Dangerous GroundMusic from the Original Motion Picture...

CD REVIEWS

February 20, 1997|By J.D. Considine

Dangerous Ground

Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (Jive 41590)

Contrary to the line in Ice Cube's "The World Is Mine," in which Mack 10 insists that "you can't get enough of this gangsta [stuff]," the most addictive aspect of the soundtrack to "Dangerous Ground" isn't the tough-talking gangsta raps, but the deep-thumping bass grooves. That's certainly the case with "The World Is Mine," where the growling synth hook is nastier than anything Cube says, but it's just as true of both the simmering malevolence of Spice 1's "2 Hands and a Razor" and the slippery funk of Celly Cel's "The Only Way." Given the album's cast of characters -- in addition to Ice Cube and Spice 1, there's Too $hort, B-Legit, KRS-ONE and a collaboration between MC Lyte, Bahamadia, Nonchalant and Yo-Yo -- it's no surprise to find an unusual number of stellar performances. Still, it's the quality of the material that ultimately carries the album, particularly with "Perhaps She'll Die," KRS-ONE's dark resetting of "There Was an Old Woman Who Swallowed a Fly," and B-Legit's surprisingly lyric "Ghetto Smile," which boasts a beautifully appropriate cameo by Daryl Hall.

The Empire Strikes Back

Special Edition: The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (RCA Victor 09026-68747)

In much the same way that the films themselves have been spiffed up for re-release, John Williams' scores for the "Star Wars" trilogy are also being reissued in new and expanded versions. But what makes the soundtrack to "The Empire Strikes Back" worth hearing isn't all the extra music included, but the way that music fits together. Unlike the relatively episodic soundtrack to "Star Wars: A New Hope," the score for "The Empire Strikes Back" is as seamless and coherent as a Richard Strauss tone poem. Williams' compositional style is a pastiche of late-romantic orchestral styles, drawing from Mahler, Nielsen, Bruckner and Strauss, and makes excellent use of the orchestral palette, but it's the way he deploys the soundtrack's recurring themes that makes the music so gripping. "The Asteroid Field," for instance, offers a vivid contrast between the ponderous bombast of Darth Vader's "Imperial March" and the twinkling strings used to represent space itself, while "The Clash of Lightsabers" threads both Vader's and Yoda's themes into the adrenaline-stirring fabric of the fight music itself. Orchestral soundtrack music rarely stands on its own as convincingly.

Suburbia

Original Motion Picture Soundtrack (DGC 25121)

Even though the soundtrack to "Suburbia" boasts contributions from nine other acts, including Beck, Flaming Lips and the Butthole Surfers, the album's dominant force is clearly Sonic Youth. It isn't just that the Youth perform three tunes to everybody else's one (four if you count Sonic Youth guitarist Thurston Moore's solo turn on "Psychic Hearts"); the band's static rhythms and twangy, detuned guitars also cast a long shadow over the album's other tracks. It's easy to hear Sonic Youth overtones in the dense guitar squall of Girls Against Boys' dull-throbbing "Bullet Proof Cupid," and also in the slippery slide guitar that adorns "Unheard Music," Elastica's collaboration with Pavement's Stephen Malkmus. That's not to say the soundtrack functions as a sort of Sonic Youth tribute album; there's no debt to the band in Beck's darkly catchy "Feather in Your Cap," nor in the gloomy electronics of Skinny Puppy's chilly "Cult." (And of course there's nothing Sonic Youth-ful in the Gene Pitney oldie "Town Without Pity.") Still, it's impressive to hear how far the band's influence has carried in the alternarock world -- even if the resemblance isn't always intentional.

Michael Brook

Albino Alligator (4AD 46504)

Because he is as much admired for framing the work of others as he is for concocting richly evocative soundscapes, it makes sense that guitarist Michael Brook would end up making movie music. Still, there's something basically disappointing about his soundtrack for the Kevin Spacey film "Albino Alligator." Part of that is because, without a solid dramatic context, atmospheric pieces like "Doggie Dog" or "Tunnel" just seem to drift off into the ether. But even the album's song-oriented tracks have trouble staying in focus. Jimmy Scott may bring an unearthly counterpoint to Michael Stipe's profoundly weary rendering of the bluesy "Ill Wind (You're Blowing Me No Good)," but the ghostly groove Brooks and company offer in support keeps the song from generating any real momentum. Most puzzling of all, given Brooks' chameleonic ability to absorb exotic musical styles, is how poorly he folds jazz and blues into the soundtrack, for the tabla-driven wail of "Miscalculation" is far more convincing than the faux-New Orleans moan of "Arrival."

Pub Date: 2/20/97

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