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MUSIC: Even More Stage and Screen
by Gregg Shapiro
2004-04-07

This article shared 3080 times since Wed Apr 7, 2004
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Every once in a while, a movie soundtrack comes along that is as wonderful as the movie with which it is associated. The Triplets of Belleville (Higher Octave) is one such soundtrack. Composed by Ben Charest, the songs are as animated as the feature itself and delightfully capture the spirit and charm of the characters and the story. The 'triplets' of the title, an aged singing sister act, can be heard performing songs such as 'Under The Bridge' and the Oscar-nominated 'Belleville Rendez-vouz' (in both French and English), while Charest's cinematic score functions as the ideal musical illustration for this cartoon that is destined to become a classic.

You could say the same for Eternal Sunshine For The Spotless Mind: Original Soundtrack (Hollywood). Jon Brion's score, which dominates the soundtrack, is wired with the same wary whimsy as his score for Punch Drunk Love, and is well-suited to the film. Peppered with sunny tunes from E.L.O. ('Blue Sky'), The Polyphonic Spree ('Light & Day,' 'It's The Sun'), Don (brother of Ozzie) Nelson ('Some Kinda Shuffle,' 'Nola's Bounce'), a new garage trio called The Willowz ('Something,' 'I Wonder'), and Indian playback singer (a singer who records songs that are lip-synched to in Bollywood) Lata Mangeshkar ('Wada Na Tod), the soundtrack also has Beck's cloudy cover of The Korgis' tune 'Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime.'

Sometimes the opposite occurs, as in the case of One From The Heart: Music From The Motion Picture (Columbia/Legacy/Sony Music Soundtrax). In this instance, the soundtrack, with music by Tom Waits, and vocals by Waits and Crystal Gayle (yes, I did say Crystal Gayle!) is so superior to the movie that it takes on a life of its own. The 1982 soundtrack has developed a well-deserved cult following, and this expanded reissue (including the previously unreleased tracks 'Candy Apple Red' and 'Once Upon A Town/Empty Pockets') celebrates that fact. The movie itself is about to also get another chance with the restored and remastered DVD version of One From The Heart due out soon.

I don't think I ever realized how well-suited electronic musician BT (Brian Transeau) would be to soundtrack scoring until I heard his music in the movie Monster. On Music From and Inspired By The Film Monster (DTS), you can experience BT's haunting and memorable music from this difficult movie in which Charlize Theron, in a groundbreaking performance, portrays the late serial killer Aileen Wuornos. One of the best examples of the effectiveness of BT's score is the track titled 'Ferris Wheel,' which captures the power of the scene in which the fearful Aileen is convinced by her girlfriend Selby (Christina Ricci) to ride on the Ferris wheel. The music beautifully conjures both the caution and the exhilaration of the scene.

In addition to his founding member role in Talking Heads, and his solo work (which included composing scores for collaborations with Twyla Tharp and Robert Wilson), David Byrne has also occasionally focused his considerable talents on the cinema. Examples of his film score work include The Last Emperor and True Stories (and Stop Making Sense, if you want to be a stickler). Lead Us Not Into Temptation: Music From The Film Young Adam (Thrill Jockey) is his latest soundtrack, created for David Mackenzie's film, which is set in Byrne's Scotland birthplace. The mostly instrumental album is moody and lushly dense, evocative of the setting. Two songs, the fittingly titled unintelligible 'Speechless' and 'The Great Western Road,' feature Byrne's distinctive vocals and should satisfy any fan's cravings.

To this day, almost two years after seeing it, I am still recommending Bill Weber and David Weissman's amazing documentary The Cockettes (about the gay and straight troupe of performers from San Francisco in the 1960s) every chance I get. If you missed it in its theatrical release, it is now available on DVD. The Cockettes-Soundtrack (LAscivious) is a wonderful musical reminder of the film and also includes audio from some of The Cockettes's performances, such as 'China' and 'Jaded Hussy.'

As haunting as it is ethereal, Thomas Newman's Music From The HBO Film Angels In America (Nonesuch) is suitably epic and grand. From the sumptuous, but foreboding 'Angels In America (Main Title)' to the stunning 'Mauve Antarctica' to the sweeping 'Broom Of Truth' and the flutter of 'Black Angel,' Newman's score for Angels In American ranks with the finest soundtracks.

