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Tears and Laughs (10/2/98) Write to CD Shakedown

Simon Birch soundtrackSoundtrack to Simon Birch (Epic/Sony Soundtrax 1998) - "Simon Birch" is the new film that is loosely based on John Irving's best-selling novel, "A Prayer for Owen Meany." With stars Ian Smith, Oliver Platt, and Ashley Judd (who deserves the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress), the film is a touching (indeed, sad at times) story of parents and children. I cried for about an hour during the movie, and thought it was a terrific film.

Ashley Judd photoThe soundtrack includes four selections from Marc Shaiman's orchestral score, including the sweet melody of "Simon's Theme" and "Life Goes On." These four orchestral tracks are the highlight of the album.

The album also includes a new song by Babyface ("You Were There," which rolls over the closing credits), as well as early 60's tracks such as "Bread and Butter" by the Newbeats and Peggy Lee's "Fever." Oddly, the album includes three oldies that aren't even part of the movie, including songs by the Essex and "The Nitty Gritty" by Shirley Ellis.

The 60's cuts don't add much: If you want a great 60's soundtrack, try American Graffiti or The Big Chill. But the orchestral pieces more than carry the album. Enjoy Simon Birch and relive this memorable film.

Seinfeld coverJerry Seinfeld, I'm Telling You for the Last Time (Universal 1998) - With his TV show behind him, Jerry Seinfeld returns to his roots as a stand up comedian. For his first comedy album, I'm Telling You for the Last Time, Seinfeld delivers an hour's worth of material in the detached, ironic style that made his TV show a ratings king.

The new album was recorded live at the Broadhurst Theater on August 6-9, 1998. During 21 sketches, Seinfeld explores such topic as "Doctors" (listen for his explanation why he brings a pickle with him to the waiting room) and the "Olympics" (Seinfeld tries to put himself in the shoes of the Silver Medalist who explains why he lost the race in 1/100ths of a second).

Says Jerry, "There's something about a comedy album where you can sit quietly and really closely examine the rhythms and movements of what a comedian is doing that makes for a very intimate connection. I hopefully can pass on to someone else some of the fascination I have for this unique profession in the same way it was given to me."

And Jerry's right - I'm Telling You for the Last Time holds up over repeated listenings. Get your own pickle and give Jerry a chance.

Saving Private RyanSoundtrack to Saving Private Ryan (Dreamworks 1998) - Oscar-winning composer John Williams provides the soundtrack to the new film, "Saving Private Ryan." With its emphasis on the sweeping and grand, yet also ominous and melancholy, images of war, the soundtrack is an outstanding memento of the film.

Williams has won Oscars for the scores to "Schindler's List" (1993), "ET the Extra-Terrestrial" (1982), and "Jaws" (1975). "Saving Private Ryan" is the 16th Steven Spielberg film scored by Williams.

Saving Private Ryan was recorded in Boston at Symphony Hall with members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. The soundtrack, with such numbers as "Omaha Beach" and "High School Teacher," does not play during the battle sequences. Indeed, the first notes do not come until 15 minute into the narrative.

Williams explains, "We used no electronic enhancement whatsoever. The hall lends a warm, amber glow to the sound and, since we knew the music would not be competing with action sequences, we could emphasize those beautiful textures."

Tom Hanks photoAdds Williams, "We leave it at the emotional level. The role of the score was to underpin the quality of courage seen in the film. We chose to focus on that, as opposed to the overwhelming tragedy, to counterbalance the battle sequences. The score was clearly delineated for moments of quietude and reflection."

If you've seen the film, then you understand the brave and humble approach adopted by director Steven Spielberg. Saving Private Ryan echoes that approach, and it works on many levels.

Five band photoFive, Five (Arista 1998) - The five young Londonites who comprise Five hope to emulate the success of such acts as Backstreet Boys and 98°. With their pleasant debut disk, the quintet could have a sparkling future.

Five was formed when the group auditioned for the creators of the Spice Girls. Consisting of Sean Conlon (age 17), Scott Robinson (age 18), Richard Neville (age 18), "Abs" Breen (age 19), and "J" Brown (age 22), Five quickly expanded beyond its British roots.

With songs like "I Want You Back" and "When the Lights Go Out," Five is a hit among the teen set. Yet the music is polished, and appeals to all ages. If you're looking for the new "boy" group, try Five.

Moonshine Over America 98 - Last year, Electronica was hailed as the Next Big Thing. Of the three Electronica tours that were promoted last year, only one will repeat: Moonshine Over America 98.

Featuring such Moonshine artists as Cirrus, Keoki, and Micro, MOA '98 is set for 25 concert dates in October. Check it out.

- Randy Krbechek © 1998

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