Soundtracks are performing as well as some current movie hits

June 03, 1994|By Gary Graff | Gary Graff,Knight-Ridder Newspapers

We don't just watch movies anymore. We listen to them, too.

Movie soundtracks have become a big deal in the music biz -- so big that the No. 1 album in the country this week is the modern rock-laden soundtrack to "The Crow." It's joined in the Top 10 by "Above the Rim."

Five other soundtracks are among Billboard's Top 100 albums; "The Bodyguard," which is at No. 54, notches its 79th week on the chart.

This trend warms the hearts and ledgers of executives in Hollywood and the music industry. A big soundtrack generates more revenue for the film's bottom line. The songs also help promote the film when it's in the theater and also rekindle interest when the home video is released.

With the summer movie boom upon us, here's a roundup of the latest soundtracks you'll be hearing -- and seeing:

* "The Lion King" (Walt Disney Records): Thanks to Disney's golden touch and Elton John's enduring appeal, this is the summer's most likely monster-seller. Mr. John and Tim Rice aren't quite as alluring a team as Mr. John and Bernie Taupin, but they manage to come up with all the requisite themes for a Disney film -- light, boppy character songs, the token villain's number and Big Statements such as "Circle of Life" and "Can You Feel the Love Tonight."

* "The Flintstones: Music from Bedrock" (MCA): The inspired choice of the B-52's -- er, the BC-52's -- to remake "(Meet) the Flintstones" in their inimitable, goofy fashion makes this one worth the price of admission. The caveman jokes wear thin on the rest of the album, save for already-released ditties "Walk the Dinosaur" by Was (Not Was) and "I Wanna Be a Flintstone" by Screaming Blue Messiahs.

* "The Flintstones: Modern Stone-Age Melodies" (Rhino): From the Flintstones now to the Flintstones then. This set mines the TV show's Stone Age vaults for everything from the theme song to guest appearances by Hoagy Carmichael, James Darren and the Beau Brummels.

* "Beverly Hills Cop III" (MCA): An R&B-leaning collection with nods to rock (INXS), hip-hop (Easy-E) and oldies (the Supremes' "Come See About Me"). Pick hit: the reggae lope of Inner Circle's seasonally appropriate "Summer Jamming."

* "The Crow" (Atlantic): Easily the hottest soundtrack of the season, already hot with "Big Empty," a preview track from the Stone Temple Pilots' next record. The rest is a Lollapalooza-style hip heaven with songs from the Cure, Nine Inch Nails, Rage against the Machine, Rollins Band, Helmet, Pantera and others.

* "The Cowboy Way" (Epic): Those expecting a country collection will be surprised by this rock outing, with key tracks by Jeff Beck and Paul Rodgers -- who team up for a version of the Drifters' "On Broadway" -- Cracker, Blind Melon and Bon Jovi.

* "Crooklyn: A Spike Lee Joint! Volume 1" (MCA): Always a deft hand with soundtracks, Lee assembles a collection of soul hits from the Jackson 5, Curtis Mayfield, the Spinners and Sly & the Family Stone, spicing it with obscurities (Joe Cuba's "El Pito") and the new school-old school hip-hop of the Crooklyn Dodgers.

* "Maverick" (Atlantic): A Randy Newman track aside, this is a tasty sampler of modern country, including hot sellers such as Clint Black, John Michael Montgomery, Tracy Lawrence and Hal Ketchum.

* "Four Weddings and a Funeral" (London): There are lots of nicely crafted tracks from Sting, Elton John, Swing Out Sister and Squeeze. But it's really missing a track from the clean-scrubbed, tone-deaf folk duo that performed in the film.

* "When a Man Loves a Woman" (Hollywood): Well, you know one song that's bound to be on the album; fortunately it's Percy Sledge's version rather than some overwrought, Michael Boltonized rendition. But you can get the song without having to buy this album of mostly instrumental background music.

* "Threesome" (Epic): The album is faring better than the film, thanks to lots of airplay for "Dancing Barefoot" from U2's vault and the General Public remake of Al Green's "I'll Take You There." Teenage Fanclub's take on Madonna's "Like a Virgin" is worth a chuckle, too.

* "With Honors" (Maverick/Sire): It's given Madonna her first hit in a while with "I'll Remember," and it's supported by decent material from Belly, Kristin Hersh, Grant Lee Buffalo, Lyle Lovett, Lindsey Buckingham and the Cult -- though much of it already has been released.

* "Backbeat: The Score" (Virgin): The Beatle movie's second score is a jazz soundtrack -- also produced by Detroiter Don Was -- with soloists Terence Blanchard, Eric Reed and Detroit reedman David McMurray.

* "D2: The Mighty Ducks" (Hollywood): Lots of songs straight from hockey arena P.A.s -- "We Will Rock You," "Rock and Roll Part 2," "WHOOMP! (There It Is)" -- plus the Gear Daddies' humorous ice-cleaning ditty "Zamboni."

* "Serial Mom" (MCA): It's almost worth owning for the incongruous mix: riot grrrl rock from L7, a Barry Manilow track and a batch of background material. Almost.

* "Brainscan" (Ruffhouse/Columbia): Horror films don't exactly cry for lush orchestrations, do they? Primus, Mudhoney, White Zombie and others provide the proper quota of hard-core headbanging here.

* "Faraway, So Close" (SBK): Wim Wenders is another director who can be counted on for solid, if slightly depressing, soundtrack albums. This is a bit of a letdown, though, short on fresh material despite an ace group of performers (U2, Lou Reed, Jane Siberry, Nick Cave).

* "Naked in New York" (Sire): The Ramones' "Rockaway Beach" kick starts this modern rock sampler into gear. The Ocean Blue, the Waltons, JudyBats, the Farm and Book of Love are among the decent young bands worth hearing.

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