Music Reviews

I Am Sam

Music From and Inspired By the Motion Picture


The soundtrack works because it offers 16 great songs by nearly 16 great artists (and that’s including the Steven and Elyse Keaton of singer/songwriters, Aimee Mann and Michael Penn, the latter of whom also happens to be the star’s brother) covering the two best songwriters, John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The thing all these artists have in common is that they truly, obviously love and admire The Beatles and their canon of gems. Each artist gives their subject a sincere treatment and the pairings often are very appropriate. Such is the case with the Mann/Penn duo performing Let It Be’s lead-off track, “Two Of Us,” The Black Crowes on “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds,” and the almost-too-ironic cover of “Nowhere Man” by Paul Westerberg (luckily, the former Replacements frontman resurfaces with Stereo/Mono this April).

With such a surefire combination of good songs and good artists, there is room to exploit the situation by potentially introducing new sounds to the uninitiated. This is achieved by having the radio-friendly Wallflowers fiddle with the less familiar “I’m Looking Through You,” plus newcomers Howie Day performing the instantly recognizable “Help!”

If the producer and the music supervisor had Linkin Park butchering “Strawberry Fields Forever,” it wouldn’t work. So they got Ben Harper, who did a nifty job on it. If they had The Baha Men let their dogs run loose on “Golden Slumbers,” it would be rubbish. Instead, they got Ben Folds, in a rare moment of not being a smart ass, to play piano at his most gentle and sing softly on this first piece of this Abbey Road medley. And they could’ve easily coerced Creed to cover “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away,” but they went to the root of Creed’s sound and hired the original, Eddie Vedder, to do the job.

I don’t take I Am Sam to be a blockbuster hit, so it’s good to see this project produced for the great music rather than just an obligatory chart-topper with an A-list movie star as the cover art. There’s no need for five-second sound clips from the movie, which is good, since now you don’t have to see the film. It makes this companion to the Sean Penn-as-a-mentally-deficient-father-flick a no-brainer. This is one of the few soundtracks that plays like a spectacular album.

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