbers"). And no matter how well the Simpsons spoof it, the "Theme from Shaft" is a four-star song with dazing vocals by Isaac Hayes. Samplers find heaven in the chick-chack within "Theme of Foxy Brown" by Willie Hutch. Marvin Gaye wakes the dead with his impossibly gymnastic falsetto-but-never-false vox on "Trouble Man." The most wrenching moment is hearing the almighty Curtis Mayfield tongue dance over the Afreaky percussion of "Pusherman," from Superfly. Mayfield was severely injured a while back, and the album is dedicated to his recovery. Amen. I might not be Nelson George, but I know enough to know that "black" music, be it soundtrack fodder or not, needs people like Mayfield these days.
Former New Times writer Ben Greenman, my co-conspirator in the Bruce Springsteen/Parking Free hoax, remains in hiding, convinced New Jersey hit men are gunning for him. He was able to smuggle a note out of his continental confines. "I'm being dogged through Europe," he reports ominously. "In London last week, I was in a record store buying the new Little Village album, and they had Backstreets in the magazine rack. Thumbing through it, I found the news item about our parody." Greenman hid his face with a CD longbox and immediately bolted to Italy. "I walked by a record store in Rome (where Bruce is huge)," he continues, "and saw a press release taped to the window. My Italian must be worse than I thought, because I could have sworn that it said he's going to release two LPs simultaneously in the spring [March 30]. That motherfucker outparodied us! Some of the song titles, especially `Soul Driver,' looked suspiciously like ours. Any chance of an advance copy? Or is Shorefire [Bruce's publicity company] determined to withhold all favors?" Geez, Ben, they took out a contract on your life, man, what more do you want?
Jams and yellies: The Blue Marlin is open jamming on Tuesdays, call Melvin at 956-2900 to get in. The Clevelander is running blues nights on Wednesdays. And master guitarist Daryll Dobson hits Musicians Exchange tomorrow (Thursday).
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SHOW ME HOW
I tend to despise music videos (an oxymoron, really), but I like this idea. The Alliance Film/Video Project is screening Art of the Music Video: Ten Years After, beginning this weekend and continuing into April, curated by the Long Beach Museum of Art in California. You need a museum to cull the really cool stuff from the tons of dreck, I suppose. Anyway, I've seen lists of the clips being shown, and, as one would expect from the Alliance, there's a bounty of good look-sees here. Call 531-8504 for details.
It's beginning to look like the cottage industry of the Nineties - musician source books. The latest is Sound Around, a thorough compilation of more than 1500 clubs and other outlets, with a heavy emphasis on the folk/acoustic tip. You can get it in regional versions ($10) or the complete national edition ($25) by writing Sound Around, PO Box 297, Hadley, MA 01035.
Butthorn of the week: The Miller Genuine Draft Band Network. We love the concept and the execution, but the MGDBN 'horned in by calling Groove Thangs, recently signed to the network, "urban dance" in a recent mailing. Urban dance? Yikes. (By the way, thanks to Miller, the Thangs leave this week for a national tour. Break a leg, y'all. Break the leg of the person who dubbed you "urban dance.")
The media circus: Whence came the Mavericks? I saw their earliest shows, and I saw them at Churchill's Hideaway. So I was taken aback a few weeks ago when I read an ad for Tobacco Road in New Times proclaiming, "See them where they started." Linda Lou Nelson of Cactus Cantina was equally surprised, and attempted to run a "Back Page" ad to set the record straight. Her ad - "Tobacco Road and Mark Weiser have helped start many fine bands, but the Mavericks weren't one of them! See them at Cactus Cantina" - was not published. She sees an NT-Road conspiracy in this. I don't. Mark Weiser, who ran the ad, says he meant Miami, not the Road specifically. I believe him. Molly Curry, in charge of classified advertising for NT, says the ad was killed because negative comments about business competitors cause too many problems, and with Miss Linda Lou out of town that week, there was no chance to make adjustments to the ad. I think all this is great hype and good fun, including the fact that Linda Lou's ad would have been as misleading as the Road's was. Bottom line: Everybody wants a piece of the MCA stars now. But remember, you read about them in New Times first!