Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Coffey is the color

Here we see Dennis Coffey playing 'Scorpio' for an audience made up of the not-in-the-picture Oscar the Grouch and his homeless buddies.
To promote the upcoming self-titled album by legendary and frequently sampled Motown guitarist Dennis Coffey, Strut Records recently dropped a fantastic 45-minute mix of old Coffey tunes, hip-hop tracks that sampled Coffey's work and new material from the April 26 release. The instrumental jam "7th Galaxy," a new joint from Coffey's Strut album, starts at 04:55 in the "Constellations" mix, which was assembled by DJ House Shoes. "7th Galaxy" needs to turn up as chase music in a TV show or movie pronto.

The mix includes one of my all-time favorite movie themes, Coffey's Black Belt Jones theme, and another blaxploitation soundtrack tune that features Coffey's guitar work, Edwin Starr's "Easin' In" from Hell Up in Harlem. I was first exposed to "Easin' In" via "Nickel Bags" by Digable Planets, while LL Cool J's "Jingling Baby" introduced me to the Black Belt Jones theme.

I once saw a TCM featurette that pointed out that the Magnificent Seven montage of Yul Brynner and his crew journeying on horseback to the Mexican villagers looked really lethargic and unexciting without Elmer Bernstein's energetic main theme. The Black Belt Jones opening title sequence takes place in the dullest of settings, an L.A. parking lot--not exactly the most dynamic location to showcase the martial arts skills of Bushido Brown Jim Kelly. I guess director Robert Clouse had much less dough to work with than he did on his previous movie with Kelly, the Hong Kong-based Enter the Dragon. Like Bernstein's theme during the Magnificent Seven montage, Coffey's funky theme helps distract you from how shabby the opening title sequence looks despite the fisticuffs (ComicsAlliance editor Chris Sims noted on his Invincible Super-Blog that even the fisticuffs look compromised too: "It may SEEM like Black Belt Jones is moving slow, and that the guys he's fighting are drunk, but I assure you that's not the case. In order to get an 'R' rating they actually had to slow the film down because audiences in the Seventies could not handle that much brutal action.").

Man, they come right out of a comic book.
(Photo source: Cinema is Dope/Museum of Cinema)

YouTube comments sections are too often full of inane or racist junk, but there was one comment below the video of the Black Belt Jones opening credits that amused me and caused me to do something I've never done before in a YouTube comments section, and that's click on "thumbs up":

"Obama should enter Congress with this theme and kick some Republican butt."


There are so many hot beats in Strut's Coffey mix, which concludes with "All Your Goodies Are Gone," a terrific blue-eyed soul collabo with Mayer Hawthorne from the new album, a release that Strut hopes will introduce Coffey to a new generation of beatheads. I particularly enjoyed the mix's juxtapositions of "Jingling Baby" with the Black Belt Jones breakbeat and "Easin' In" with "Nickel Bags."

Constellations - The A to Z of Dennis Coffey: A Mix By House Shoes by Strut

[Via Potholes in My Blog]

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