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One hip farewell

Soul Men: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Soul Men: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
By various artists

Stax / Concord: 2008

This review first appeared in Turbula in December 2008.

If the late Bernie Mac hadn't been such a force in comedy, he might have been able to make a living in another branch of entertainment – perhaps as a singer. On the soundtrack to the film of the same name that opened last month, Mac and co-star Samuel L. Jackson do a more than credible job on their three tracks of portraying their roles as classic soul singers on the comeback trail after the death of the former leader of their trio. Whether it's singing background to John Legend on the Oldham-Penn soul classic "I'm Your Puppet" or a Sam & Dave-styled vocal duo on Rufus Thomas' little-known "Boogie Ain't Nuttin' (But Gettin' Down)" or backing Sharon Leal on a 14-minute extended riff on Isaac Hayes' "Do Your Thing," Mac and Jackson show both chops and true soul styling in their singing.

The rest of the soundtrack is populated with classic soul both new and old, ranging from soul legends Hayes (who, like Mac, died shortly after this film was completed) on his classic reading of "Never Can Say Goodbye" and Eddie Floyd to younger-generation singers like Anthony Hamilton, Ryan Shaw, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, and Meshell Ndegeocello.

Unlike the soundtrack to Will Ferrel's "Semi-Pro," which consisted of a mix of old soul and funk classics surrounding one retro tune by Ferrell, this soundtrack is mostly new versions of classic soul tunes. Steve Cropper, Rufus Thomas and/or Eddie Floyd wrote a majority of the songs here, so the producers and musicians had top-notch material to work with – and the results stand up to the very best soul and R&B of the 1960s and early '70s.