Inner Thumb Soul Ecstasy

The entire story behind Soul Ecstasy reeks of apocrypha, but the record company swears it’s legit, so here goes. Seems that an incendiary blaxploitation film called Soul Ecstasy dropped the bomb in movie houses in 1972 with an explosive narrative concerning Black Panthers, Chinese radicals, the white slave trade and the like, all of which seemed calculated to incite audiences to revolution. The "Establishment" accordingly shut the film down, and if you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of it, well, there is apparently no print of the film in existence. What we do have is the script, stills and happily, the newly released soundtrack recorded by a one-off collection of sidemen called the Inner Thumb. So while we can only speculate as to the quality of the movie, I can tell you that the soundtrack is good. Maybe a little too good — I’m still not convinced that the whole thing is not a hoax. The theme song is, in fact, one of the only tracks that credibly passes for 1972, being a vintage bit of hot-buttered blaxploitation soul somewhere between "Inner City Blues" and "Pusherman" — sweet soul music about redemptive love in dangerous times. The rest of the soundtrack — all instrumental — sounds like a whimsical odyssey through the last 25 years of funk and soul hybrids. Most stunning are those tracks, such as "Citroens & Sitars," where deep blue funk grooves get jiggy with Asian influences, in a way that most of us thought Cornershop and the whole Asian underground thing had only gotten around to playing within the past five years or so. More remarkable is how assured the alleged Inner Thumb is in articulating these crossovers — there’s nothing tentative, nor even cheesy about them. The incredulity that this putative soundtrack elicits should in no way be interpreted as a slag, but testimony to how contemporary and adventurous it sounds by today’s standards. And if it really was recorded in 1972, then it’s merely 20-plus years ahead of its time. (Emperor Norton)