Music From the Motion Picture
Soundtrack albums are supposed to do only one thing: generate more revenue for all the people involved. You do this by choosing the songs from the movie that are the least objectionable (hence, leaving the Stooges’ “Search and Destroy” off the record) in order to draw in the most middle-of-the-road, shopping-mall record purchasers possible, who only want the hits. Secondly, a soundtrack is designed to remind listeners of the movie, in hopes they will flock back to the metroplex to see it again. In both cases, the soundtrack to Cameron Crowe’s hit semi-autobiographical movie delivers. Set in the early 1970s, the film chronicles the lives of people whose currency for dreams is music. The fictional band in the movie, “Stillwater,” featuring a dead-on front man in Chasing Amy‘s Jason Lee, is a band who all of us saw back then opening for what are now called dinosaurs (and should have been called that back then, too) — a plodding, sludgy four-piece that reminds you of Bad Company and such. Their contribution to the soundtrack, “Fever Dog,” sounds remarkably like something from Temple of the Dog, which isn’t surprising, since Pearl Jam’s Mike McCready is in both groups. Crowe’s wife, Nancy Wilson from Heart, provided the score, only one number of which is included on the record.
Much has been made of the fact that Crowe persuaded Led Zeppelin to allow their songs to be included in a movie for the first time, but really, who cares? It’s not as if “That’s The Way” or “Tangerine” are exactly hard to find, and while they provide pleasant moments in the film, we don’t need to repurchase them on CD here. What is funny, however, is the inclusion of “Mr. Farmer” by Sky Saxon and the Seeds on the soundtrack. A great, if dated, song, and by appearing on this record, Saxon most likely will be heard by more people in one day than in his previous 30 or so years as a performer, which is justice of a sort.
While some of the best moments of the movie revolve around song events — the bus sing-along on Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” or the hotel jam session on Thunderclap Newman’s “Something in the Air” — it’s the original, heard-’em-a-million-times studio versions that are included here. It’s in such little things — such as the front photograph of the soundtrack, showing the guitarist backwards — that makes this a less-than-vital purchase. Almost Famous is almost necessary.
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