Michael Pitt, who some people will remember as Tommy Gnosis, Hedwig's love interest in the movie version of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, is also a versatile singer. He can be heard singing 'Hey Joe,' a song associated with Jimi Hendrix, on The Dreamers: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Nettwerk America), a movie in which he also stars. Set in Paris during the late 1960s, the soundtrack is also notable for songs by the French artists Michel Polnareff ('Love Me Please Love Me'), Charles Trenet ('La Mer'), and Francoise Hardy ('Tous Les Garcons Et Les Filles'), as well as the selections from the soundtracks of a few French films. Covering a period of time from 1960s to the 1970s, the soundtrack to the acclaimed Brazilian film City Of God (Milan) features Antonio Pinto and Ed Cortes's score compositions created especially for the film alongside period recordings by Hyldon, Cartola, Tim Maia and Raul Seixas.

Colin Farrell, who stars in the John Crowley drama Intermission sings 'I Fought The Law,' the opening track on Intermission: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (EMI). Farrell is in good company because other contributors include The Magnetic Fields ('I Don't Want To Get Over You'), U2 ('Out of Control' from its 1980 debut), The Thrills ('One Horse Town'), Turin Brakes ('Pain Killer') and Ron Sexsmith ('These Days' and 'Disappearing Act' from his flawless 2003 album Cobblestone Runway), to mention a few.

Various artists soundtracks, such as the one for Intermission, are a dime a dozen. However, some manage to rise above the fray due to thoughtful song selections that relate to the mood and feel of a particular movie. Something's Gotta Give: Music From The Motion Picture (Columbia/Sony Music Soundtrax) is one such example. In keeping with the spirit of people and things that stand the test of time, and actually improve with age, the compilers of the soundtrack have selected a variety of vintage tunes that conjure both a romantic and retro sensation, while remaining true to the contemporary setting of the story. Jack Nicholson's rendition of 'La Vie En Rose' is practically enough of a reason for purchasing this soundtrack. Win A Date With Tad Hamilton!: Music From The Motion Picture (Aware/Columbia/Sony Music Soundtrax) is another story altogether. While it does a good job of introducing listeners to some new Sony artists (Wilshire, Wheat, The Thorns) and a few other more familiar names (Liz Phair, Five For Fighting, BT, John Mayer), it simply lacks personality.

If there was one thing that the epic film scores of the late Oscar-winning composer Miklos Rozsa certainly had, it was an abundance of personality. With blaring horns and thunderous drums, his scores to historical and religious films such as Ben Hur, El Cid, King of Kings and Quo Vadis, provided the grand musical settings necessary for these productions. Miklos Rozsa Conducts His Epic Film Scores (DRG), music from all four above mentioned movies as well as the bonus track, the 'Spellbound Concerto' (from Hitchcock's Spellbound) in one place.

Two recent Broadway musicals also have connections to the silver screen. Both Wicked: The Original Broadway Cast Album (Decca Broadway) and The Boy From Oz-Original Cast Recording (Decca Broadway), like other current popular musicals (including The Producers and Hairspray) have cinematic roots. Based on Gregory Maguire's novel of the same name, Wicked focuses on the story of Galinda (Kristin Chenoweth), who later became Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, and Elphaba (Idina Menzel), who later became known as The Wicked Witch of the West. Familiar to countless people of all ages as the characters from the movie The Wizard of Oz (based on L. Frank Baum's novel), the musical, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman, provides a unique perspective on the beloved story.

Peter Allen, who was a protégé of Judy Garland's, a husband of Liza Minnelli's, the composer of music for movies such as Arthur and Kiss Me Goodbye, and a gay man, is the subject of The Boy From Oz. Subtitled, 'The Musical of A Lifetime,' Hugh Jackman portrays the late Allen, who was known for his flamboyant and slightly outrageous stage persona, as much as for his hit pop songs 'I Go To Rio,' 'I Honestly Love You,' 'Don't Cry Out Loud,' and 'Quiet Please, There's A Lady On Stage,' among others, all of which are included in the show.

This column opens with the soundtrack to an animated feature and it also closes in the same way, with Teacher's Pet (Walt Disney) a recent Disney cartoon. Theatrical release Teacher's Pet features Nathan Lane as the titular character, Spot, a talking and singing dog, performing songs by Randy Petersen, Kevin Quinn, Stephen James Taylor and others.


This article shared 3080 times since Wed Apr 7, 2004
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