Between What’s Going On and Let’s Get It On, Marvin Gaye released a masterwork that still remains one of the less-heralded items in his remarkable ’70s catalogue. Trouble Man was the soundtrack to a 20th Century-Fox “blaxploitation” film, and while it was Gaye’s only foray into film scoring, it proved that the Motown superstar could hold his own against the other soul stars-turned-film composers such as Isaac Hayes and Curtis Mayfield – as if there was ever any doubt. The soundtrack album made No. 12 Pop/No. 3 R&B on the album charts. In 2012, it was expanded to two CDs with the addition of 29 previously unreleased tracks including alternate takes and the original film recordings (as opposed to the “album versions” on the original LP). Now, nine of those fascinating alternates are being collected on an all-new vinyl release, appropriately entitled More Trouble. It’s due on April 3.
A largely instrumental, soul/jazz soundtrack might not have been the most expected move for Gaye in 1972. But after emerging triumphant in his hard-won battle for creative control at Motown, and with a hefty contract in tow, Gaye was free to follow his muse. Trouble Man, the film, starred Robert Hooks, whose credits range from A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway to Star Trek III: The Search for Spock on the silver screen. Hooks’ “Mr. T” is a private detective who’s not afraid to take the law into his own hands even as he becomes embroiled in a power play between rival crime lords. Paul Winfield (Sounder, The Terminator) and Ralph Waite (The Waltons) joined Hooks as two of those gangland figures, while Paula Kelly (Sweet Charity, The Andromeda Strain) portrayed T’s love interest. Gaye crafted much of his score around the character of T, with compositions like “T Plays It Cool,” “T Stands for Trouble,” “Don’t Mess with Mister T” and “There Goes Mister T.” He recorded the Trouble Man album at Motown’s Los Angeles Hitsville West outpost, with the score arranged by such esteemed personnel as Jack Hayes, Leo Shuken and Gene Page.
Critics weren’t all kind to the movie; in The New York Times, Vincent Canby noted that “it’s not a bad film” but “represents such a peculiar collaboration of interests that it should be of concern to both black and white film sociologists. Also, it dramatizes such a wild confusion of values, I’m not sure it wants to be described as cool or uppity.” Yet Gaye remained rightly proud of his score, which melded funk, jazz, soul and orchestral writing into a seamless and often stunning whole.
Now, nine tracks offering a glimpse into his creative process are coming to vinyl for the first time. More Trouble arrives from Tamla/Motown/UMe on April 3 and can be pre-ordered at the links below!
- Main Theme From Trouble Man (2) (Alternate Take With Strings)
- “T” Plays It Cool (Unedited)
- Poor Abbey Walsh, Part 2 (Take 1)
- Trouble Man (Extended Version)
- Theme From Trouble Man (Vocal Version)
- Main Theme From Trouble Man (Vocal Version)
- “T” Stands For Trouble (Unedited Vocal Version)
- “T” Stands For Trouble (Alternate Version)
- Trouble Man (Original Film Score)
All tracks released on Trouble Man: 40th Anniversary Expanded Edition (Motown/Hip-O Select B0017676-02, 2012)