Howard Shore has been responsible for some innovative movie scores, scores that moreover play very well when detached from their cinematic context. The prime example, and a marvellous piece of work, is his soundtrack for Naked Lunch, which featured free-jazzer Ornette Coleman improvising against the backdrop of Shore’s orchestral washes.
Unfortunately, Shore’s score for The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Gallo), which took an Oscar for best original soundtrack last week, is not up to the same standard. While it did very well to help propel the movie, it does not work on its own. The chants that sound like massed Gregorian choirs, used to announce the imminent appearance of hordes of frightening Orcs, become tiresome in the context of one’s lounge. So does the Celtic flavour of the parts linked to elves and the like; that rippling flute theme seems like a tinselly jingle, and the yearning high-pitched voices feel increasingly sentimental. Oddly enough, the contribution of Irish songstress Enya, who is usually rather irritating, is one of the more successful elements of the soundtrack.
A better bet, as soundtracks go, is that for Black Hawk Down, by Hans Zimmer, with contributions from Salif Keita, Lisa Gerrard and Joe Strummer. It combines Arabic sounds with electronic and rock beats. Just right for an Apocalypse Now-type helicopter sortie.
Jennifer Lopez – J to tha L-O! The Remixes (Sony)
Lopez is shunted from the top-40 chart to the dance floor, mostly successfully, with the beats at times giving her music a nifty edge. Fun, but it gets a bit much after a while. — Riaan Wolmarans
Various – Not Another Teen Movie (Maverick)
Not another teen movie soundtrack, you think — especially with hits of the Eighties revived by modern-day rockers. But it works remarkably well. Saliva inject an overload of energy into the Pretenders’ Message of Love; the United Kingdom’s Muse get all angsty on the Smiths’ Please Please Please, Let Me Get What I Want; Goldfinger does pop ditty 99 Red Balloons; the Smashing Pumpkins take on Depeche Mode. A highlight is Marilyn Manson’s creepy, dark adaptation of pop hit Tainted Love — tainted, indeed. Here is a clear case of skip the movie, buy the CD. — Riaan Wolmarans
Various – Red Star Sounds: Volume 1: Soul Searching (Sony)
Put together to raise money for VH1 Save the Music and the Heineken Music Initiative, this is a collection of soulful tracks ranging in sound from R&B to world music, soul, rap, reggae and slowed-down funk. It’s the first in a series of yearly releases. Contributions by female artists stand out on the album. Rebecca Fahey’s Boat on the River provides a melodic, gentle opener. There is Erykah Badu’s Today (Earth Song) and Macy Gray’s catchy We’ve Got Enough, as well as Jill Scott, India.Arie, Sade and Nelly Furtado. The men feature too, but somewhat blandly, like Jack Herrera’s sickly sweet R&B tune High Off You. This is a good compilation that boasts diversity without disrupting the loungy atmosphere it creates. — Riaan Wolmarans