to Chicago (Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax 2002) - The movie Chicago
is an immensely rewarding production, succeeding in every way that Moulin
Rouge failed. The soundtrack is a great reminder of the
The movie stars Renee Zellweger as Roxie Hart, Catherine
Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly, and Richard Gere as defense lawyer
Billy Flynn. Velma and Roxie come from opposite sides of the tracks, but find themselves on trial for murder. Roxie's
star rises, while Velma's fails, setting up the big trial scene.
works? Almost everything. To start, the opening "Funny Honey" by Ms. Zellweger, is a great number (and
even better in the film). "Cell Block Tango" loses none of its appeal, even without the dancers (Susan
Misner as Liz, Deidre Goodwin as June, Denise Faye as Annie, and Ekaterina
Chtchelkanova as the Hunyak).
I like the fact that all of the actors perform their own parts. There is an element of pretense in Ms. Zeta-Jones'
performance, on tracks such as "Class," that isn't present on Ms. Zellweger's performances, such as "Nowadays."
And Richard Gere acquits himself well, as he goes for the gusto on "Razzle Dazzle."
John C. Riley is getting deserved notice for his performance
as Amos, the cuckolded husband. I like his version of "Mr. Cellophane" - it's just that I've heard other
versions, that played more to the pathos of his position.
Less we not forget, Queen Latifah makes
a swell appearance as the jail mate friend on "When You're Good to Momma," and Taye
Diggs makes several cameo appearances as the band leader.
soundtrack also includes some unnecessary material - two instrumental selections by music director Danny
Elfman, a re-mix version of "Cell Block Tango" with performances by Lil' Kim and Macy
Gray, and a track by Anastacia ("Love Is a Crime") that is not in the film. Nor even is Anastacia.
I'll make this easy for you. If you like the movie, you'll have a good time with the soundtrack. Further, the soundtrack
has a great mix for home stereo, and sounds hot and lively. (Not like it was processed to death in the studio).
Chicago sets a standard for contemporary film musicals.
Beautiful Lumps of Coal (Curb Records 2003) - When famed Nashville
label honcho Mike Curb presses the "I Hear a Hit" button, only a fool doesn't sit up to pay notice. And
so when I received the slick advances press kit for Plumb (real name = Tiffany
Arbuckle), I promptly gave it a spin.
After a time, I came to like it. When Plumb settles down
to a piano-based confessional sound on tracks like "Nice Naive and Beautiful," she hits a grove, as she
does on the steady tang-and-techno of "Walk Away."
But too much
of the album is overproduced, such as "Free" and "Sink-N-Swim," the two opening tracks on the
CD. There is too much "New" Nashville, all pop and gloss and perfect production.
As a side note of local interest, Plumb credits a 2000 concert appearance in Fresno as turning her career around.
(Plumb also has an upcoming date in Fresnol.) Plumb is quick to honor God as her source, and believes that an act
of intervention occurred when a fan slipped a note in her hand. The note thanked Plumb for writing a song about
coming to grips with an act of child sexual molest.
According to the
note, "Whatever you do, I just want you to never forget that you have helped changed someone's life."
Says Plumb, "It hit me that this wasn't about me. I'd been given a gift to communicate, to encourage and inspire...When
I finished the letter and opened the card, I saw that there was a picture on the front of a cattail in a pond,
with a caption that read, 'The tender reed, bent to the force of the wind, soon stood upright once the storm had
Plumb also has two indie CDs under her belt, including candycoatedwaterdrops,
which drew comparisons to Sharleen Spiteri from the band,
Expect Plumb to get a major push from the label. Her voice is talented, but the production has been layered as
thick as Aunt Jemima syrup.
David Massengill, My Home Must Be a Special Place (Gadfly
Records 2002) - David Massengill, a 20-plus year veteran of the
folk season, delivers the heartfelt, My Home Must Be a Special Place. Now past the half-century mark,
Massengill is able to look back with introspection on his roots.
Says the singer, "It only took me 50
earned years to discover my purpose as an artist was to look back. It's as though I've been preparing my whole
life to write these songs, where I aim to make the personal of family lore and hometown memories universal. My
domain is the life and times of what I've come to know as the very dear past. Back before we all got to be so mad
at each other. That's where I'll be in the foreseeable future. Back in the past, spotlighting moments of humanity."
native of Bristol, Tennessee (who has also spent long stretches in New York) amply works this vein. With the songwriting
style of David Wilcox or James Taylor, the introspective
Massengill paints an endearing portrait on tracks like "The Girl From Nebraska," "My First Kiss,"
and "Ms. Credle Was My First Love."
And any album that opens with a spoken prologue called "The First Time My Father Saw My Mother" has goodness
in it. (The spoken part is performed by David's father.)
David is an acclaimed player of the Appalachian
dulcimer, and is joined by Mark Dann, who provides bass and acoustic and guitar tracks. Contributing fiddles
are Lisa Gutkin and Tim Carbone. Willy Nile lends vocals to one track, while folkies Maggie
Roche and Lisi Tribble (who apparently
was married for a time to director Ken Russell) contribute backing vocals on more than half the tracks.
For a gentle, heartfelt journey, ride along with David Massengill.
- Randy Krbechek © 2003
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