With productions and songs from Freddie Perren and Fonce Mizell, Hell Up in Harlem is the scathing and soulful soundtrack of the motion picture starring Fred Williamson. This was Edwin Starr's last album for Motown, which probably accounts for the woeful lack of promotion. Two singles were released, "Hell Up in Harlem," the first, should have remained an album cut, as its appeal was limited, despite a solid vocal by Starr. The follow-up, however, "Big Papa," should have been a monster. Written by Freddie Perren, it has the same power, forcefulness, and drive of numbers that Norman Whitfield had produced for Rare Earth and the Temptations. The flips of both singles, "Don't It Feel Good to Be Free" and "Like We Used to Do," are mellower than the push sides. The bone picker, however, is "Easin' In," a great midtempo number with cool backing vocals, and a great reading from Starr; it has chart buster written all over it, yet Motown never released it as a single. Mind boggling, since Starr's final single for Gordy's empire, "Who's Right or Wrong," backed with "Lonely Rainy Days in San Diego," dropped six months after "Big Papa," but doesn't rate with "Easin'."
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AllMusic Review by Andrew Hamilton