January 2006

The Sound of Movies
The Finest New Film Soundtracks of the Season

The half dozen CD’s on my list have been carefully chosen out of twenty or more that are definitely worthy of a mention, as well as your attention! Just so I wouldn’t leave anyone out, there’s something on this list for everyone. Jazz, show tunes with a dash of pop, country, a comedic parody, a classical instrumental and a 40 year-old masterpiece.


Good Night, And Good Luck
Concord Records

I have fallen in love, not just with this film, but with Dianne Reeves. I have always appreciated Ms. Reeves’ vocals before, but for some reason I had never really paid close attention to her, until I witnessed her brilliance in this film and on this soundtrack. The only thing that bothers me is the fact that it took me so long to appreciate her. The selections on this soundtrack are top-notch, as is Reeves’ smoky jazz delivery. She covers the classics on this disc including Nat “King” Cole’s “Straighten Up And Fly Right” and Sinatra’s “One For My Baby.” It’s always dangerous ground when a singer invades a legend’s territory, but Reeves is up for the challenge and polishes off these gems to such high-shine brilliance, you’ll need your sunglasses to listen to this CD. Other magnificent tracks include, “Too Close For Comfort,” “How High The Moon,” “Pick Yourself Up” and ten more sterling selections. The one original track written for the film, “Who’s Minding The Store,” is nestled inside the classics so flawlessly, it sounds as at home as the others.


Brokeback Mountain
Verve Records

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of pop music, but when you get a collection of artists and songs this fine, it’s hard to ignore. I was so engrossed in the film, the music almost seemed secondary, but coming in as first runner-up to a film as wonderful as this isn’t such a bad thing. When it comes to listening to the soundtrack on its own, one wonders how some of these songs slipped under the radar. From Willie Nelson’s beautiful “He Was A Friend Of Mine” and Mary McBride’s “No One’s Gonna Love You Like Me” to the film’s haunting theme “A Love That Will Never Grow Old” with sparkling vocals by Emmylou Harris, these three songs already make the soundtrack worthy of their place in movie music history. Rufus Wainwright makes a couple of spectacular appearances with his own “The Maker Makes” and a smooth cover of the Roger Miller classic “King Of The Road.” The 20 year timeline of the film is so meticulous, even Linda Ronstadt’s 1977 cherry, “It’s So Easy” lives up to its title on this 17-track set. Other songs by Steve Earle, Jackie Greene and Teddy Thompson’s unforgettable “I Will Never Let You Go,” as well as Gustavo Santaolalla’s score, burn with such country fervor, you’ll need a visit to your local watering hole for a tall cold one. I highly recommend you pick up this CD and relive the passion of Brokeback Mountain. One listen to this soundtrack and the fury of this film will stay etched in your mind and forever in your heart, that is, if it hasn’t already.


Memoirs Of A Geisha
Sony Classical Records

To the eye, director Rob Marshall produced a gorgeous painting of the Japanese landscape. To the ear, five-time Oscar winner John Williams composed a soundtrack so gorgeous, it will transport you back into this sweeping epic of the visual. Yo-Yo Ma adds to the tremendous strings with his cello solos, as does the legendary Itzhak Perlman with his solo violin selections. This is a soundtrack for one who appreciates classical music at its finest. The sounds of Eastern and Western musical influences are meticulously mixed for a classical adventure. If you’re a fan of any or all of these musicians, this film soundtrack will thrill you. If you’re just a fan of instrumental movie soundtracks, it’s hard to go wrong with this rapturous score. This score will easily be a front-runner for the Academy Award. Take a listen and I think you’ll agree. Superb!


