Present heatwaves aside, summer barbecues and the South go together like Kenneth Starr and subpoenas. There’s just something communal and cultural about massive gatherings of people near a lake, beach, or backyard with barbecued food and beer that makes for sweet nostalgia. And memory is complete without a soundtrack? In what is the first of a series of “party packs,” Rhino has devised this tasty package of music and recipes for barbecue fun, putting the soul into barbecue like nobody else.
Okay, it’s a little on the convoluted side. I mean, who needs a blueprint for a party but the truly pathetic sheep. But Rhino seems to realize this, replacing any potential patronizing with cute essays on the relevance of barbecues and how the music fits the mood. And while I haven’t tried any of the recipes provided inside their typically exquisite packaging, they’re mouth-watering to read. The packet also includes a history of barbecue, a planning timeline and shopping lists, invitations that can be copied, games and activities to keep the fun moving along, and even coupons.
And then, of course, is the music, 35 straight-up food-themed soul tracks on two discs, with two bonus tracks — Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man” and Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” — offered as “Special Karaoke-Mix Tracks,” though I don’t hear much difference. Hearing these songs in sequence certainly accomplish their goal: you wind up hungry both for food and more soul. Starting with King Curtis’ “Memphis Soul Stew” and finishing up with Betty Wright’s “Clean Up Woman” — yes, some of the selections are a bit of a reach — Bar-B-Que Soul-a-Bration! works as a tribute to this particular brand of soul food. There are the obvious big hits, such as Booker T. and the MGs “Green Onions” and “Smokey Joe’s Cafe,” but then there are more obscure tracks such as the Mong Santamaria Band’s “Watermelon Man” and Tony Joe White’s “Polk Salad Annie.” My personal favorite: Willie Bobo’s “Fried Neck Bones.”
Also look out for party packs ’70s Disco Ball and Yuletide Soiree’, a Christmas-themed party pack.
I can’t believe I got through this without a “finger-licking good” reference. Whew! Rhino Entertainment Company, 10635 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025-4900