In 1974 a movie entitled Claudine staring Diahann Carroll and James Earl Jones hit the movies screens. A lot of people really don’t remember the movie and even less remember a single song from the soundtrack. Both were great and the soundtrack was phenomenal but what makes the soundtrack ill is the great Curtis Mayfield was brains behind it. I was watching the commentary part of Let’s Do It Again ( I told you that’s my geek zone) and Armond White made a great comment, since Mayfield had written and produced that soundtrack as well, that was that Mayfield was in a zone during the that time. It’s true from Sparkle to Superfly Mayfield was putting it down and set the standard for what the sounds cape for black films should sound like back then. What makes Claudine soundtrack ill isn’t just Mayfield but Gladys Knight being the vocalist. Gladys Knight, and The Pips had just left Motown and beside being the known for recording “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” first her Motown career was just abit better than The Isley Brothers, yes they were on Motown in the beginning of their career.
Getting to the soundtrack itself it sets off with one of my favorite songs on the album is “Mr. Welfare Man”, which when the welfare lady comes to visit Claudines’ apartment in the movie the hook and instrumental comes in, it’s a great song in general. It’s a strong empowering song where Gladys Knight voice singing makes it such a powerful song. The lines where she states “They say I’m a Lazy woman, don’t love my children and my living is unfit/ I must divorce him, cut off my all ties, cause his rules makes me sick” in a whisper as her first lines is great. As the song continues she places more emotion in her voice. The beat was jacked Adele on her first album. Not sure what song it was at this time though, but I remember me and my then girlfriend stared at one another and respected the move because someone knows their music to grab this beat. What makes this soundtrack sick is the music and the arrangement is so Curtis Mayfield 100% hands down. Some people complain that his music can be too musical, but all the instruments used really bring out songs more so the slow songs. Point with this is “To Be Invisible” where Gladys Knight sounds so at home over all the music playing behind and The Pips blend in as instruments themselves. This song is strong and sad but honest to its core. I actually dislike “On & On” out of the seven songs and I really never let the shit play. One reason it sounds like a song from the 70’s, other songs are timeless but this has date to it. We come to the classic and a perfect example of yes how Mayfield over produces a song but then you hear how beautiful this song sounds. That song I’m referring to is “The Makings Of You”. Now when people remake this or even think of this song they instantly connect to Mayfield live version which is stripped down musically to nothing more than a guitar, bongos and drums. I even have the studio version Mayfield recorded and I have to say Gladys Knight version is hands down the BEST version I’ve heard and is the original. Her voice is so soulful and silky over the strings, keys and guitar plucks that play in the background. I never noticed that it was just how short the song is until I got this soundtrack which makes me love it even more. The theme song “Claudine Theme”, instrumental plays midway through the album, guess it would have been too easy to set the album off with this? It’s a nice two minute and some seconds break I guess, I do love the breakdown it has though. Another song I’m not completely feeling is ‘Hold On”. Not sure why it could be the churchy, bluesy feel it has. I wasn’t and still not trying to hear Knight in that blend. Song seven and what a wonderful way to end things off is “Make Yours A Happy Home”. I heard this did come on the radio back in the days and I could see why if it did, it’s breezy and compared to the other songs on the album the less busy music wise. It flows so flawless and the subtle submissive angle Knight takes on in the song is cool too. It’s a nice way to end off a short and sweet soundtrack.
Like I said back then if Mayfield had a hand in it back then it was going to be great without even giving it a second thought, then add Gladys Knight and the Pips to mix you’re looking at a classic. If someone was to come across this today and knowing these two artists contributions to world would want to get it without even listening to it. Back in the days I’m not sure how the connection was viewed but I have to think it had to be good. I still don’t know a lot of people older or other wise that have a copy of this but I did see ‘Mr. Welfare man” posted on youtube and comments were all good and people were talking about getting the album. If you can find it get and get the movie too, I ordered mine from Amazon.