U2 – All That You Can’t Leave Behind

U2 - All That You Can't Leave BehindAfter losing me as a regular listener for most of the 90s (and y’know, I’m sure that loss just crushed the lads), U2 got me back on board with All That You Can’t Leave Behind. Returning to the compelling style of music that won them such an ardent fan base in the 1980s, U2 ditches some of the electronic production wizardry that drove some of us away in the next decade. And the result is a lovely thing to hear.

Sure, there are some revisitations to the 90s style (“Elevation” springs instantly to mind here), but for the most part U2 opts to let the simple beauty of the songs themselves shine through. “Stuck In A Moment” is a lovely ballad, “Wild Honey” is an almost folksy affair compared to the band’s usual output, and “Walk On” and “Beautiful Day” are a glorious return to that distinctly anthemic flavor of rock that caught everyone’s attention way back when on Unforgettable Fire.

The two songs that always stop me dead in my tracks, though, are “In A Little While” and “Kite”, two marvelous slow numbers that move along with a majestic gait and a combination of excellent lyrics and amazing musicianship. “In A Little While” in particular features some of Edge’s best guitar work (though it’s very simple and almost acoustic-sounding in places), and some of the sweetest notes ever to sneak out of Bono’s throat. 4 out of 4The soaring chorus is instant classic sing-along material, even if you, like me, can’t really even try to hit those notes.

Stellar stuff from a band that, contrary to what I believed ten years ago, really has stood the test of time quite well.

Order this CD

  1. Beautiful Day (4:09)
  2. Stuck In A Moment (4:32)
  3. Elevation (3:47)
  4. Walk On (4:56)
  5. Kite (4:26)
  6. In A Little While (3:39)
  7. Wild Honey (3:46)
  8. Peace On Earth (4:48)
  9. When I Look At The World (4:16)
  10. New York (5:29)
  11. Grace (5:31)

Released by: Interscope
Release date: 2000
Total running time: 49:42

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – music by Tan Dun

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon soundtrackAt some point, I really need to review this movie for you if you haven’t seen it. Go ahead and rent it sometime between now and then, as I’m not going to spoil the plot for you in a music review. I am going to talk about the music, though, if you don’t mind.

I love the music from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. There. Short review, eh?

Okay, not so fast. Sit back down. Let me tell you why. Apart from boasting some of the most elaborate “flying fighting” sequences committed to film in recent years, Crouching Tiger also has a surprisingly romantic element to it, and the music serves both well – by staying low and letting the visuals be the fireworks.

When you’ve got people flying on wires and somehow managing to tiptoe through treetops that couldn’t possibly support their weight, and fighting all the while, let’s face it – big, brassy John Williams-style music would likely evoke a smirk at the very least from the audience. Chinese composer Tan Dun wisely drenches the entire film with a more low-key, mystic sound, which imbues a potentially silly sight with a more magical 4 out of 4feel. In short, where the visual impact of these scenes could have been silly, the music salvages things nicely. (Isn’t that what film music is for?)

Special mention also has to be made of the awesome display of percussive force that is “Night Fight” – I can say nothing else here that would do it justice.

Order this CD

  1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (3:23)
  2. The Eternal Vow (3:01)
  3. Wedding Interrupted (2:15)
  4. Night Fight (3:09)
  5. Silk Road (3:11)
  6. To The South (3:20)
  7. Through The Bamboo Forest (4:21)
  8. The Encounter (2:39)
  9. Desert Capriccio (4:32)
  10. In The Old Temple (3:45)
  11. Yearning Of The Sword (3:33)
  12. Sorrow (4:01)
  13. Farewell (2:24)
  14. A Love Before Time – English (3:42)
  15. A Love Before Time – Mandarin (3:40)

Released by: Sony
Release date: 2000
Total running time: 49:56

Steely Dan – Two Against Nature

Steely Dan - Two Against NatureEvery once in a while, Walter Becker and Donald Fagen pick up the hint that it took Jeff Lynne 15 years to pick up, and resurrect the band that everyone remembers them belonging to. Namely, in Fagen & Becker’s case, that would be Steely Dan.

The only catch here, however, is that Fagen’s solo projects over the past 20 years have sounded more like Steely Dan than what now passes for Steely Dan. I have a bit of a problem with that. In many places, Two Against Nature sounds like Steely Dan; in a couple of places, it’s good Steely Dan, with “Almost Gothic” taking its place in the quasi-group’s pantheon of memorable, hummable tunes with literate, ironic lyrics. “Jack Of Speed” doesn’t quite live up lyrically, while “What A Shame About Me” stacks up lyrically but not musically. It’s almost as if they needed some more time – there are the beginnings of some really good songs on here, but it’s almost like the label told the musicians to wrap it up, because we’ve got to get Product on the store shelves.

