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Cinemaphonic Volume 2: Soul Punch, A Selection of British Library Music 1970-1976 (Motel Records)

David Hollander has an enduring affinity for instrumental soundtrack music, especially from cop shows of the '70s. With campy credits that include Kojak and Barnaby Jones, Hollander -- whose DJ handle, Lil' Earl, alludes to his early role on What's Happening!!, where he played opposite a dancing gastropod called Rerun -- again honors his polyester past with a compilation of "incidental music." The second Cinemaphonic title captures unreleased tracks culled from some of England's most prestigious sound libraries, including KPM, JW Media and Amphonic. Originally composed as mood music for low-budget, action-packed TV and film productions (and, yes, plenty of porn), these abandoned grooves offer not only a bygone car chase through novelty and nostalgia, but a fascinating glimpse of discarded, vintage cheese.

With no end of searing horn sections, Hammond phrasing or tight, in-the-pocket drumming, these forgotten knockoffs represent once-swinging London's interpretation of American soul and jazz, distilled down to their very essence, then dolled up to frilly, hard-boiled excess. Lush string arrangements reminiscent of the once-booming Philly sound inhabit opener "Number One Spy" (as they do most of composer Syd Dale's four opulent cuts), blurring the line between menace and cool. "Knock on Wood" sounds like an anthem for bad mutha Shaft as he gets lost in funky Chinatown, while Dale's punchier "Disko Tek" meets all of the general library guidelines for both "medium tempo" and "technology-themed."

More apt to hire a lone Moog artist than an entire orchestra, the vault-keepers of library music nevertheless encouraged innovation for their endless amount of budget-conscious footage. Better-known composers -- at least outside of the library circle -- include swing pianist Dick Hyman ("Flute Loop"). But the demand for sheer quantities of sounds gave less notable writers like Steve Gray ("Winning Is Easy") and David Snell ("Crab Apple Jam") opportunities to tweak the established soul formula with overt lightheartedness and progressive harp solos, respectively. Flaunting an over-reliance on Curtis Mayfield-style sound-alikes (Piet Van Meren's "Cool Echo" shamelessly apes "Superfly"), the collection succeeds in rescuing a few great period tunes from the scrap heap of the Blaxploitation era, too. Listen closely enough and you can imagine Pam Grier ear-hustlin' Black Caesar with a lusty "Et tu, baby?" You dig?

 
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