Soundtracks offer their own pleasures

July 03, 1992|By J.D. Considine | J.D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

MO' MONEY

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

(Perspective 28968 1004)

BOOMERANG

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

(LaFace 73008 26006)

Directors aren't the only auteurs in the movie business these days. Thanks to the increasing importance of soundtrack albums in movie marketing, record producers have become just as crucial in shaping the feel of a film project as the folks behind the cameras.

Just listen to the way Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis' taste sets the tone for the soundtrack to the Damon Wayans film "Mo' Money." From the stomping intensity of the "Mo' Money Groove" to the soulful sweep of "The Best Things In Life Are Free" (the latter boasting a delicious duet between Luther Vandross and Janet Jackson), there's no mistaking the producers' sensibilities. Even there's never a sense that the album's musical consistency works to limit the material; indeed, the album's best moments are often the most unlikely, as with the inspired lunacy of Flavor Flav's "Get Off My Back."

There's a similar stylistic unity to the tracks L.A. Reid and Babyface provide for the soundtrack to the Eddie Murphy vehicle "Boomerang." But just as the pop material produced by this pair has always seemed slick and shallow when compared to the meatier groove of Jam & Lewis, "Boomerang" has a hard time living up to the standards set by "Mo' Money." Although the musical cast is strikingly similar, "Boomerang" seems stuck with mostly cut-rate equivalents -- for instance, using Babyface and Toni Braxton for the big love ballad, where "Mo' Money" has Vandross and Jackson. But there's no dismissing the power of Aaron Hall's agile performance on "It's Gonna Be Alright," while P.M. Dawn's Prince-like "I'd Die Without You" ranks among the group's best work.

SINGLES

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

(Epic 52476)

Mention the Seattle singles scene to most rock fans, and odds are that they'll think you're talking about 45's by Soundgarden or Mudhoney. Perhaps that's why the soundtrack to the Cameron Crowe film "Singles" is packed to the gills with grunge-rock gems from Seattle's finest. But don't take the preponderance of big names here to mean that the album is mostly about bandwagon jumping. Despite the bone-crunching intensity of tunes like Pearl Jam's "State of Love and Trust" or Soundgarden's searingly catchy "Birth Ritual," there are also subtler pleasures, like Mudhoney's myth-bashing "Overblown." But the album's most striking moments are also the least expected -- particularly the tuneful roar of "Nearly Lost You" by Screaming Trees, and the gorgeous thrum of Chris Cornell's "Seasons."

SISTER ACT

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

(Hollywood 61334)

Part of what makes Whoopi Goldberg convincing as a lounge singer-turned-nun is that her singing is as professional as it is pedestrian, and that works as well in the soundtrack to "Sister Act" as it does on the screen. Granted, Goldberg's semi-pro enthusiasm isn't quite enough to keep Deloris & the Ronelles' cover versions of Motown oldies from crumbling when compared to genuine R&B oldies like Dee Dee Sharp's "Gravy" or Fontella Bass' "Rescue Me," but they make sense dramatically. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for the orchestral numbers needed to pad this project out to album length.

@A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN

Music From the Motion Picture

(Columbia 52919)

Because she has a role in the movie, Madonna's picture is plastered on the cover to the soundtrack album from "A League of Their Own." But the cover is the only place you'll find her, since the singer's new single, "This Used to Be My Playground," is not included here. That's not to take anything from the selections that do make the cut -- a lively collection of post-big band cover songs highlighted by James Taylor's take on "It's Only a Papermoon" and the Manhattan Transfer's version of "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie." But with the team's biggest star a no-show, the album definitely seems a case of caveat emptor.

PINOCCHIO

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

(Disney 60845)

The animation wasn't the only thing that got spiffed-up in the revival of Walt Disney's cartoon about the puppet who became a little boy, as an equal amount of care obviously went into remastering the soundtrack to "Pinocchio." But though that adds much-needed luster to classics like "I've Got No Strings" or "When You Wish Upon a Star," the real bonus is the way this package restores the orchestral segments that fleshed out the film's visual action. A delightful and illuminating album.

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