Review: The Mack And His Pack (1983)
Composer: Alan Silvestri
Label: ALA Records (LP transfer)
Catalogue Nr.: Bootleg
The Mack, starring Max Julien and Richard Pryor, is a so-called cult classic from the blaxploitation era in 1973 about pimps, hookers and crime. There was a straight-to-video reissue of this film ten years later which quickly disappeared and therefore remains a mystery. Some people claim that it was actually an unsuccessful sequel while others are convinced that it was just a re-release of the original film from 1973 created to cash-in on the success of actor Richard Pryor. Re-issue or not, the soundtrack was released on LP by ALA Records but disappeared just as quick as the film it was composed for. Since then it has become a collectible for fans of composer Alan Silvestri who replaced the score by the late Willie Hutch from the original 1973's take.
The soundtrack LP from The Mack represents the first major release of Alan Silvestri's music for a film. For that fact alone it is worth a listen for all fans of the composer who want to check out his work before Romancing The Stone (1984). The Mack is music for a small ensemble with brass, saxophone, (synth?) strings, slap bass and electric guitar creating a funky 80's neon-light atmosphere. It is amazing how present this kind of orchestration will be in his later scores for Downtown (1990) or Outrageous Fortune (1987). Even the use of slap bass in his score for Sgt. Bilko (1996) more than ten years later slightly echoes the style of The Mack. The coolness factor of the music is extremely high while there is again a hint of Silvestri's sound especially in the usage of brass which would later transfer to his masterful orchestral scores. This fresh score is basically Alan Silvestri doing Shaft.
The music starts with the nice, relaxing song "In The Beginning" featuring a solid vocal performance by Silvestri's old buddy Gene McDanields and showcases the composer's talent in arranging songs before the first piece of score starts to play in "Cruising". Occasional brass strikes, a constant slap bass beat and sax build up to a hip melody for the full ensemble bearing a jazzy feeling which is a nice introduction for the score. There are no themes in this score but rhythmic ideas and rather simplistic motifs that will re-occur from time to time. The next track "Planetarium" is a feast for Silvestri fans because it clearly bears a style of writing that foreshadows his orchestral music with the usage of brass fanfares and strings. This goes on in "Kill Fats" which starts with string and brass suddenly flaring up before a short but suspenseful action cue with bongo drums and exciting string writing takes over. The end of the cue is introducing a brief motif which is reminiscent of the theme Silvestri composed later for Stop! Or My Mom Will Shot! (1992).
"Here Today" is a cue which is not that interesting because it does not feature much variation though still offers a relaxing mood and nice rhythm. The smooth song "Party Time" follows featuring crazy vocals by Gene McDanields. It is that kind of song that you would expect to hear on an early 80's drug-party (which is not meant as an insult btw). Watch out for a typical Silvestri jungle percussion passage in that song.
The score continues as "We Can Beat This" strikes with a short brass outburst and goes on with bongo rhythms accompanied by slap bass before the motif from the end of "Kill Fats" returns. Suspense music quickly sets in with deep strings, a flute and e-guitar riffs. There is a hint of Romancing The Stone at the end of the cue with a romantic but somehow depressive melody that clearly foreshadows the love theme of the later score. "Play Ball" is a cue with a cool rhythm, short piano riffs and nice sax that resembles the arrangement heard it "Planetarium" earlier on. "Slim" is another fun cue with bright piano riffs, a catchy rhythm and cool slap bass accompaniment. When you listen to this collection of cool cues, you immediately think of driving through a big city in a cabriole. Of course, this is nothing exceptional when it comes to composition but still a nice feel-good experience and a short but fun listening experience.
Review by Andreas Creutzburg
Score as heard in the film: 64%
Score as heard on CD: 62%
Another hard-to-find LP transfer of an earlier Silvestri score though this one was easier to dig out than the LP transfer of the weird score for Par Où T'es Rentré... (1984). I guess that's due to the content which is clearly superior.
Presentation by the Label: Bootleg
Indeed, this is Alan Silvestri doing Shaft! The Mack is a small bag of fun rhythms and offers fine arrangements for a small band ensemble with the integration of some Silvestri trademarks that would later transfer into his orchestral music. While being hard to find, The Mack represents the best available source of high quality Alan Silvestri music predating Romancing The Stone. If you plan to check this earlier silvestri stuff out, The Mack would be the best way to go.
1. In The Beginning (04:30)
2. Cruisin (01:50)
3. Planetarium (02:45)
4. Kill Fats (01:35)
5. Here Today (03:45)
6. Party Time (04:35)
7. We Can Beat This (03:50)
8. Play Ball (01:35)
9. Slim (04:30)