Star-studded 'Philadelphia' is an uneven soundtrack

RECORDS

January 07, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Pop Music Critic

PHILADELPHIA

Music from the Motion Picture

(Epic Soundtrax 57624) For all the hype about how Jonathan Demme got Bruce Springsteen and Neil Young to write songs for his new film, the most striking thing about the soundtrack album to "Philadelphia" is how eerily understated the music is. That's not necessarily a bad thing, of course; Springsteen's mumbled reserve adds extra resonance to the death-conscious resignation of "Streets of Philadelphia," while the quiet start Peter Gabriel assumes in "Lovetown" makes the tune's slow burn that much more effective. But Neil Young's near-falsetto delivery on "Philadelphia" pushes that song past acceptable levels of sentimentality, while the rest of the album ranges from uneven cover versions (the Spin Doctors' remake of "Have You Ever Seen the Rain?" is particularly pointless) to pallid dance fare.

DIARY OF A MAD BAND

Jodeci (MCA/Uptown 10915)

What sets Jodeci apart from most R&B harmony groups is focus -- where other acts seem to see the music strictly in terms of dope beats and vocal acrobatics, Jodeci takes a more organic approach, lavishing as much care on countermelodies as choruses. Maybe that's why "Diary of a Mad Band" boasts such uncommon depth and detail. There's a richness to the music that makes it easy for the listener to get lost in these songs, from the heartbreak balladry of "Cry for You" to the kaleidoscopic harmonies of "What About Us." And even though the subject matter rarely wanders from sex and romance, the rhythmic and harmonic daring of DeVante Swing's arrangements make the album's lyrical limitations almost forgivable.

THE BLUE NOTE YEARS

Joe Henderson (Blue Note 89287)

As a rule, retrospectives tend to emphasize the obvious, validating a performer's past successes by entombing them in an expensive, multi-disc package. Joe Henderson's "The Blue Note Years" is a welcome exception, though, being less interested in reiterating the obvious than in shedding light on how Henderson came to sound the way he does. As such, it augments his solo sessions with tracks he recorded as a sideman. Some, like the sides cut with Horace Silver, Lee Morgan and Herbie Hancock, will throw new light on familiar favorites; others, particularly those recorded with Andrew Hill and Larry Young, should provide new insights into Henderson's development. Add in Zan Stewart's incisive, anecdote-filled liner notes, and this set ends up as informative as it is entertaining.

POP TATARI

Boredoms (Reprise 45416)

It would not be an exaggeration to say that there is no band in rock 'n' roll quite like the Boredoms; it may also be worth wondering if that's not such a bad thing. As presented on "Pop Tatari," the band's sound is equal parts sonic collage and endurance test, with no apparent song structure and enough pointless noise to irritate even the most indulgent listener. Melodies do crop up from time to time, but they seem so at odds with the overall cacophony that it's tempting to wonder if they aren't mistakes. Still, let's look on the bright side -- at least now, Yoko Ono has a band to make fun of.

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