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March 28, 1996 - Image 22

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The Michigan Daily, 1996-03-28

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88 - The Michigan Daily - Iusree/- 4 - - Thursday, March 28, 1996

Soundtracks emerge separate from their companion fims

By Oda A.natt
Daily Music Editor
Soundtracks are quite the potluck of
nusic buying. Some turn into classic
albums, like the '70s fave "Saturday
Night Fever" soundtrack. Some break
new artists, like Elton John's work for
the film "Friends" and Lisa Loeb's
"Stay" on the "Reality 'Bites"
soundtrack. Some aren't quite as memo-
rable, or we wish we could forget about
them-like Whitney Houston's "Body-
guard" soundtrack, the highest-selling
CD of all-time.
But what makes a soundtrack a cool
album? Being tied to a cool movie
doesn't cut it on its own. Album pro-
ducers adding dialog to their albums
helps tie the two works together, but
even a great movie can have a dud
soundtrack. And in some cases, like the
bomb "Empire Records," the soundtrack
will do even better than the movie.
The same characteristics that make a
good studio album also carries over to
soundtracks. A soundtrack shouldn't
just be throwing someone's favorite
songs together on one disc; there has to
be some type of common thread to bind
all of the various tracks together.
Whether it's the funky disco beats of
"Saturday Night Fever" or the Seattle
grunge showcase of "Singles," a good
soundtrack is more thanjust a compila-
tion - it's a work of art, like creating
any type of record.
Thy soundtrack from the Robert
Rodriguez/QuentinrTarantino film
"From Dusk Till Dawn" (**** Epic
Soundtracks) is a perfect example of an
excellent theme soundtrack. The film
chroniclesthe characters' journey
through Texas and Mexico, and the
soundtrack showcases their adventure
beautifully, with its slick guitar blues
and greasy hard rock.
Chock full of three Vaughn Brothers
tracks, Stevie Ray's "Mary Had A Little
Lamb" and "Willie the Wimp (And His
Cadillac Coffin)," and Jimmie's new
track "Dengue Woman Blues," the Tex-
ans' great blues-rock is just the begin-
ning of the fun.
ZZ Top contributed two tracks, its
1975 classic "Mexican Blackbird,"and
the new, very slick "She's Just Killing
Me."
Two songs from the Titty Twister
(the bar in the movie) band, Tito &
Tarantula, add lots of spice to the

ZZ Top can be heard on the "From Dusk Till Dawn" soundtrack. Do you think the guy in the middle ever feels like he should
grow a beard?

Stevie Ray's "Mary Had A Little Lamb" was contributed to "From Dusk Till Dawn."

Davis Group's "Keep On Running,"
the album throws itself back to Mr.
Holland's first few years as a teacher.
As the soundtrack continues, the
music keeps on gettingbetter. Wonder's
amazing "Uptight (Everything's
Alright)," John Lennon & The Plastic
Ono Band's classics "Imagine" and
"Beautiful Boy," and Charles' great "I
Got A Woman" make it impossible for
the compilation to disappoint.
Othertracks by Jackson Browne, Julia
Fordham, Julian Lennon and The Lon-
don Metropolitan Orchestra's "An
American Symphony (Mr. Holland's
Opus)," which finishes out the disc, add
to the quality of the classic oldies and
pretty decent originals.
With a mix of half-new and half-old
tracks, the soundtrack from "Beautiful
Girls"(***i Elektra)doesn't achieve
much sense of unity throughout, but it's
still a great compilation of music. The
opening track, "That's How Strong My
Love Is," is the first post-Fine Young
Cannibals effort by vocalist Roland Gift.
Gift's rich and eccentric vocals mold
beautifully with the slow track's horns
and grand feeling on the classic song
for a great track.

The Afghan Whigs two covers, "Be
For Real" and "Can't Get Enough of
Your Love Babe" are decent, much like
the band's other many soul covers.
Singer Greg Dulli's raspy screams are
just no match for the low sweet soul of
Barry White's unmistakable voice on
"Can't Get Enough," but the song is
still fun.
Tom Petty wanna-be Pete Droge &
The Sinner's title track "Beautiful Girl"
is catchy, and Satchel's "Sutiering" is
also pretty good, while Chris Isaak's
"Graduation Day" drags.
But it's the old-timers who shine
brightest on the album. Billy Paul's
"Me and Mrs. Jones" is the only oldie
near the beginning of the disc, while the
rest of the classic tracks are thrown at
the end. Beginning withthe Spinners'
"Could It Be I'm Falling In Love," the
tail end of the soundtrack lets loose
with a great combination of timeless
tracks. Kiss' "Beth" follows The Spin-
ners, with King Floyd's funky "Groove
Me," The Diamond's "The Stroll," and
then finishing up with Neil Diamond's
"Sweet Caroline" for a rather unusual,
yet very propelling end.
But it's the big Gen-X and other lack-