Warner Bros. Records

When one falls in love with a cast album of a Broadway play, sometimes it’s hard to follow-up with a soundtrack that’s as good or even better. It’s my opinion, that it’s left up to the audience. Some film soundtracks have improved on the original while sometimes familiarity wins. Rent easily falls into this category, as the reaction to the film itself was mixed. The music is the same, a bit more polished, but that doesn’t always mean better. There are longer selections on the soundtrack and there is the bonus of a new original song “Love Heals.” Rob Cavallo, whose production credits include Green Day, Eric Clapton and Goo Goo Dolls, comments “I’ve always wanted to be involved with a musical. I believe they are a classic art form that has been somewhat neglected and Rent tells a very important and relevant American story.” He continues, “The setting on the lower east side in the late 80’s combined a forgotten New York City community struggling through socio-economic crisis and the threat of AIDS, while reflecting an authentic artist struggle. I believe this project will move people in a profound, emotional way.” I believe Cavallo set out to make a great recording, and he did. With original cast members back for the film, the soundtrack’s 28 tracks are treated with kid gloves. For the Rent enthusiast, and/or one who was never lucky enough to witness the live production, this CD will sit well with your collection. For the Rent fanatic, the soundtrack is available in eight special edition formats, each with cover art featuring a different cast member. Rent author Jonathan Larson, who died 10 years ago this month, lives on through the music and story. If I was a better math student, I’d tell you exactly how many minutes one measured his 35 years on this earth. For now, I say pick up this two-disc CD as a gift to yourself, and to Larson, and relive all the “Seasons of Love.”


The Producers
Sony Classical Records

I saw The Producers on the stage and this is one of the few times I can say I liked the film better. Maybe it’s because I missed out on the brilliant pairing of inimitable Nathan Lane and dry wit of Matthew Broderick live? I caught the show after their successful run and was pleased, but felt the show was over-hyped. Maybe it’s because I grew up hearing the borscht belt humor and I felt as if I were reliving a show in the Catskills from the 60’s. Remember the variety shows in Dirty Dancing? With the new version of the 1968 film and the additions of the fantabulous Uma Thurman and the surprise of Will Ferrell’s wonderful talents, I am more than pleased to say this CD is a winner. Is there anything Mel Brooks can’t do successfully? A comedy writer and performer are two things, but when you add composer and lyricist to his résumé, and a 23-track soundtrack that’s as funny and uplifting as the film itself, then you’ve got another winner. The bonus track and new song “The King of Broadway” easily caps off the soundtrack and makes this movie-turned-play-turned-movie one of the best musicals of the day. Maybe it’s because I found myself humming “Springtime For Hitler” long after the CD had ended that I realized I couldn’t get these songs out of my head. Unable to get a song out of your head is not always a good thing, but trust me on this one, this time it is.


The Sound Of Music – The 40th Anniversary Special Edition
RCA/Legacy Records

One night last week, I was channel surfing and I came across Julie Andrews singing “My Favorite Things” in the film The Sound of Music. Have you ever noticed that no matter how many times you’ve seen a certain film, there’s just something about it that makes you watch it over and over again? Sometimes it’s not even on purpose. I wouldn’t have normally sought out The Sound of Music, but there it was, and I couldn’t escape the same magic I first experienced when I was just a kid all those years ago. And the film is magic. How many times have we heard “My Favorite Things,” “(How Do You Solve A Problem Like) Maria,” “Do-Re-Mi,” Edelweiss,” “Sixteen Going On Seventeen,” not to mention the title track and the epic opus “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.?” I never tire of them. Here we are 40 years later still celebrating one of the greatest movie musicals of all time. In the new 40th anniversary edition, we’re not only treated to the original music, but the CD soundtrack is remastered exquisitely and filled with previously unreleased tracks  and film version tracks that never appeared on the original soundtrack. For the Sound of Music aficionado, this deluxe package also contains never-before-released interviews with the film’s director, Robert Wise, plus Richard Rodgers and actress Charmian Carr (“Liesl”). The CD packaging is also stunning with rare photos, memorabilia and newly written liner notes from The Rodgers & Hammerstein Foundation. As I said, the film is magic, but what would this film be without “the sound” of music?! I give this 40th anniversary soundtrack 16 stars…going on 17!

© 2006 Steven M. Housman. All Rights Reserved.