I’m not going to dwell on this too long, but I’m not a big fan of the song “Cousin Dupree”. I know they’re trying to play it for laughs, but incest just isn’t funny. End of story. In this part of the country, in my line of work, I see 2 out of 4far too much disturbing stuff in our own news along these lines. I’ve also known a handful of families and friends whose lives have been forever changed by it. It’s not pop song material.

I wish I could give this a higher recommendation. I really do like Steely Dan, and really looked forward to this new effort…but it just has the feel of something which wasn’t ready for prime time.

Order this CD

  1. Gaslighting Abbie (5:56)
  2. What A Shame About Me (5:17)
  3. Two Against Nature (6:17)
  4. Janie Runaway (4:13)
  5. Almost Gothic (4:11)
  6. Jack Of Speed (6:21)
  7. Cousin Dupree (5:30)
  8. Negative Girl (5:35)
  9. West Of Hollywood (8:28)

Released by: Warner Bros.
Release date: 2000
Total running time: 51:51

Superman: The Movie – music by John Williams

Superman: The MovieThe music from the Star Wars trilogy alone would qualify John Williams as a genius. The music from Superman confirms this, as do many other of his works. One of these days, despite the pop culture roots of his work, Williams will overcome all the naysayers’ claims that he’s merely been running Wagner, Holst and Korngold through a musical cuisinart.

Need proof? One need look no further than Williams’ score for the 1978 Richard Donner opus Superman, that rare commodity known as A Good Superhero Movie. (Indeed, as far as this viewer is concerned, the next Good Superhero Movie was 2000’s X-Men, but that’s a whole other article.)

While it shares a few common musical threads with the music from Star Wars, Williams’ accompaniment for the world’s most famous superhero has, in places, an inexplicably more down-to-earth feel. The main theme is just as well known as the signature tune of Star Wars, yet the rest of the score has some true gems as well, including “The Trip To Earth”, “The Death Of Jonathan Kent” and “Leaving Home” (these two are practically joined at the hip), “The Big Rescue” and “Turning Back The World”. Many of these pieces, surprisingly, were not on the original soundtrack album, but fortunately the entire score was located and remastered for this 2-CD release (which preceeded the DVD release of the movie by several months). The sound is excellent, the liner notes booklet is positively brimming with a wealth of fascinating information on both movie and music, and for 4 out of 4those who actually want to hear “Can You Read My Mind?”, there are no fewer than four different versions here, two of them featuring the poetic reading of the lyrics by one Margot “Lois Lane” Kidder. (For those who actually want to hear all four of these, knock yourself out – I must admit, I don’t listen to ’em too often.)

Order this CD

    Disc one

  1. Prelude and Main Title March (5:29)
  2. The Planet Krypton (6:40)
  3. Destruction of Krypton (7:52)
  4. Star Ship Escapes (2:21)
  5. The Trip To Earth (2:28)
  6. Growing Up (2:34)
  7. Death of Jonathan Kent (3:24)
  8. Leaving Home (4:51)
  9. The Fortress of Solitude (9:17)
  10. Welcome to Metropolis (2:11)
  11. Lex Luthor’s Lair (4:47)
  12. The Big Rescue (5:55)
  13. Super Crime Fighter (3:20)
  14. Super Rescues (2:13)
  15. Luthor’s Luau (2:47)
  16. The Planet Krypton alternate (4:24)
  17. Main Title March alternate (4:36)
    Disc two

  1. Superman March alternate (3:48)
  2. The March of the Villains (3:36)
  3. The Terrace (1:34)
  4. The Flying Sequence (8:13)
  5. Lois and Clark (0:50)
  6. Crime of the Century (3:23)
  7. Sonic Greeting (2:21)
  8. Misguided Missiles and Kryptonite (3:26)
  9. Chasing Rockets (4:55)
  10. Superfeats (4:52)
  11. Super Dam and Finding Lois (5:11)
  12. Turning Back The World (2:06)
  13. Finale and End Title March (5:42)
  14. Love Theme from Superman (5:05)
  15. Can You Read My Mind – alternate (2:58)
  16. Flying Sequence / Can You Read My Mind (Margot Kidder – vocals) (8:10)
  17. Can You Read My Mind (instrumental) (2:56)
  18. Theme from Superman (concert version) (4:24)

Released by: Rhino
Release date: 2000
Disc one total running time: 75:09
Disc two total running time: 73:30

Peter Gabriel – OVO

Peter Gabriel - OVOFar be it from Peter Gabriel to do anything conventional. Seemingly dormant since 1992’s Us, Gabriel has participated in various other projects and has released world music albums by other performers on his RealWorld label, but is long overdue for another release of his own. Actually getting to hear the man’s voice has been a rare thing over the past decade.

