The Return of the 5000 Lb. Man
The final album Rahsaan Roland Kirk recorded before a stroke left him partially paralyzed in late 1975, The Return of the 5000 Lb. Man is deceptively modest. It is one of Kirk’s most intimate works. As was his custom, Kirk chose to record several of his favorite songs, a typically mixed bag of modern hits and jazz classics. The vocal versions of Charles Mingus’ “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” and John Coltrane’s “Giant Steps” at first seem audacious, but are in fact deeply reverential rejoinders to two of Kirk’s most beloved peers. “I’ll Be Seeing You” and “There Will Never Be Another You” look towards an earlier generation of jazz composers — one to which Kirk always paid tribute, even in the midst of his most ornery ventures. The version of “Sweet Georgia Brown” is definitive of Kirk’s irrepressible joy, but it is his reading of Minnie Riperton’s “Loving You” — at this time a brand-new song — that shows Kirk’s ears were always open, equally attuned to melodies that might be separated by several decades. For the album’s many pleasures, its core is “Theme For the Eulipions,” in collaboration with poet and drama teacher Betty Neals.