After Isaac Hayes kicked his career into high gear with the popular and influential score for Shaft, and Curtis Mayfield managed the same feat with Superfly, seemingly every major soul star of the early 1970's ended up doing music for a blaxploitation film, and James Brown was certainly no exception. Brown sang the title tune for Larry Cohen's idiosyncratic black crime film Black Caesar, as well as performing ten other pieces for the movie's soundtrack (most written by Brown in collaboration with Fred Wesley); Barry Devorzon's lead-off cut, "Down and Out In New York City", sets up the picture's story, while most of the other five vocal cuts reflect the film's narrative in one way or another (although "Make It Good To Yourself" seems to be here mainly because of it's high funk quotient, and on "Mama Feelgood", Brown appropriately hands the vocal chores over to Lynn Collins). Like most soundtrack albums of the period, Black Caesar sounds rather scattershot, especially when the music is divorced from the film's narrative, and this isn't one of Brown's stellar albums of the 1970's; however, there are several top-notch tracks, especially the much-sampled "The Boss", the potent "Make It Good To Yourself", and the melodramatic "Mama's Dead", and Fred Wesley's superb horn charts, Jimmy Nolen's percussive guitar, and Jabo Starks' dead-on-the-one drumming make even the weaker instrumental cuts worth a quick listen (though just try to imagine a chase scene cut to something with the power of "Mother Popcorn" -- now THAT would be a movie!).
AllMusic Review by Mark Deming
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