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Vinyl Cave: Catch My Soul original soundtrack

Sometimes dedicated crate digging yields an album the finder is amazed he or she has never heard of before. This recently happened to me when going through a box that turned out to be nearly all late '60s and early '70 soundtracks. There were many interesting, obscure titles -- Brewster McCloud, The Wild Rovers, Angel, Angel Down We Go, among others -- but the one that left me thinking "What?!?" was for a film I'd never heard of, one called Catch My Soul.

Judging only by the cover and booklet, it's a hippie rock musical adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello ... directed by The Prisoner himself, Patrick McGoohan ... with a cast that includes Tony Joe White, Richie Havens, Delaney & Bonnie (Bramlett), Elvis stunt double Lance LeGault and (since it is from the '70s) Susan Tyrell. What?!? In my years of watching exploitation films, and as a fan of Tony Joe White, how have I never heard of this?

Digging for some backstory reveals it's probably because many of those involved with this production would prefer that it disappears into the mists of time. The Wikipedia entry on the film quotes a Premiere interview with McGoohan, who said the producer converted to Catholicism, recut the finished fim, added a bunch of unrelated religious material and then refused to remove McGoohan's name from it. The entry also recounts that the film was trashed by critics, quickly bombed, and -- though it wasn't intended for such -- was indeed shunted to the drive-through circuit under the new title Santa Fe Satan. A quick search of eBay and Amazon does not turn up any home video issue under either title, another point in its obscurity.

The bits and pieces written online about the film itself make it sound like a mess, probably endearingly so for fans of mixed-up flicks, so I'd definitely watch it if given a chance. But what about the soundtrack?

As it turns out, the musicians starring in the movie were involved in writing the songs, occasionally co-credited with producer/playwright Jack Good. That's a good start, but not much material here is given a chance to develop into a full-fledged song. There are 11 tracks listed for side one and 13 for side two, which should give an idea of what's going on here: The music is parceled out in pieces as it likely was in the film, and what would potentially be songs are in some cases spread across a number of cuts to maintain the story line. At times, this piecemeal approach leaves the listener really wishing someone would go back and finish some of these songs off, as with Bonnie Bramlett's lone lead vocal here, "Chug A Lug," and White's "Backwoods Preacherman."

While that means the album is herky-jerky, it's still an entertaining listen, because much of the music is in the same woodshed as Tony Joe White's earlier swamp-rock-funk-twang efforts. There's lots of gospel-influenced shouting and funky guitar and a few orchestra/strings moments, apart from Tyrell's Mae West takeoff ("Tickle His Fancy," which sounds just like you think it does) and a couple Havens-led songs. The soundtrack also makes McGoohan's complaint about additional religious material being added late in the game seem somewhat incongruous, since the music is certainly focused on God versus the Devil. The film is named Catch My Soul, after all.

Part of the reason the soundtrack album is nearly as obscure as the movie is probably because it was one of the last LPs issued by the haphazard Metromedia label, an outfit that left behind a highly confusing if intriguing discography (PDF), ranging from Julius LaRosa to cowboy star Chill Wills to The Holy Modal Rounders to its only real hitmaker, Bobby Sherman. Catch My Soul was probably only available for a short time during a short-lived distribution deal with major RCA before Metromedia went completely under. Any fans of Tony Joe White or funky '70s swamp rock should scarf this up if you see it skulking around the used bins. (Metromedia BML1-0176, 1973)

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