But in 1999, Gabriel was contacted to contribute to the musical theater presentation being planned for the Millennium Dome in London – a presentation Gabriel all but took over with the sprawling work presented on OVO.

To be sure, Gabriel’s voice is not prominent on this collection, and depending on which pressing you’re able to locate, OVO may not even be attributed to Gabriel except as composer. (He does, in fact, tackle the vocal duties on “Father, Son”, “Make Tomorrow” and “The Tower That Ate People”.) Other performers include Elisabeth Fraser, Neneh Cherry, and Ritchie Havens.

What kind of music is OVO? The answer is every kind. The first track segues from world music into rap in very short order, while the second is more ambient and quiet. Havens takes center stage on the lovely and contemplative “Time Of The Turning”, a song about death and rebirth and perhaps even evolution (one of the themes of the OVO stage show). With its gentle orchestral backing set to a world music beat, “Time Of The Turning” is easily the highlight of the album. The same tune returns two tracks later as a wild, Riverdance-style jig which again blends a full orchestra with the primal pounding of the Dhol Foundation Drummers, achieving a stunning effect unlike anything I’ve heard before. About one minute before that piece ends, there’s a euphoric burst of brass and percussion which always elicits a “Wow!” out of me – despite the fact I’ve probably listened to that track fifteen or twenty times. Eat your heart out, Paul Simon.

Gabriel follows this up with the heartfelt ballad “Father, Son”, which managed to get me a little misty-eyed every time I hear it. Again, brass comes into play here, with a sentimental minimalist backing which reminds me a little of the small brass band in the title track from Crowded House’s Together Alone.

The remainder of the album has a typically Gabriel sound, and the last track has an epic length.

4 out of 4I can’t rate OVO highly enough – nor can I wait much longer for Gabriel’s next solo album, which is supposedly right around the corner. If it’s as good as the material on OVO, then maybe Pete’s just now hitting his stride. And if it isn’t… perhaps OVO and Passion: Music For The Last Temptation Of Christ are indications that Peter Gabriel’s music may best be suited to some manner of visual experience…or, at the very least, his inspiration.

Order this CD

  1. The Story of OVO (5:23)
  2. Low Light (6:37)
  3. The Time Of The Turning (5:34)
  4. The Man Who Loved The Earth, The Hand That Sold Shadows (4:14)
  5. The Time Of The Turning (reprise), The Weaver’s Reel (5:39)
  6. Father, Son (4:56)
  7. The Tower That Ate People (4:49)
  8. Revenge (1:30)
  9. White Ashes (2:35)
  10. Downside-Up (6:04)
  11. The Nest That Sailed The Sky (5:06)
  12. Make Tomorrow (9:58)

Released by: RealWorld
Release date: 2000
Total running time: 62:22

Doctor Who: Trial Of A Time Lord

Doctor Who: Trial Of A Time Lord soundtrackYet another slightly shady release of music from Doctor Who, this CD excerpts the scores from two portions of the 14-episode 1986 epic, The Trial Of A Time Lord. The music heard on this CD originates with Trial’s first four and final two episodes, sometimes known to fans respectively as Mysterious Planet and The Ultimate Foe, both scored by Dominic Glynn. Glynn also arranged the Trial Of A Time Lord season’s version of the classic Doctor Who theme music, and that arrangement is heard in its televised form here for the first time. In terms of presenting previously unreleased material, I have to admit to being impressed with this bootleg release, though the CD is not without other problems.

Of the CDs I’ve heard in this range of unauthorized releases thus far, Trial has the most mastering problems. The source tape was obviously not in the best of shape. I have occasionally complained about some warble and speed variation in the other releases in this range, but with Trial it comes close to ruining the whole experience. Much of the music, from about 1/3 of the way through Mysterious Planet‘s score onward, has speed problems. Ironically, it couldn’t have happened to a better score. Most of the Mysterious Planet score is rather repetitious, the most impressive cue being the first piece of music heard in part one – the cue accompanying the dizzying flyover of the Time Lords’ trial vessel. I’m a little disappointed that the 2 out of 4Ultimate Foe music also turned out to be warbled, as it’s rather more interesting than Mysterious Planet.

