Released in 2000 SHAFT starring Samuel L Jackson in the title role was a pretty solid and convincing updating of the Shaft series, the musical duties for the movie fell to British born composer David Arnold who was at the time very much in demand because of his association with the James Bond movies. Arnold was it seemed a natural successor to John Barry on the 007 franchise and provided a suitably bombastic and Barry-esque musical accompaniment for the smoothness and suave persona that was Bond and his various adventures as they unfolded on screen. Arnold also proved to be successful in the area of the blockbuster providing highly thematic material for films such as INDEPENDENCE DAY and GODZILLA and also he conjured up a sparse and almost desolate sound for YOUNG AMERICANS. So I suppose when one thinks about it Arnold although not the obvious choice was well practised and would be able to give SHAFT a rhythmic and pulsating sound. To score a SHAFT movie without utilising the infectious and iconic theme as penned by Isaac Hayes back in 1971 I suppose would be un-thinkable, so Arnold took his cue from the theme and although not directly copying it he wove some of the elements from the theme into his score giving it a vibrant sound that possessed a retro atmosphere but at the same time had been given a musical makeover that allowed it to be contemporary. The elements that he used were familiar with audiences and film music collectors who had already been aware of SHAFT and were attractive to others who may not have already heard the Hayes theme or seen the original SHAFT movie and subsequent sequels and TV spin off’s. The composer employed a funk band line up similar to the one that Hayes had put together for the original score and to this he added a more conventional orchestral line up comprising of strings and brass that was supported by percussion, woods and synthetic flourishes thus giving the soundtrack a greater dramatic presence but all the time allowing the familiar sound created by Hayes to seep through into the proceedings. I suppose you could say it was very similar to what Arnold had achieved with his Bond scores but this time there is attitude and a sassy soulful groove going on. In fact listening to Arnolds score is like listening to the original SHAFT with elements of SHAFTS BIG SCORE, snips from SHAFT IN AFRICA and also the jazzy funky influences of Lalo Schifrin making an entrance every so often. I think I am right when I say that the score was never officially released and a song/score compact disc was the only version to hit the shops at the time of the films release on the LA FACE label as I say none of Arnold‘s dramatic score was on the CD instead it was filled with R and B songs, there was however a promo release of the score, which disappeared rather rapidly. So this release from LA LA LAND RECORDS is most welcome.
I remember seeing a promo of Arnold’s score in a shop on a white label by this I mean it was a compact disc no cover just track listing I thought about it at the time but did not pick it up, which is something I still regret. This release is filled with fantastic notes and lots of stills and contains 74 minutes of music over 29 tracks, it’s a great score and is not only exciting and powerful but contains real melodic qualities and highly infectious themes and motifs, this is well worth checking out and adding to your collection. Every track seems to bounce along with an unrelenting energy, Arnold employing 70,s disco style strings that are punctuated by little organ full stops and commas and given support and a driving rhythmic background by wah wah guitar and imposing groovy bass lines. Recommended…..