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Going to Chicago (3/21/2073) Write to CD Shakedown
ChicagoSoundtrack to Chicago (Epic/Sony Music Soundtrax 2002) - The movie Chicago is an immensely rewarding production, succeeding in every way that Moulin Rouge failed. The soundtrack is a great reminder of the film.

The movie stars Renee Zellweger as Roxie Hart, Catherine Zeta-Jones as Velma Kelly, and Richard Gere as defense lawyer Billy Flynn. Velma and Roxie come from opposite sides of the tracks, but find themselves on trial for murder. Roxie's star rises, while Velma's fails, setting up the big trial scene.

Chicago Renee Zellweger What works? Almost everything. To start, the opening "Funny Honey" by Ms. Zellweger, is a great number (and even better in the film). "Cell Block Tango" loses none of its appeal, even without the dancers (Susan Misner as Liz, Deidre Goodwin as June, Denise Faye as Annie, and Ekaterina Chtchelkanova as the Hunyak).

I like the fact that all of the actors perform their own parts. There is an element of pretense in Ms. Zeta-Jones' performance, on tracks such as "Class," that isn't present on Ms. Zellweger's performances, such as "Nowadays." And Richard Gere acquits himself well, as he goes for the gusto on "Razzle Dazzle."

Chicago - John C. RileyJohn C. Riley is getting deserved notice for his performance as Amos, the cuckolded husband. I like his version of "Mr. Cellophane" - it's just that I've heard other versions, that played more to the pathos of his position.

Less we not forget, Queen Latifah makes a swell appearance as the jail mate friend on "When You're Good to Momma," and Taye Diggs makes several cameo appearances as the band leader.

Chiago - Richard GereThe soundtrack also includes some unnecessary material - two instrumental selections by music director Danny Elfman, a re-mix version of "Cell Block Tango" with performances by Lil' Kim and Macy Gray, and a track by Anastacia ("Love Is a Crime") that is not in the film. Nor even is Anastacia.

I'll make this easy for you. If you like the movie, you'll have a good time with the soundtrack. Further, the soundtrack has a great mix for home stereo, and sounds hot and lively. (Not like it was processed to death in the studio). Chicago sets a standard for contemporary film musicals.

PlumbPlumb, Beautiful Lumps of Coal (Curb Records 2003) - When famed Nashville label honcho Mike Curb presses the "I Hear a Hit" button, only a fool doesn't sit up to pay notice. And so when I received the slick advances press kit for Plumb (real name = Tiffany Arbuckle), I promptly gave it a spin.

After a time, I came to like it. When Plumb settles down to a piano-based confessional sound on tracks like "Nice Naive and Beautiful," she hits a grove, as she does on the steady tang-and-techno of "Walk Away."

PlumbBut too much of the album is overproduced, such as "Free" and "Sink-N-Swim," the two opening tracks on the CD. There is too much "New" Nashville, all pop and gloss and perfect production.

As a side note of local interest, Plumb credits a 2000 concert appearance in Fresno as turning her career around. (Plumb also has an upcoming date in Fresnol.) Plumb is quick to honor God as her source, and believes that an act of intervention occurred when a fan slipped a note in her hand. The note thanked Plumb for writing a song about coming to grips with an act of child sexual molest.

PlumbAccording to the note, "Whatever you do, I just want you to never forget that you have helped changed someone's life." Says Plumb, "It hit me that this wasn't about me. I'd been given a gift to communicate, to encourage and inspire...When I finished the letter and opened the card, I saw that there was a picture on the front of a cattail in a pond, with a caption that read, 'The tender reed, bent to the force of the wind, soon stood upright once the storm had passed.'"

Plumb also has two indie CDs under her belt, including candycoatedwaterdrops, which drew comparisons to Sharleen Spiteri from the band, Texas.

Expect Plumb to get a major push from the label. Her voice is talented, but the production has been layered as thick as Aunt Jemima syrup.

David MassengillDavid Massengill, My Home Must Be a Special Place (Gadfly Records 2002) - David Massengill, a 20-plus year veteran of the folk season, delivers the heartfelt, My Home Must Be a Special Place. Now past the half-century mark, Massengill is able to look back with introspection on his roots.

David Massengill and his dadSays the singer, "It only took me 50 earned years to discover my purpose as an artist was to look back. It's as though I've been preparing my whole life to write these songs, where I aim to make the personal of family lore and hometown memories universal. My domain is the life and times of what I've come to know as the very dear past. Back before we all got to be so mad at each other. That's where I'll be in the foreseeable future. Back in the past, spotlighting moments of humanity."

David MassengillThe native of Bristol, Tennessee (who has also spent long stretches in New York) amply works this vein. With the songwriting style of David Wilcox or James Taylor, the introspective Massengill paints an endearing portrait on tracks like "The Girl From Nebraska," "My First Kiss," and "Ms. Credle Was My First Love."

And any album that opens with a spoken prologue called "The First Time My Father Saw My Mother" has goodness in it. (The spoken part is performed by David's father.)

David MassengillDavid is an acclaimed player of the Appalachian dulcimer, and is joined by Mark Dann, who provides bass and acoustic and guitar tracks. Contributing fiddles are Lisa Gutkin and Tim Carbone. Willy Nile lends vocals to one track, while folkies Maggie Roche and Lisi Tribble (who apparently was married for a time to director Ken Russell) contribute backing vocals on more than half the tracks.

For a gentle, heartfelt journey, ride along with David Massengill.

- Randy Krbechek © 2003

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