TROUBLE MAN was released back in 1972 and straight away looked upon as one of the worst movies ever made. It was an attempt to cash in on the popularity of the black detective or private eye characters that had begun to edge their way into the cinema going audiences’ radar, such as SHAFT the year previous and CLEOPATRA JONES for example. It was released in the same year as the SHAFT sequel, SHAFTS BIG SCORE. The best thing about this movie in my opinion is the infectious and funky musical score which was written by Tamala Motown Legend Marvin Gaye, but the music we hear on the soundtrack of the movie is somewhat different to the songs and other material that Gaye produced during his career, it was also surprisingly the only film that the artist wrote the music for, which is such a shame as I think that he showed a real flair and talent for, the music is certainly soulful and has to it that groovy and funky sound that was so much in demand during the 1970,s.
The music was composed before disco really took hold but there are several passages and quirks of orchestration and composition that would become common place in popular music during the coming years of that decade. The composer utilises solo sax on a few occasions throughout the score and this is highly effective and creates a haunting and alluring mood that is not only Smokey and sensual but at times can radiate an atmosphere that is slightly apprehensive. The album was originally released in 1972 on an LP record on the Tamala Motown label, and a few years ago when the movie celebrated its 40TH Anniversary, the soundtrack was reissued with the original album tracks plus numerous other cues that were taken directly from the film score. This made for an impressive and an entertaining listen, which had a running time of over 2 hours. The music is obviously jazz, and soul influenced and every now and then we are treated to some amazing vocals by Gaye himself. The emphases being upon the brass section for most of its running time, brass supported by percussive elements that include booming kettle drums, bongos and timpani and drums with cymbals, we are also presented with solid and flawless performances on wood wind, piano, with strings lacing in and out of the equation. In many ways I prefer this score to the music for the SHAFT series it is more developed and certainly polished, cool and funky, each cue has something that the listener will find interesting and original and it is a shame that the film it was written for did not live up to expectations.
The music for this Blaxploitation movie is sophisticated and more refined than other scores for movies within the genre, at times one would be forgiven for thinking it was the work of Lalo Schifrin (Dirty Harry) or even Sid Ramin, Jerry Goldsmith (Man from Uncle), Hugo Montenegro or at times Ron Grainer (Omega Man) and Ennio Morricone. Think STILETTO meets MATT HELM and FLINT here. That’s how good this is.
The clever orchestration with electric bass punctuating the tenser scenes and being mirrored or shadowed by timpani and interspersed with brass stabs is particularly effective and the sultry and sexy sounding sax brings much to the work, add to this Gaye performing fragments of songs throughout the work also gives it a feelgood factor. Marvin Gaye wrote the score and conducted it using a number of players that had been previously utilised on many of the Motown hits of the 1960’s. To say that TROUBLE MAN the score is entertaining is the understatement of the year, it is a veritable smorgasbord of sounds and styles that will linger long in your mind long after you have pressed the off button on the CD player, Recommended, hell yes. Find it, buy it, savour it and get down with Mr T.