Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Sizzling soundtracks


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It's fitting that the Talking Heads' "Life During Wartime" is the opening track on CBGB: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Omnivore). After all, the notorious nightclub that launched countless musical careers, including Talking Heads', is name-checked in the song with the line, "This ain't no Mudd Club or CBGB." The 20 period tracks, including "Careful" by Television, "Blank Generation" by Richard Hell & The Voidoids, "Out of Control" by (a pre-Jayne County) Wayne County & The Electric Chairs, "I Can't Stand It" by the Velvet Underground and "Caught with the Meat in Your Mouth" by Dead Boys, do a decent job of representing the era. If the movie, starring Alan Rickman as Hilly Kristal and Malin Akerman as Debbie Harry (!), is as good as the soundtrack, then punk rockers worldwide have nothing to fear.

Talking Heads and Lou Reed (of the Velvet Underground) also appear on 20 Feet from Stardom: Music from the Motion Picture (Columbia), but their presence has less to do with them than the women singing back-up on their songs "Slippery People" and "Walk on the Wild Side." The (mainly) "colored girls" going, "Doo do doo do doo do do doo" are the subject of Morgan Neville's enlightening doc about the powerful vocalists relegated to the background and out of the spotlight for too long. You'll have to see the movie to hear them tell their fascinating and moving stories, but you can hear Merry Clayton, Darlene Love, Lisa Fischer and others singing back-up and solo on this fabulous 13-song soundtrack. 

Beginning with Strictly Ballroom, his first (and best) movie, Baz Luhrmann made it clear that music would play a significant role in his work. That remained true in Romeo + Juliet and Moulin Rouge, as well as his latest, The Great Gatsby, now available on DVD and Blu-ray. Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film The Great Gatsby (Interscope) is a considerable improvement on the movie. The ubiquitous and usually annoying Jay Z and Will.I.Am are tolerable on "$100 Bills" and "Bang Bang." But there are better songs on this soundtrack. They include Beyonce and Andre 3000's languorous reading of Amy Winehouse's "Back in Black," the straight disco of "A Little Party Never Killed Nobody" by Fergie, Q Tip and Goonrock, the dramatic "Young and Beautiful" by Lana Del Rey, the retro interpretation of "Crazy in Love" by Emeli Sande and the Bryan Ferry Orchestra, as well as great contributions from queer acts such as Sia ("Kill and Run") and The XX ("Together").

The music supervisors behind Behind the Candelabra: Music from the HBO Original Film (Elektra) could have taken the easy way out, filling up the soundtrack album to the Liberace biopic with tunes performed by the flamboyant yet tragic pianist. To their credit, they went the extra mile and included actual film dialogue. From Matt Damon's intro as Scott Thorson in "Liberace Fanfare" to Michael Douglas' Liberace speaking in "The Liberace Boogie," "Why Do I Love You" and the unexpectedly touching "The Impossible Dream," Behind the Candelabra feels authentically connected to the film, now available on DVD. As Liberace himself said, "Too much of a good thing is wonderful."

The outlook for the fall 2013 film slate looks promising. That's good because, for the most part, the movies released during the spring and summer were major disappointments. One of the biggest surprises and delights was the apocalyptic stoner comedy This Is The End, co-written and directed by the movie's star Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. The music on This Is The End: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA) runs the gamut from Backstreet Boys to Whitney Houston, but is primarily focused on hip-hop. Legendary acts such as KRS-One and Cypress Hill represent, but Snoop Dogg (aka Snoop Lion) teams up with Craig Robinson (who appears in the movie) for laughs on "Take Yo Panties Off."

The list of various artists on Stuck in Love: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Varese Sarabande) and Save the Date: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Lakeshore) read like a hipster Who's Who. Save the Date features songs by Wilco and Class Act, not to mention a vintage and timely track by Giorgio Moroder. Stuck in Love is comprised of the score written and performed by Mike Mogis and Nathaniel Walcott, as well as selections by Conor Oberst, Bright Eyes and Elliott Smith, among others.

It's been years since Disney had a memorable or hit song from one of its movies. So who can blame them for wanting to celebrate (read: recycle) their former glories with a 20-track compilation in the Now series titled Now That's What I Call Disney (Walt Disney Records). Going back to 1937 ("Someday My Prince Will Come" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs) and wrapping it up in 2010 ("I See rhe Light" from Tangled), the collection has some worthwhile selections, including "The Bare Necessities" (The Jungle Book), "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" (Cinderella), "You've Got a Friend in Me" (Toy Story), "Bella Notte" (Lady and the Tramp) and "Circle of Life" (The Lion King). But, as is the case with anthologies, there are also throwaways that weigh down the project, including songs from Cars, Mulan, The Aristocats, Hercules and Lilo & Stitch.

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