of-direction soundtracks the plague the
market and promote mediocrity. With
big names, yet little substance, "Mr.
Wrong" (**4 Hollywood Records)
lacks much direction and throws to-
gether work from today's hot pop and
country artists like Joan Osborne, Chris
lsaak, Amy Grant, Faith Hill and Sophie
B. Hawkins for a blah record.
The album isn't really that bad 4
just mediocre. Most of the tracks are
sweet little love songs, with the typical
hooks and cheese to carry them through.
There are some interesting contribu-
tions to the album. Queen's "Crazy
Little Thing Called Love" and Arturo
Sandoval's "Suavito" both contribute
some substance, as well as Joan Jett and
the Blackhawks' "Love Stinks."
The album's best track, from Chap
Hill, N.C.'s Ben Folds Five, i "So
For the Dumped." While always zany
and up to no good, Ben Folds Five is
simply hilarious. Folds sings in his ador-
able candy-coated voice, "Give me my
money back/Give me my money back,
you bitch/I want my money back/And
don't forget to give me back my black
T-shirt." Now that's a love song.

soundtrack. "Angry Cockroaches
(Cucarachas Enojadas)" and "After
Dark" are great country-rock-blues
tracks, as is The Leftover's "Torquay,"
a juiced-up version of "Tequila." On
the purer country side, The Mavericks
contributed "Foolish Heart," The Blast-
ers' "Dark Night," and Jon Wayne's
comical "Texas Funeral."
Gene Revell's two score tracks are
quite grand, but the best part of the
soundtrack is its dialogue clips from the
film. Quite obscene, but at least making
for a great laugh (especially Cheech
Marin's lines from the Titty Twister),
the dialogue puts the Tabasco on the

enchilada.
"Mr. Holland's Opus Original Mo-
tion Picture Soundtrack" (***
Polydor) continues a bit with an inter-
twining musical theme throughout the
soundtrack, featuring mostly classic
oldies from greats like Stevie Wonder,
Ray Charles and John Lennon.
The album kicks off with a solo track
from Boys 11 Men's Shawn Stockman
with the rich and soulful "Visions of a
Sunset." Continuing on with Len
Barry's "One, Two, Three," The Toys'
"A Lover's Concerto"and the Spencer

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By Craig Stuntz
Daily Arts Writer
A curious thing happened a couple of
years ago in the classical music world: A
millennium of music suddenly became
popular again. The recent resurgence of
popular interest in early music (which can
be roughly defined as anything written
between the first notated music and the
Renaissance) may have started with
"Chant," u mediocre collection of
Gregorian chant. At the same time, how-
ever, other artists and scholars had been
quietly producing fantastically well re-
searched and performed recordings of
works from the same era, and they soon
found unexpected success.
While there are now many excellent
recordings of early music material avail-
able, the listeneroften finds themselves in
a position not unlike that of people who
are new to classical music: They've heard
a few things they like and are interested in
learning more, but aren't sure where to
begin. The independent classical music
label Harmonia Mundi France's answer
to thisproblem is "Les Trds Riches Heures
Du Moyen Age: A Medieval Journey," a
six compact disc set containing nearly
eight hours of music spanning the entire
early music era. (The title translates to
"The Very Rich Times of the Middle
Ages.")
In addition, the set contains extensive
liner notes that discuss the historical place
and significance of the works presented.
Running more than 100 pages, they in-
clude the lyrics (with translations) ofsome,
but not all of the pieces performed. Un-
fortunately, it is printed in very small type
to accommodate three language transla-
tions, and I also wish it gave more atten-
tion to the spiritual significance of the
music and its impact on the people of the

