CD Review: Songs From Scandal - Music For Gladiators

Twelve classic soul tracks make for a fine soundtrack to Scandal.
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On the television series, Scandal, Kerry Washington plays Olivia Pope, a character loosely based on former George Bush press aide, Judy Smith. Like Smith, who represented the likes of Monica Lewinsky and Chandra Levy, among others, Pope is a crisis management person for the elite, making sure their dirty laundry never gets aired. The very nature of her business leads to much drama in Pope's life and, as such, a powerful soundtrack is in order to really bring the show to life. The Stax label has released Songs From Scandal -- Music For Gladiators, a strong collection of soul classics from the 1960s and 1970s that does just that.

The album begins, appropriately enough, with Edwin Starr's "War." Starr's impassioned vocals soar over the driving horn section of this classic track. This song about the scandal of war works equally well about the scandals that affect people's lives. The horns pop on the track and the sound quality is excellent throughout the CD. Sticking with the political is Sly & The Family Stone's memorable pop soul song of acceptance, "Everyday People." The message of the song still resonates to this day.

In an attempt to bring the song into the present, the RAC remix of "Respect Yourself" adds modern production, rock guitars and a hip hop drumbeat to this Staples Singers anthem. While it succeeds on some levels -- the song now sounds as if it could have been recorded this year -- it's not really necessary either. It also makes the track stand out, given that the other songs on the album are in their original incarnations.

Not all the songs here are politically motivated. Some are just about having a good time and letting loose. From the instantly recognizable organ licks that open Booker T. & The M.G.'s gem, "Green Onions," to the disco funk of KC And The Sunshine Band's "Get Down Tonight," these are two of the all-time great party songs.

While it would be impossible to truly represent classic soul music in 12 songs, Songs From Scandal presents a nice cross section of music that any fan of the genre needs to own. From the psychedelic soul of Rufus and Chaka Khan's "Tell Me Something Good" to the stark piano balladry of Nina Simone's "I Think It's Going To Rain Today," Songs From Scandal tries to offer something for everyone and, for 12 songs, does a good job.