Various Artists

Hits & Misses

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One of the more unique collections in recent memory, Hits & Misses is a German compilation revolving around the great prizefighters of the '60s and '70s: George Foreman, Joe Frazier, and -- especially -- Muhammad Ali. Telling their stories through music really hits home (so to speak) how Ali and his rivals were treated as folk heroes around the world. Hits & Misses' music comes from all over the world: there's the African pop of Orchestre G.O. Malebo's "Foreman Ali Welcome to Kinshasa" and Trio Madjesi de Soso's "8ieme Round"; the American folk of Tom Russell's "Muhammad Ali"; the Brazilian folk of Jorge Ben's "Marcellus Cassius Clay" and the reggae of "Foreman vs. Frazier" by Kingston, Jamaica's Big Youth. However, the biggest chunk of the collection is rooted in American R&B, soul, and funk. The Alcoves' bouncy '60s R&B of "The Ballad of Muhammad Ali" and Eddie Curits' "The Louisville Lip" capture the brash playfulness of Ali's early days, while Mack Rice's funky "Muhammad Ali" and Don Covay's low-slung "Rumble in the Jungle" reflect his untouchable cool in the '70s. However, the collection has its share of kitsch: Page Scherer's oddly patriotic "He Is He" is basically an ode praising Ali's draft evasion set to "This Land Is Your Land"; on "You're the Greatest," Bette McLaurin is cast as the ultimate Cassius Clay fan; and on Grasshopper & Butterfly's "Ali Shuffle," it's determined that the boxer is "human honey!" Fittingly, the collection comes to a close with songs by some of the fighters themselves: Joe Frazier's "Try it Again" and Ali's "I'm the Greatest" add further proof to just how massive Foreman, Frazier, and Ali were in pop culture at the peak of their powers. It's doubtful that any of today's boxers could earn such devotion, but at least Hits & Misses provides a fascinating musical document of a time when prizefighters were seen as inspiring symbols by a significant amount of people around the world.

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