MENACE II SOCIETY
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Jive 41509)
What would an urban violence flick be without a rap soundtrack? But if the packaging for "Menace II Society" looks like standard Hollywood rap-sploitation, the sound of the album is something else again. Because as much as the raps collected here might talk guns and violence, the music hits home with a palpable sense of place, and that lends added impact to tracks like "Pocket Full of Stones" by U.G.K., Ant Banks' searingly soulful "Packin' a Gun" or Too $hort's brooding and brutal "Only the Strong Survive." Maybe that's why this album, unlike most soundtracks, is worth hearing even if you haven't seen the movie.
MADE IN AMERICA
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Elektra 61498)
Mainstream motion pictures often try to broaden their appeal by offering something for everyone, so it's only natural that soundtrack albums would do the same. Hence "Made in America," which is so intent on stylistic diversity that its 11 selections seem almost to have been selected at random. Granted, the album is not without hit potential, thanks to the brassy exuberance of Gloria Estefan's "Go Away" and the soulful intensity of "Does He Do It Good" by Keith Sweat and Silk. But after wading through disparate and disappointing tracks by Lisa Fischer, Ben E. King, Deep Purple and Del tha Funkee Homosapien, most listeners will find their feelings summarized by Sergio Mendes' contribution: "What Is This?"
SUPER MARIO BROTHERS
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Capitol 89117)
Roxette. Extreme. Megadeth. Marky Mark. George Clinton. Queen. What do these artists have in common? Not much, and that's the problem with the soundtrack album from "Super Mario Brothers." Apart from Roxette's typically tuneful "Almost Unreal," none of the songs collected here has much in the way of pop appeal, though Charles & Eddie's "I Would Stop the World" serves up a tasty slice of retro-soul. And while the remakes are entertaining in their way -- the Divinyl's rough-edged take on Roxy Music's "Love Is the Drug" is particularly fun -- that's hardly enough to hold the album together.
Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Virgin 88064)
You like to watch -- but do you like to listen? That's the question posed by the soundtrack album to "Sliver." Like the film it accompanies, the music here makes quite a show of seeming stylish, relying heavily on techno-flavored tracks from hip European acts like Shaggy, Verve, BIGOD 20 and the Lords of Acid. But it doesn't quite have the nerve to go all the way, and softens its edge with tame oldies (from Massive Attack and Heaven 17) and slick, pop-oriented fare like Aftershock's "Slave to the Vibe" and UB40's remake of "Can't Help Falling in Love." And so the album ends up a vaguely titillating disappointment, unlikely to satisfy either hardcore club-goers or curious pop fans.