This double album, the soundtrack to a hit 1976 urban-themed comedy starring Richard Pryor and George Carlin, was also the debut album for funk hitmakers Rose Royce. Although they had already recorded most of a non-soundtrack album prior to Car Wash, their producer and Svengali Norman Whitfield insisted that they put that aside when he got the opportunity to write the score for this film. The result was a killer crossover success that made the group's name and proved there was life after Motown for Whitfield. It also produced some serious hit singles: the title track was a clever tune that blended a throbbing disco beat, hypnotic funk riffs from the rhythm section, and an ornate string arrangement to become number one hit, and "I Wanna Get Next to You" married ethereal strings to a mid-tempo soul beat to create a classic ballad in the mold of Whitfield's work with the Temptations. The remainder of the album divides its time between funky songs and orchestral-tinged instrumental workouts. In the song arena, standouts include "I'm Going Down," a torchy, dramatically-arranged ballad that features an all-stops-out vocal performance from Gwen Dickey, and "Daddy Rich," a witty portrait of a religious con man that is built on an infectious combination of staccato horns and a relentlessly churning rhythm guitar hook. The masterpiece in the instrumental arena is "Sunrise," a hypnotic ten-minute epic whose effective tension-and-release arrangement that adds and subtracts layers of instrumentation over a pulsating beat to create a thoroughly hypnotic effect. Two album's worth of Rose Royce may be a little too much for the casual listener, but there is no denying that Car Wash is both stylishly crafted and intensely funky. It is a required listen for anyone interested in Rose Royce and a solid choice for funk and disco fans alike.
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AllMusic Review by Donald A. Guarisco