The Triumphant Apostle (3/27/98)

Various Artists, Soundtrack to The Apostle (Rising Tide Records 1998) - "The Apostle" is the new film written, directed and produced by Robert Duvall. Duvall gives a galvanizing performance as a Pentecostal preacher with a past: when we saw the movie, one man in the audience cried at the end.

The soundtrack is billed as "music from and inspired by the motion picture." That's a legitimate description, as three songs come from the film - Steven Curtis Chapman's "I Will Not Go Quietly" (which he wrote for the movie), Patty Loveless'Appalachian reading of "Two Coats," and Lyle Lovett's rousing finale, "I'm a Soldier in the Army of the Lord."

What makes the soundtrack stand apart are the other ten tracks, which provide a capsule history of gospel music in America (and which also show the close ties between traditional country music and gospel music). Thus, the album includes "Softy and Tenderly," written in 1880 and performed by contemporary singer Rebecca Lynn Howard, as well as "There is Power in the Blood," written in 1899 and performed by young Florida singer, Lari White.

A third classic gospel hymn is "In the Garden," sung by the great Johnny Cash. The album also includes "There Ain't No Grave (Gonna Hold My Body Down)" by one of modern Christian music's most dynamic stars, Russ Taff, and a classic version of "Waitin' on the Far Side Banks of Jordan" recorded in 1972 by the Carter Family (June Carter Cash also has a cameo role in the movie as Robert Duvall's mother).

My favorite track is "There is a River," preformed by Bill Gaither and his Vocal Band. While Gaither has explored pop directions in Christian music, "There is a River" is classic, old-timey male quartet with rousing voices.

The music that catches my ear most often is that which is out of the norm: The Apostle fits the bill exactly; great songs, great performances, and a great gospel tradition. Enjoy the soundtrack as a reminder of this complex performance.

Pearl Jam, Yield (Epic 1998) - Ironic, isn't it? Pearl Jam keeps getting better and better, yet their album sales have steadily declined since the multi-platinum, Ten. With the band's fifth studio album, Yield, Pearl Jam delivers the payoff to Vitology and No Code.

Pearl Jam consists of Mike McCready on guitar, Stone Gossard on guitar, Eddie Vedder on vocals and guitar, Jeff Ament on bass, and Jack Irons on drums. The 13 tracks were recorded in Seattle and Atlanta, and were produced by long time compatriot, Brendan O'Brien.

Why do I say Yield is a great rock album? Because when I play it, I just have to turn it up louder. Thus, tracks like "Push Me, Pull Me" and "Faithfull" are blistering rock numbers, while "Given to Fly" and "All Those Yesterdays" show Eddie Vedder's more reflective side. The album also includes "Wishlist," which will be a sure radio hit.

The songs on Yield are densely-textured and laced with double-meanings. But the rock tracks jump right out. Pearl Jam is one of America's finest bands, and deserves all of its success.

Mark Knopfler, Soundtrack to Wag the Dog (Mercury 1998) - "Wag the Dog" is the new political satire from director Barry Levinson. I haven't seen the film. But the soundtrack, performed by the erstwhile front man for Dire Straits, is an enjoyable 28-minute set.

With only eight songs, the new release qualifies as an EP (which is how the disc is priced). The album contains one song with words (the playful title cut, which is cast as a dance number), and seven instrumentals. Mark Knopfler provides guitar work and vocals, and is joined by Richard Bennett on guitars, Jim Cox on piano and Hammond organ, long-time friend, Guy Fletcher, on keyboards, Glenn Worf on bass, and Chad Cromwell on drums.

The album builds off Knopfler's understated, lyric guitar style, and is colored by a countryish twang. In particular, "Stretching Out" is a sweet number, driven by Jim Cox's Hammond organ.

Knopfler is one of the rock world's most inventive and talented guitar players. Wag the Dog may not have the bite of Brothers in Arms, but it's a pleasant companion.

- Randy Krbechek © 1998

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