It never ceases to astonish me, when trawling through the discographies of assorted recording artists, how many non-country singers feel compelled to cut an album of Nashville standards. Soul divas Millie Jackson, Tina Turner, and Esther Phillips have all ventured down that dusty road. Even Marianne Faithfull, two years before returning to form with Broken English, took at stab at "It Wasn't God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels." But Jeff Stryker? The mind reels.
LIALEH SOUNDTRACK CD-RELEASE PARTY Re-Bar, 206-233-9873, $5 9 p.m. Sat., May 3
For those urbane readers unfamiliar with Stryker, he is, arguably, the world's best-known gay porn model (as they call them in the industry). And now the star of such video store staples as Bigger Than Life and Powertool is busy peddling twang-infused original songs like "What a Man Has to Do" anddeep breath"Pop You in the Pooper."
I suppose this aesthetic evolution was inevitable. Like many of his colleagues, Stryker isperhaps not inexplicably, given his milieudrawn to microphones. Almost as long as they have been making X-rated films, porn stars have been cutting records. Dennis Parker, who under the screen name Wade Nichols starred in Barbara Broadcast (Best Picture of 1977, according to the esteemed editors of Screw), cut a fine disco full-length with Jacques Morali, creator of the Village People. Behind the Green Door starlet Marilyn Chambers gave us the blink-and-you-missed-it single "Benihana," while Andrea Truewho can been seen in such blue movies as the M*A*S*H parody Smash'd actually hit the Top 10 in 1976 with "More, More, More."
While plenty of skin-flick vets have parlayed their celebrity in the adult entertainment industry into record contracts, it's rare for a well-known musician to lend their name to the soundtrack of a pornographic film. Sure, recent CDs like the Deep Note series, Vampyros Lesbos, and the go-go brilliance of Schulmädchen Report by Gert Wilden & His Orchestra have deservedly brought some groovy tunes from "nudies" to listeners who never experienced them in their original contexts, but speaking from firsthand experience, when most folks watch porn, they don't expect a world-class soundtrack.
The original movie soundtrack to Lialeh ("the black Deep Throat"), performed by Bernard "Pretty" Purdie, is the rare exception that proves the rule. Purdie was, and still is, one of the most revered drummers of 20th-century pop and soul, having played with such notables as Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan, Gil Scott-Heron, and James Brown, among many, many others. He even famously alleged, back in a 1978 interview with Gig magazine, that he was the uncredited drummer on as many as 21 early Beatles tracks, a dubious (but not wholly unfounded) claim still debated among Fab Four fans.
Although he'd already released a handful of solo albums by the time Lialeh was made in 1974, Purdie still viewed scoring this blaxploitation porno as a good opportunity, and not just because the band got to play on the set. This was Purdie's first chance to have a screen credit as a writer/producer. And while the film is, by all accounts, eminently forgettable, its ultrarare soundtrack LP has become a Holy Grail to funk enthusiasts. Thank goodness then, for those of us who couldn't afford to cough up a couple months' salary for a copy (if you could even find one), that Seattle's own Light in the Attic imprint has just reissued it on both CD and LP.
Does Lialeh measure up to Shaft or Superfly? Hell, yes. Unlike many impossible-to-find platters from days of yore, this one has stood the test of time. OK, maybe the breathy vocals and questionable lyrics of "All Pink on the Inside" didn't need to be saved for posterity, but the rest of this seven-song selection is rock solid, from the fluttering flute of "Touch Me Again" to the breakbeat bonanza "Happ'nin'." Strangely, a couple of the mellower selections could even pass for gospel numbers; "Conscious" sounds like the sort of track a worldly churchgoer such as Merry Clayton might have included on one of her albums from the same era, while "Pass Me Not" suggests a New Orleans funeral band interpreting the Stephen Foster standard "Old Folks at Home."
Like all the Light in the Attic releases to date, the label has done a bang-up job on the packaging for Lialeh. The LP (on 180-gram vinyl) comes with a reproduction of the original movie poster ("Soul Sound! Soul Sisters! Soul Love!"), while the CD features liner notes by Stones Throw label manager Egon, the man responsible for last year's regional rarities comp The Funky 16 Corners. So this Saturday, the LITA crew is throwing a little shindig at Re-Bar, featuring a DJ set of "sweaty funk and sticky soul" by the Sharpshooters. And with good reason, because believe me, funk lovers, the rerelease Lialeh is something to celebrate.