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Summer Soundtracks (5/26/2001) Write to CD Shakedown
Moulin RougeSoundtrack to Moulin Rouge (Interscope 2001) - Moulin Rouge is the new film from Australian auteur Baz Luhrmann. The film has not yet been released in Fresno, but based on the soundtrack, I expect an extravaganza that is gaudy, trashy, and exhilarating.

Luhrmann previously directed Romeo + Juliet, and produced the album, Something for Everybody, with the catchy single, "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)" (a spoken word piece first credited to Kurt Vonnegut.)

Nicole KidmanWith Moulin Rouge, Luhrmann goes back to 1890's Paris and the "Belle Epoque" (French for "Beautiful Period"). According to the press notes, "In the 1890's, there was a devotion to leisure and pleasure, big on beauty, big on looks, and no wars gave way to a blitzed party atmosphere."

The film is the story of Christian (played by Ewan McGregor), a young writer with a gift for poetry who becomes absorbed by the party-hard Moulin Rouge lifestyle. In pursuit of truth, beauty, freedom, and love, Christian falls into a passionate but ultimately doomed love affair with Satine, the Sparkling Diamond (played by Nicole Kidman), the most beautiful courtesan in Paris and the star of the Moulin Rouge.

Ewan McGregorThe soundtrack is a grabber, as it melds historical elements around very contemporary sounds. Like the soundtrack to Evita (which I rate highly), Moulin Rouge evokes a definite atmosphere.

The album leads off with "Nature Boy," a somber new song by David Bowie, with orchestral backing. But the album kicks into overdrive on the second track, a remake of the disco hit "Lady Marmalade," performed by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya and Pink, and produced by Missy Elliott. "Lady Marmalade" is a sassy number, and a sure-fire summertime hit.

Moulin RougeThe stars weigh in on several songs: Nicole Kidman provides passable entries on "Sparkling Diamonds" (which samples from "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" asnd "Material Girl"), the solo ballad, "One Day I'll Fly Away," and the "Elephant Love Medley," [which samples from such hits as "Pride (In the Name of Love)" (U2), "Silly Love Songs" (Paul McCartney) and "Up Where We Belong" (Buffy Sainte-Marie)].

Lady Marmalade videoNot to be outdone, co-star Ewan McGregor works through "Your Song" (Elton John) and "El Tango De Roxanne," with assistance from Jose Feliciano and samples from "Roxanne" by The Police.

Also appearing is Beck's cover of "Diamond Dogs" (the apocalyptic David Bowie song), Fatboy Slim's "Because We Can," and mood rocker Gavin Friday on "Children of the Revolution," with additional vocal assistance by Bono.

Moulin Rouge shapes up as a sensation. The soundtrack is a fascinating collage, juxtaposing modern elements against century-old hedonism. Look for "Lady Marmalade" to be a crossover hit.

Pearl HarborSoundtrack to Pearl Harbor (Warner Bros. 2001) - Pearl Harbor is the new film from producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Michael Bay. Starring Ben Affleck and Kate Beckinsale, the movie sets a love story against the infamous attack on December 7, 1941.

I like the love story in the first half of the movie better than the battle scenes. And I attribute that to the soundtrack; the love story builds against the anticipation of the attack, while the battle scenes are a somber reminder of the hour-long devastation.

Ben AffleckThe soundtrack was produced by Disney favorite Hans Zimmer, who also scored The Road to El Dorado. Zimmer is heavy on orchestration, which is good for mood scenes.

Yet there was a ton of good music that came out of WWII, which would have better evoked a sense of time and place. Pearl Harbor would have made a better soundtrack if it had included period music, not just the orchestration.

Kate BeckinsaleAnd I don't understand why Faith Hill was chosen to sing the love song (of course I do, she's signed to the label). Why not chose a 1940's love ballad by the Andrews Sisters ("Don't Sit under the Apple Tree"), Vera Lynn ("We'll Meet Again") or Dinah Shore ("I'll Walk Alone")? Overall, the soundtrack to Pearl Harbor ranks as a disappointment.

