The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Music for the Movies of Clint Eastwood
Warner Brothers Records
Music from the Motion Picture Ocean’s Eleven
Warner Brothers Records
Music from Vanilla Sky
Is it just me, or does it seem sometimes like most soundtracks act simply as excuses for some producer or director to throw some of his or her favorite tracks together onto one CD? I don’t know, but it seems rare that any collection actually manages to evoke some sense of the film it is supposed to represent.
In the case of the original soundtrack to Peter Jackson’s epic screen adaptation of J. R. R. Tolkien’s masterpiece The Lord of the Rings, at least the music is sonically unified, if for no other reason than that it was all composed by Howard Shore (with the exception of two brief vocal pieces cobbled up by international “New Age” singing star Enya). Still, it is almost impossible to hear those particularly “Irish” pipes without immediately remembering (for good or ill) the music from Titanic. Also, how many more choirs belting out pseudo-Latin-sounding chants must one put up with before they are all deservedly stamped as clichés? Still, this is OK as far as first-time film scores go. But if you’ve seen the movie, perhaps you’ve noticed what I did: The score tends to overwhelm occasionally when it should, at best, simply remain in the background.
Music for the Movies of Clint Eastwood isn’t actually from any one film, obviously, but rather compiles theme tunes from an assortment of Eastwood flicks, including the Frankie Lane-belted “Theme from Rawhide,” from the TV show of the same name. As near as I can tell, these are all the original recordings and not wretched attempts at reconstruction: Ennio Morricone’s timeless “The Good, Bad and the Ugly,” Lalo Schifrin’s “Theme from Dirty Harry,” several movie tunes composed by Eastwood himself, and the whole CD climaxing with composer Lenny Niehaus’ tribute to Eastwood, “Clint Eastwood: An American Filmmaker Suite.” This is an OK selection, but frankly I wanted more Morricone stuff, especially the difficult to find “whistling” theme from For a Few Dollars More. Oh well … wishes and fishes, right?
Music from the Motion Picture Ocean’s Eleven features a peculiar selection of music, from the jagged rap of Del the Funkee Homosapien to the smooth intonations of the late Perry Como, from the somewhat syrupy orchestrations of Percy Faith to the jazzy blues instrumentals of Quincy Jones. Some of the excerpts from the film’s dialogue hinder rather than facilitate a sense of continuity between the tracks, let alone helping to establish a theme. However, one can admire this soundtrack’s willful eclecticism if not always enjoy it.
Music from Vanilla Sky has the distinct advantage of featuring brand-new cuts from Paul McCartney (the title track) and REM, as well as old favorites from Peter Gabriel, Todd Rundgren and Bob Dylan and more-or-less recent material by Red House Painters, the Chemical Brothers and more. This could well be a case where the soundtrack compilation is actually superior to the movie itself. Which probably tells us about director/music co-compiler Cameron Crowe’s genuine strengths and limitations more than anything else ever could.