Marvin (Penze) Gaye Vince Aletti - Essay

Vince Aletti

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Even when a movie soundtrack isn't so awful you'd just as soon throw it down the stairs, it very rarely achieves anything beyond a sort of banal, predictable mood music; a little suspense, a little drama, an ooze of romance, maybe a brisk driving-in-the-car-to-possible danger track counterpointed with a lighter, romantic-leads-take-a-walk sequence—all compressed, like a week's worth of garbage, for one tight, bright under-the credits Main Theme. Altogether, it's about as creative as an hour of elevator muzak and only slightly more bearable….

Marvin Gaye's work for Trouble Man (yet another Shaft-style black film, this one dropped from sight soon after its release) falls somewhere between that of [Isaac Hayes for Shaft and Curtis Mayfield for Superfly]. He lacks the Hayes double-punch but avoids his heavy-handedness. While there's no attempt to make a song-score like that of Superfly—"Trouble Man," the title song, is practically the only cut with lyrics and even these are spare—Gaye, like Mayfield, has created a score strong enough to be completely independent of the film. It's not a lot of fluff wrapped around some slick images and obvious themes; mostly, it's sweet and churning jazz that abstracts the action rather than decorating or interpreting it.

Gaye's first album since his surprising and innovative What's Goin' On more than a year ago, Trouble Man doesn't...

(The entire section is 403 words.)