Soundtrack to Queer As Folk (RCA Victor 2001) - Queer As Folk is the new television show on the Showtime cable network. The phrase "queer as folk" is slang for "as strange as ordinary people." Based on a concept developed for British TV, the first season's 22 episodes have explored the gay and lesbian lifestyle of various 20-somethings living in Pittsburgh.

Queer as FolkI haven't seen the show, though I've heard good things about it. And good things are all I have to say about the soundtrack to Queer As Folk, anchored by the sexy club song "Straight To . . . Number One."

The soundtrack is disco-oriented, in that the beats are generally electronic. The album starts with "Dive in the Pool" by Barry Harris featuring Pepper Mashay. Unless you're into the techno/club scene, you probably haven't heard of a lot of the artists: Katty B chimes in with a friendly version of "Let's Hear It for The Boy" (from the film, Footloose), and Full Frontal spins a swinging version of Devine's 1984 dance hit, "You Think You're a Man."

Queer as FolkMy favorite cuts are "Crying at the Discotheque," with a lush melody by Alcazar and the anthemic "Proud" by Heather Small, former lead singer of M People. "Proud" translates to many meanings; it's not limited to the gay lifestyle, and will surely be adopted by schools around the country (and properly so).

The opening line for the show was "The thing you need to know is, it's all about sex." And that fits "Straight To . . . Number One" to a tee. The song by Touch and Go (remixed by Dreamcatcher) is the hottest thing since Terri Nunn and Berlin. The song opens with "Ten/Kiss me on the lips/Nine/Run your fingers through my hair/Eight/Touch me . . . slowly/Seven/HOLD IT - LET'S GO STRAIGHT TO NUMBER ONE" and then breaks into a grinding horn medley.

Queer as Folk"Straight To . . . Number One" would be a hit, if you ever get to hear it. And it proves that disco is not just uptempo, 120-beats-per-minute sweat-and-grind.

My one complaint is "Spunk," a 28-second instrumental by Greek Buck that is both the first and last track on the album. Someone should remind the soundtrack producer that CDS automatically start over at the end, unlike vinyl. Back-to-back recordings of the same track are unnecessary.

Regardless of how you feel about the gay and lesbian lifestyle, Queer As Folk is an outstanding collection of dance hall and disco.

SopranosSoundtrack to Sopranos: Peppers & Eggs (Columbia 2001) - I wish I could say the same for Peppers & Eggs, the second soundtrack installment from the HBO hit, The Sopranos.

Here's the funny part - I watch The Sopranos every week like a religion. And the music always works in the context of the show. Yet on CD, it loses some of its impact.

TonyWhat you get on Peppers & Eggs (a double-disc collection) is lots of moody/atmospheric tracks, some old, some new. The new includes Australian Kasey Chambers with her Sheryl Crow-influenced, "The Captain," and R. L. Burnside on "Shuck Dub," in which the old blues man meets a techno loop.

The old includes Van Morrison on "Gloria," Bob Dylan on a mismatched reading of "Return to Me," and Ben E. King on the plaintive, "I Who Have Nothing."

CarmelaThe highlights (for me) are songs from particular episodes. Thus, you get the full version of Nils Lofgren's "Black Books," from the episode in which the shrink tells Carmela that her husband is a bad man. Also listen for "High Fidelity" by Elvis Costello & The Attractions and the Kinks' "Living on A Thin Line." Also included is "Tiny Tears" by Tindersticks, a Nick Cave-influenced combo.

At the end of Disc 2, you get what you've been waiting for: dialogue from the show, together with the TV remix of A3's "Woke Up This Morning (And Got Myself A Gun)," the song played over the opening credits.

Christopher and Adriana One of the frustrations in watching the show is that the songs are never listed in the credits; instead, you have to go to a fan website to learn about the music. The same continues in Peppers & Eggs: the songs aren't identified by episode (which would have helped fans).

Late night rock lives on with Peppers & Eggs.

And you're in for a surprise at the end of the 5-1/2 minutes of "Black Books," when you discover that the track is a live recording.

- Randy Krbechek © 2001

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