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Music Reviews

Randy's Buttons

March 13, 1996

Get A Clue

CluelessSoundtrack to Clueless (Capitol 1995) - The 14 cuts on the Clueless soundtrack include a variety of modern rock and alternative artists. What sets this soundtrack aside is its focus on original material; many of the artists contributed tracks exclusively for this recording.

Thus, World Party contributes a moody reworking of "All the Young Dudes" (originally by Mott the Hoople), Counting Crows provide "The Ghost in You" (a live recording from August, 1993 that was previously only available as a UK B-side), and The Muffs offer a new cover of Kim Wilde's "Kids in America."

Other artists contributing tracks include Radiohead ["Fake Plastic Trees" (acoustic version)], Lightning Seeds ("Change"), Beastie Boys ("Mullethead"), and Jill Sobule ("Supermodel").

My favorite cut is Coolio's exclusive recording of "Rollin' With My Homies." Coolio made a big breakthrough with last year's "Gangster's Paradise" (available on the Tommy Boy release of the same name), and "Rollin' With My Homies" shows that Coolio knows how to do rap the right way: not too heavy, but without blunting the message. It's about time that rap had some melody back in it, and stopped being a collection of machine gun-fired words.

Clueless is clearly a set that Capitol Records worked hard on. Instead of a mindless collection of songs that don't even appear in the film (as is often the case with soundtracks), Clueless is a real soundtrack.

And here's the hitch. Once the movie fades from the theaters, it's hard to continue working the album. (The movie was just released on video). Clueless is far better than the average soundtrack, but still has a short shelflife. That's too bad. This album should stand on its own, rather than hitting the cut-out bins as a just another soundtrack. Look for it.

PassengersPassengers: Original Soundtracks 1 (Island 1995) - Passengers: Original Soundtracks 1 is a collection of 14 songs that have been featured in short films from moviemakers around the globe. Its unifying influence is Bono, Adam Clayton, The Edge, and Larry Mullen, Jr. (better known as U2), who perform on all of the tracks.

But this is not a regular U2 album, nor is it a regular soundtrack. Because Brian Eno joins in on all of the cuts, it's far more experimental.

To be honest, Passengers is a difficult listen, even for U2 fans. However, there is one glorious number - "Miss Sarajavo." Originally contributed to Bill Carter's award-winning documentary about one of the more bizarre events of the war in former Yugoslavia - when several artists mounted an elaborate beauty contest under border fire - the title track juxtaposes Bono's gritty vocals against Luciano Pavarotti's glorious operatic tenor.

While you may not come back often to Passengers, it will fill a gap in your collection.

Sagebrush SymphonyMichael Martin Murphey, Sagebrush Symphony (Warner Western 1995) - Warner Western is devoted to preserving the music of America's western heritage. And so is country singer Michael Martin Murphey, whose recording career began in 1967 with an act called The Lewis & Clark Expedition. Thus, their union has been a real meeting of the minds.

In his bid to preserve a vital part of America's romantic and compelling musical heritage, Murphy occasionally presents his "Wild West Shows." For Sagebrush Symphony, Murphey recruited the assistance of The San Antonio Symphony Orchestra, together with a raft of guest artists. The result is a 21-track collection that holds together remarkably well.

Murphey harkens back to an age when the West was wild, where you could see for miles in the clear air, and where everything looked much closer than it really is. Says Murphey, "Open your ears and close your eyes and this music goes on for years, backwards into the mists of time where horses were still the principal mode of transportation, to a time when men and women were measured by their actions and achievements rather than by gender, religion, or skin color (or so we would like to believe)."

San Antonio provided a most receptive audience for this presentation, which includes such favorites as "Red River Valley," "Cool Water," and "Yellow Rose of Texas."

Michael Martin MurpheyIn addition, Murphey enlisted local favorites (and burgeoning stars), the Sons of the San Joaquin, for several cuts (including "Tumbleweeds") and ageless crooner, Herb Jeffries, for several other songs, including a glorious reading of "Texas to a 'T'."

I'm a sucker for pop albums with orchestral parts, such as Yellow Submarine and the Little River Band's long-forgotten Backstage Pass. (At least the first disc, which was recorded with a symphony). Sagebrush Symphony features the same lush, string-drenched sound.

The set ends with a rousing version of "Happy Trails," which pretty much summarizes this album.

Sagebrush Symphony recalls a romanticized West, one that may never have existed (if Murphey was really looking for the Old West, he wouldn't have included so much T.V. and movie music). But it's music that has a receptive audience, and that conveys a happy message. Sagebrush Symphony is a terrific recording, and one that will delight all western music fans.

-- Randy Krbechek

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