time, rather than just musical lineage and
church and court politics. The text is
fairly thick with musical terminology and
foreign words and, while readable with
some effort, there are probably better
introductions to much of this music. Its
strength, however, is its close link with
the material on the CDs.
The set begins with "The Dawn of the
Christian Era," an assortment of entirely
vocal music - instruments being re-
served for pagan festivals and the theater.
The disc begins with examples of fourth
century Byzantine and Melchite chant,
two forms originating in the Near East.
The Arabic musical influence is quite
strong here. After the seat of Christianity
moved from Jerusalem to Rome, musical
forms in the church, too, began to take on
a distinctly western European character.
Before the Papacy felt the need to
restore Christian music to a unified whole,
five separate "churches" (musical dia-
lects) existed. The remainder of the first
disc gives examples of four of them:
Ambrosianplain-chant from the Milanese
church, Beneventan chant, chants from
the Church of Rome, and Mozarbic chant.
The fifth "church," Gallican chant, is
saved for disc two, "The Reign of
Gregorian Chant," as it seems to have
been the foundation for the latter. After its
introduction, we move on to what is prob-
ably the most famous branch of early
music. Named after Pope Gregory the
Great, this form in reality owes more to
the Carolingians, who did most of the
unification of the church repertory.
All Masses in the Gregorian style in-
clude a collection of texts called the "Or-
dinary," and a full translation is included
in the liner notes. Another section called
the "Proper" could vary according to the
feast day. These texts are sung by a large
choir in unison, i.e. all members sing the
same notes at the same time. Disc 2
contains the full "Mass for the Dead," or

REVIEW
Les Trds Riches
Heures Du Moyen Age:
A Medieval Journey
Various Artists
Harmonia Mundi France
"Requiem," which includes both sec-
tions in theirentirety. It concludes with an
example of "impure" Gregorian chant
which include tropes and sequences, es-
sentially non-Gregorian text patterns.
Disc 3, "The Age of Courtly Love,"
features music which, while contempora-
neous with the end of the era of Gregorian
chant, is a world apart stylistically. The
music here has instrumental accompani-
ment, fixed meter, and is largely secular.
It's music that makes you want to get up
and dance. We begin with five songs of
the Troubadours, singer-poets who came
from every social class. It's a good over-
view, but I found Sequentia's recent col-
lection of Troubadour songs a little more
musically compelling.
Then we hear the "Cantigas deSanta
Maria," commissioned by King
Alfonso the Wise of Spain, one of the
best-documented musical works of the
era. Rounding out the disc is the
"Carmina Burana" (the original one,
from which Carl Orff drew his much
more recent work) and the
"Minnesinger, "a similarly bawdy mu-
sical tale.
We take another musical leap with
Disc 4, "The Birth of Polyphony." Re-
turning to church music, we hear, for the
first time in the western tradition, the use
ofintervals, chords, andharmonies. Many
examples of polyphonic styles are given,
most of them French. The disc evolves

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chronologically, beginning with simple
interval harmonies and moving on to
more complex melodic intermingling,
such as contrary motion. This disc is also
the first to feature Anonymous 4, four
women who, in addition to being extraor-
dinary singers, research and translate mud
of the music they sing.
TheArsNova, the musical avant-garde
of the 14th century, was seen by Pope
John XXII as an attack on sacred music.
Indeed, it did secularize this music to
some extent. Disc 5, "Ars Nova and the
14th Century," begins, appropriately
enough, with extracts from "Le Roman
de Fauvel, " a satire on the wretched
conditions at the courts ofthe French king
and at the Papal court in Avignon. As wit
a couple of the tracks on Disc three, theiW
is a lot of unaccompanied talking here,
and those of us who are not fluent in
ancient French may find these tracks less
than enthralling.
Following this are excerpts from the
"Messe de Tournai, "an example of the
influence ofthe influence ofthe Ars Nova
on sacred music, and a collection ofsecu-
lar songs from France by Guillaume de
Machaut, the most famous composer
the time, and Italy. The disc concluder
with sacred music from 14th century
England, beginning with a track which is
the most rhythmically interesting church
music on the set so far.
Finally, we move on to the 15th cen-
tury with Disc 6, "The Dawn of the
Renaissance." With the exception of a
single track on disc three, this is the first
disc to include music without vocals.
We are moving, here, into an age tha
includes music that exists not to te
stories or pronounce faith, but for its
own sake. The disc alternates between
sacred choral music and instrumental
music for viols and lute.
To the best of my knowledge, this is
the most comprehensive introduction
to early music in existence. If you're
interested enough to spend the money,
you really can't go wrong here. It's
worth noting, however, that "Les Tr
Riches Heures Du Moyen Age" cover
a musical era three times longer than
what we generally think of as "classical
music"-the period from the Baroque
to the present - and even a six CD set
is going to have quite a few omissions.
The most serious one here is the'com-

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