Friday, January 16, 2009
Vanishing Point Soundtrack
I can't even quite remember how I first came across the 1971 cult-classic film "Vanishing Point." It probably had something to do the Delaney & Bonnie kick I was on several years back when I found some obscure reference to a movie that they appeared in playing musical Jesus-Freaks that lived out in the desert. I managed to catch part of the movie on cable TV and then a few years later found a gently-used VHS copy at a thrift store. I was of course on the hunt for the soundtrack, but that proved a little trickier to find. I managed to find a copy in Porto Alegre, of all places, in the southern part of Brazil. Why, you ask, would this obscure movie soundtrack deserve a Brazilian pressing? It turns out that the major Brazilian TV network, Globo, used the song "Freedom of Expression" by the J.B. Pickers (featured below) as the theme song to one of their news programs, "Globo Reporter".
Here's the original movie preview:
Here's the US release of the album:
The J.B. Pickers - Super Soul Theme
So, who exactly were the J.B. Pickers? Well, the J.B. I assume stands for Jimmy Bowen, a longtime Nashville producer who was big in the late 60s country-pop scene, having shepherded the careers of Kenny Rogers and Glen Campbell, among others. He came out with a book about a decade ago retelling his story and rise to fame and fortune in the country music business - he retired before Garth Brooks could have him fired. Jimmy's players have three tracks on the soundtrack, two of them being included here and the last credited to "Jimmy Bowen Orchestra" being a little schmaltzy as the score to the nostalgic/romantic flashback scenes. This track here is the one for the beat-heads with its open drum-break intro and funky vamping. Country-Funk, served up in honor of DJ Super Soul aka Cleavon Little, best known as the black cowboy from Mel Brooks' Blazing Saddles.
Here's the scene that introduces DJ Super Soul and is fairly representative of the film in its artsy approach and deliberate pacing: small-town life contrasted with a high-flying car chase.
Bobby Doyle - The Girl Done Got It Together
I have no idea who Bobby Doyle is but I've always liked this uptempo country-rock nugget that is the soundtrack to the an earlier scene in the movie before things start to go horribly wrong.
Gotta love the naked hippy chick cruising around the desert on a motorcycle.
Jerry Reed - Welcome to Nevada
Jerry Reed is another big name in 1970s country and I really like this rocky instrumental that was clearly written for this movie as Kowalski makes it halfway to San Francisco and enters Nevada.
The J.B. Pickers - Freedom of Expression
This is the track from Brazil's "Globo Reporter". I've also found it make a perfect soundtrack to high-stakes driving as it happened to be playing on the CD player one winter while heading home from some hot-springs in the mountains with 6 inches of slushy snow on the ground, the sun setting and our minivan fishtailing down the road. My dad was driving and after a minute or two of white-knuckled musical accompaniment, he kindly asked me to turn it off as the driving was stressful enough.
Jimmy Walker - Where Do We Go From Here?
Like the Bobby Doyle track, I have no idea where Jimmy Walker came from or where he want after this soundtrack, but this is another poppy tune that really gets stuck in your head. It's also kind of like Kowalski's theme song . . . "Hooray for the man of vision."
Delaney, Bonnie & Friends - You Got To Believe
This is the Delaney & Bonnie track that seems to have actually been recorded on set and specifically for this movie. If you see the movie you'll notice that an uncredited Rita Coolidge is also part of D&B's religious tribe. In doing research for this post I learned that Delaney Bramlett passed away at the age of 69 just after Christmas. He will be missed. I will definitely be doing a fuller D&B post in the future on Weed, Whites & Wine, so stay tuned.
This really is kinda the perfect soundtrack for Weed, Whites & Wine with its cross-pollination of country and rock and even its overt drug references (Kowalski's marathon car-chase is fueled by pills and he meets the hippy chick and her hippy daddy in search of a refill).
The film is well known enough to illicit numerous tributes, among them a couple of Chrysler employees trying to convince us that their new Challenger is in the mold of the famous white Challenger from the movie.
Or here we have the lead single, "Kowalski" from Primal Scream's 1997 album, "Vanishing Point". If the film wasn't such a cult classic, the references would have probably been over the top, but these guys were clearly fans of the film and Kowalski's heroic story. Their video is a visual homage to the film.