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Music Reviews

Randy's Buttons

March 9, 1994

It's Not the Size That Counts

PhiladelphiaVarious Artists, Soundtrack to "Philadelphia" (Epic 1993) -- The new soundtrack for Philadelphia is among the strongest of the recent batch of all-star compilations. Frankly, the strength of compilation albums in recent times has been surprising; while there are some clinkers, the majority of various artist collections are very rewarding.

The Philadelphia soundtrack features the first appearance of songs written and performed by Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young for a movie. The movie Philadelphia was directed by Jonathan Demme and stars Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington in a story about an attorney who was fired in an AIDS-related case.

The soundtrack opens with Springsteen's strong performance of "Streets of Philadelphia," which features the Boss' soulful (perhaps mournful) reading of this tune. Despite claims to the contrary, Bruce has matured very gracefully; maybe we should quit calling him the boss and start calling him "Colonel" in recognition of his status.

The album follows with Peter Gabriel's edgy, gripping performance of "Love Town" (as produced by Daniel Lanois), which stands in marked contrast to Neil Young's overblown performance of the title track ("Philadelphia"). Neil's done much better work in recent times, and should avoid trying to sing a love song in front of a full orchestra; he's much better when he's rockin' in the free world.

Also featured is a fine appearance by the Spin Doctors, who cover the old Credence Clearwater Revival song, "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" The album ends with an operatic aria by Maria Callas and an orchestral piece composed by Howard Shore. These last two cuts detract from the album; though they may be moving in the context of the film, they should have been reserved for the second album of music from the movie (which should already be in the stores), which will feature Shore's orchestral score and other opera performances by Maria Callas and Lucia Popp.

Though the Philadelphia soundtrack may not be cheery, the performances are strong, and make for a fine collection.

Reality BitesVarious Artists, Soundtrack to Reality Bites (RCA 1993) -- A second star-studded soundtrack has been released to accompany the new film Reality Bites. The film stars Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, and Ben Stiller, and is billed as a "comedy about love in the 90s." Even better, the soundtrack showcases some of today's hottest Generation X stars.

Now, let's not get carried away, as the album includes an unnecessary re-make of the Knack's "My Sharona" (which wasn't a very good song even when first released), and an updated version of "Tempted" by the reconstituted Squeeze (which only proves that it's impossible to top Paul Carrack's soaring vocals on the original version).

Fortunately, the pace accelerates rapidly on the rest of the album, including a funky single by multi-faceted rockers The Indians ("Bed of Roses"), and a Bowie-esque reading of "When You Come Back to Me" by World Party (and isn't Kurt Wallinger one of the most remarkable chameleon rockers in the business -- he has an uncanny ability to find new life in the proven sound of other artists).

Also featured is the grungy "Turnip Farm" by Dinosaur Jr., actor Ethan Hawke's workmanlike reading of "I Am Nuthin," and a reggae-ified version of "Baby I Love Your Way" by Big Mountain. All told, Reality Bites is a fine soundtrack, and worth every penny. If you want to find out what's hip in pop/rock music, give a listen to this disc.

IRS SizeVarious Artists, It's Not the Size That Counts (I.R.S. 1994) -- Speaking of bang for your buck, nothing tops It's Not the Size That Counts, a compilation of 15 cuts by artists who are currently signed to (or who have previously appeared on) I.R.S. Records. As the disc is moderately priced at $12.98, it constitutes a veritable smorgasbord of tasty cuts from I.R.S.

The songs on this disc span a broad range of musical styles. For example, Dada opens the album with its anthemic rocker, "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow." Then, Kristy MacColl chimes in with the terrific title cut from her new album, Titanic Days, and is followed by the semi-goth sound of Over the Rhine (or is it more of a 4AD sound?) on "Jacksie."

The middle part of the album features the urban R & B mix of Vinx ("What's Come Over Me?"), an instrumental by Ozric Tentacles ("Sploosh!") that sounds like it comes from the soundtrack to a 90s science fiction movie, and a too-rowdy jam from Carter, the Unstoppable Sex Machine (who is reportedly, and for reasons I can't understand, a big hit in Europe).

The album concludes with one of the best cuts ever by Concrete Blonde ("Everybody Knows"), the North African sound of Sahotas, and the bouncy reggae of Pato Banton & Ranking Roger on "Bubbling Hot."

All told, It's Not the Size that Counts is an excellent introduction to I.R.S. Records, and one that should be on everybody's shelf. Go look into it.

Food for Thought -- A recent report says that new experiments will attempt to build on the finding that depressed people rarely use alcohol in excess, but that alcoholics often get depressed. Is there a deep meaning in this? Draw your own conclusions.

Close Enough for You? -- Author Robert Faid of Greenville, South Carolina has calculated the exact odds (8,606,091,751,882:1) that Mikhail Gorbachev is the Anti-Christ. Faid's complete calculation can be found in Gorbachev! Has the Real Anti-Christ Come? (Victory House publishers).

Miss AlansMiss Alans -- Fresno's own Miss Alans, whose major-league debut album will be released on Zoo Records in mid-April, return to their old stomping grounds (the Wild Blue) on Friday, March 11.

The Miss Alans have been gigging steadily in L.A., and plan to hit the road to promote their new disc (including a performance at the prestigious "South by Southwest" music festival in Austin, Texas). Don't miss your chance to catch these alternative rockers before they make the big time.

-- Randy Krbechek

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