- The burning of Atlanta
- Buddah records
Let’s start with a little history lesson to get the picture what’s with the name and meaning of this album. During the US civil war Atlanta was a very important hub of war supplies for the Confederacy. Therefore it was a main target for the the Union army. In 1864 general William Sherman took over the city after a four month siege and ordered all civilian population to be evacuated. After that he burned the city to ashes saving only churches and hospitals. Atlanta however rose from these ashes and the Phoenix bird has been the official symbol of the city since 1888.
In 1973 actor Ed Waller dropped by Lance-Arnold Recording Studios (owned by Herb Lance and Calvin Arnold) to see producer Tommy Stewart (of “Bump and hustle music” fame) who was at the moment producing several r’n'b and funk artists. With Waller was a gentlemen by the name of Bill Stokes. He was carrying a hand-sketched script of a proposed movie and he needed Stewart to write the musical score for his upcoming “The Burning of Atlanta Movie”. The movie would’ve been about the Atlanta underworld during the rise of the city after the 1864 burning. Stewart started to write the score right away and in May of 1973 and they premiered the musical score at the new Atlanta International Hotel with G.C. Coleman’s band - the band was renamed The Spirit of Atlanta before the premiere. G.C. Coleman is by the way the drummer behind the most sampled drum break in the history of music - the Amen break.
So there it was, a fresh panoramic scope of a classic blaxploitation soundtrack full of great tracks. But for a reason or another, the movie were never released. The supposed-to-be soundtrack was however released on Buddah records by the name The burning of Atlanta. As said, the music is very strong blaxploitation material that reminds me very much of the great Superfly soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield. There’s even an answer song to that soundtrack - intentional or unintentional, that I don’t know - called “Freddie’s alive and well”. You all remember “Freddie’s dead”, right? “Freddie’s alive and well” is an uptempo blaxploitation funk track with lots of wah wah, catchy vocals and a long drum break with some percussions. One of my all time favorite songs I should say. Another uptempo track, “Messin’ around”, is quite similar but instrumental funky groover. Then there’s “Hunter street”, another uptempo blaxploitation track with a strong chase feeling. Maybe it was intended to be placed on the movie’s chase sequence. Tommy Stwewart used to work part-time at Johnson’s Music Store on Hunter Street and that’s where he supposingly got the name for the track. Hunter Street was later named Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.
Clarence Carter was also involved with the album. He sung the vocals in “Buttermilk bottom”, a very funky soul tune with a strong classic blaxploitation feel in it. Buttermilk bottom was a crime ridden neighborhood considered by the city leaders as a slum. They decided that the entire neighborhood needed to go and it was torn down to make way for the Atlanta Civic Center, opened in 1968. Another mellow funky soul track is “Peachtree street”, and that street is the main street of the city of Atlanta. “Auburn avenue” instead is a midtempo funky soul track - again with a very strong blaxploitation feel. Auburn avenue in Atlanta include Sweet Auburn, a historic African-American neighborhood. Last two tracks on the album are “Vine city”, an instrumental downtempo funk groover and “Down underground”, a midtempo instrumental with catchy horns. I reckon this album among the best funk albums ever made, that’s how great it really is.
Freddie’s alive and well