August 17, 1994
Various Artists, Soundtrack from Far Away, So Close (SBK Records 1994) -- Director Wim Wenders has earned a reputation over the years for gathering great musicians to work on his movies (including Paris, Texas and Until the End of the World). Far Away, So Close continues this tradition, as Wenders again assembles some of the most talented mood rockers in the business for his new soundtrack.
This 77-minute disc is sensible organized; the first 12 tracks are from the contributing artists, and the balance of the album features orchestral music from the film. The fine contributing musicians include Australia's most perturbed export, Nick Cave, who spews forth two pungently mournful cuts, U2 (with two tracks that were previously released on Zooropa) and Lou Reed, who delivers the most solid new (i.e., previously unreleased) track on the album, "Why Can't I Be Good?"
Except for his excellent live collaboration last year with the Velvet Underground, Lou Reed seems to have difficulty in penning a complete album of listenable material (see, for example, the unrelentingly dark Magic & Loss). However, in smaller doses, Lou shows why he is becoming rock's pre-eminent "elder" statesman: fortunately, "Why Can't I Be Good" (which was recorded live) continues Lou's guitar-oriented quest for the meaning for life.
Not as prescient are the tracks from the breathy Canadian singer/songwriter Jane Siberry, and multi-media artist Laurie Anderson, who seems mired in despondency. Anderson's got a great way with words, but her spoken delivery is often flat; her best work is when she finds the humor in her subject (and there's not much comedy on Far Away, So Close).
Far Away, So Close delivers as promised -- with its stars, you wouldn't expect a jangly pop fest. If you're looking for some of the best of today's rock poets, try this soundtrack.
Mick Ronson, Heaven & Hull (Epic 1994) -- At his death in April, 1993 (at age 46), legendary British glam-rock guitarist Mick Ronson left behind a host of milestone recordings, together with a partially-completed studio album. With loving assistance from his widow, Susie Ronson, Heaven & Hull has emerged as a final tribute to this extraordinary player.
The role of Ronno in 70s rock cannot be underestimated, as he was the lead guitar player on some of David Bowie's most influential albums, including Ziggy Stardust and Alladin Sane. After the fans tore Ziggy apart, Ronno worked on various solo projects and also helped revitalize the careers of other artists, including Mott the Hoople.
The 80s and 90s continued to find Ronno busy as a session man and as a producer for a diversity of artists; perhaps the high mark was his production of Morrissey's acclaimed release, Your Arsenal (1992).
On Heaven & Hull (originally entitled To Hull & Back), Ronno was joined by many of his old mates, including David Bowie, who contributed the lead vocal on "Like a Rolling Stone." Ronno and the Thin White Duke had an undeniable chemistry; Bowie's compressed vocals (which sound like they were recorded at a distance) set against Ronno's driving solos breathe fresh life into this old Dylan warhorse.
Another highlight is a live recording of "All the Young Dudes," with Ian Hunter (from Mott the Hoople) on lead vocals. This track was recorded at the 1992 London Freddie Mercury Tribute (the remaining members of Queen are also featured), and shows that these old Diamond Dogs still know how to shake a leg.
In addition, Chrissie Hynde contributes vocals on "Trouble With Me"; John Mellencamp pitches in at the microphone on "Life's a River," with surprisingly good effect; and Peter Nonne (and there's another name from the past) sits in on bass on "When the World Falls Down."
While much of the album tends towards British big rock sound, with overly-miked drums and seriously redlined guitars (never say that Ronno wasn't a fan of a rich mix), the two instrumental cuts ("You and Me" and "Midnight Love") have a pleasantly understated delivery and focus on technique.
Ronno was taken at too young an age. Heaven & Hull is a fitting tribute to his talents, and an album for both old and new fans to savor.
15 Minutes of Fame -- "When you're in a rock band, bragging about sexual conquests is like bragging about turning on the faucet and finding water." Paul Stanley (of Kiss).
"I remember sitting in the back seat of a limousine in 1965, and I was the unhappiest person in the world. My driver said, 'What's wrong with you, man? How can you be depressed?' And I replied, 'Because I may never be on top again. There's no way this can last.'" Del Shannon.
-- Randy Krbechek
Copyright (c) Randy Krbechek
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