Overall, the music is an interesting addition to my collection, but only for its rarity and unreleased status. As with most of the other Doctor Who soundtrack bootlegs floating around, I’d take a proper BBC-remastered official release any day of the week.

Order this CD

  1. The TARDIS Summoned (1:12)
  2. Main Title (0:47)
  3. There’s A Mystery Here (3:09)
  4. Water Thief (0:11)
  5. Requesting The Death Sentence (0:37)
  6. Escape From Drathro’s Lair (0:24)
  7. Glitz, Dibber and Peri Escape (0:10)
  8. Multiple Chases (0:47)
  9. Objection (0:26)
  10. This Might Be The End (1:13)
  11. The Doctor vs. The Valeyard (2:24)
  12. The L-7 Attacks (1:58)
  13. Katryca The Great (0:30)
  14. Peri Grieves (2:15)
  15. Storming The Castle (0:46)
  16. Hunting The Doctor (2:00)
  17. Merdeen’s Moral Dilemma (0:59)
  18. Drathro’s Final Gambit (1:13)
  19. Chain Reaction (1:19)
  20. The Valeyard’s Identity Revealed (1:23)
  21. Into The Matrix (1:38)
  22. Hands From The Water (0:48)
  23. An Uneasy Silence (0:14)
  24. Life Preserver (1:20)
  25. Irresistible Bait (1:38)
  26. Disconnect The Matrix! (0:49)
  27. The Fantasy Factory (0:32)
  28. A Second-Rate Adversary (0:09)
  29. The Doctor’s Sentence (1:11)
  30. The Master Appears (0:46)
  31. False Charges (1:08)
  32. Star Witnesses (0:25)
  33. Backpedal (1:22)
  34. An Odd Waiting Room (0:39)
  35. Mr. Popplewick Unmasked (0:24)
  36. Disseminate The News (0:24)
  37. The Threat (0:21)
  38. Last Will (0:28)
  39. Hands From The Ground (0:29)
  40. Assassination Attempt (0:56)
  41. Carrot Juice / Valeyard’s Escape (0:49)
  42. End Credits (1:20)

Released by: ?
Release date: 2000?
Total running time: 41:35

Left Behind – music by James Covell

Left Behind soundtrackLagging behind the release of the songtrack by several months, this is the orchestral soundtrack of the sleeper hit Christian film Left Behind. While many of the songs were entertaining, the score – performed by the London Symphony Orchestra – was exceptional. As pleased as I am to hear it released on CD, I’m also surprised. Left Behind wasn’t exactly a box office smash, and it was a movie aimed squarely at a specific niche audience which doesn’t normally demand the orchestral accompaniment to a movie. I was stunned to see this release at all.

Covell’s score is sensitively assembled and arranged, with some lovely choral work drifting in and out of the proceedings. It would’ve been easy to make the music overbearing, but instead Covell sticks to some time-honored film scoring traditions, doing some of the best work with a movie’s main theme motif this side of John Williams. For the movie’s more unnerving action segments, some very slick synth work comes to the fore, featuring a nifty bit of electronic percussion which is an excellent test of the bass speakers in your car (I discovered this by accident). The final of these unnerving sequences – the unveiling of the Antichrist – is some pretty effective and creepy stuff.

Three tracks – “Prologue”, “Rapture” and “Seven Years” – include some sound clips from the movie over the beginning of the music. Depending on my mood, I find this either annoying or terribly effective at setting the 4 out of 4tone of the music which follows. (It’s at least better than the treatment given the Apollo 13 soundtrack, which overlays big portions of the music with movie dialogue.)

Overall, I found the Left Behind score most enjoyable, memorable, and worthy of repeat listening – just as the movie stands up to more than one viewing.

Order this CD

  1. Prologue (0:27)
  2. Left Behind – Main Title (3:22)
  3. Surprise Attack (5:17)
  4. Rayford’s Conversion (1:55)
  5. Dirk’s In Trouble (2:06)
  6. Rebuild The Temple (2:13)
  7. Rapture (2:50)
  8. Rayford Comes Home (4:02)
  9. Loss Of A Friend (3:18)
  10. Buck’s Mission (2:46)
  11. Chloe’s Choice (2:58)
  12. One Left, The Other Taken (4:14)
  13. Goodbyes (3:03)
  14. I Don’t Want To Lose You (1:48)
  15. Prayers For Buck (2:00)
  16. Seven Years (4:27)
  17. The Final Chapter (2:52)

Released by: Reunion
Release date: 2000
Total running time: 49:38