Gang RelatedThe Soundtrack (Death Row 53509)With many in...

CD Reviews

November 06, 1997|By J.D. Considine

Gang Related

The Soundtrack (Death Row 53509)

With many in the music industry wondering about the future of Death Row Records after the death of Tupac Shakur, the departure of co-founder Dr. Dre, and the incarceration of label chief Suge Knight, the soundtrack to "Gang Related," Shakur's final film, ought to be enough to silence the naysayers. Instead, it only adds weight to their doubts. Despite reports that Shakur had recorded several albums' worth of material before his death, the "Gang Related" soundtrack hardly counts as a 2Pac album; after all, he's only featured on four of the double-album's 24 tracks. That's less space than is given to Dogg Pound vet Daz Dillinger or Outlawz, two acts that hardly carry the same kind of clout (or offer as potent a flow) as 2Pac. Worse, the other big stars -- Snoop Doggy Dogg, Ice Cube and Nate Dogg -- have even less presence on the album, serving as little more than cameos. That's not to say the album's a total waste; Kurupt's "Loc'd Out Hood" is chillingly visceral, Mac 10 brings high-caliber impact to "Get Yo Bang On," and 2Pac lives up to his legend in "Life's So Hard." But on the whole, "Gang Related" adds little to either 2Pac's legacy, or Death Row's reputation.

Boogie Nights

Music from the Original Motion Picture (Capitol 55631)

One of the pleasures of watching "Boogie Nights" is noticing how perfectly the music comments on the dramatic action. For instance, given the way the film focuses on the purposely shallow carnality of the porno industry, it's hard not to get an ironic chuckle from the way the opening sequence relies on the Emotions' hit "Best of My Love." Likewise, it would be hard to imagine a more amusing way of skewering the unstoppable libido of the character Roller Girl than by accompanying her act with the Melanie oldie "Brand New Key." But not every trick that works onscreen comes across with equal impact on the "Boogie Nights" soundtrack. In the theater, it's fun to laugh at the musical pretension of the drug lord who thinks Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" is a great tune; it's rather less enjoyable to endure the tune on your home stereo. Likewise, the sub-Spinal Tap rocker John C. Reilly and Mark Wahlberg concoct in an attempt to move from porno to rock may be a hoot onscreen, but it's pretty much unbearable on album. All told, "Boogie Nights" stands as proof that while the right songs can make a movie, they don't necessarily add up to an album.

The Jackal

Music from and Inspired by the Film (MCA 11688)

When is a soundtrack not a soundtrack? When it serves as a sampler for a specific musical genre, that's when. With "The Jackal," the genre in question is electronic dance music -- everything from speaker-tormenting techno to the smoothest, suavest drum 'n' bass. Granted, it relies more than a little on rock-based remixes, and the album packaging fudges the credits a bit, overplaying the contributions of the Chemical Brothers, who appear only by way of a remix of the Charlatans UK's "Toothache," and Bush, whose "Swallowed" is so totally reconstructed by mixmaster Goldie that it deserves to be listed as a collaboration. Still, those are fairly minor quibbles, for the rest of "The Jackal" makes a pretty good introduction to the joys of electronica. From the power-chord kick of Fatboy Slim's "Going Out of My Head" (which artfully reconfigures the riff from the Who's "I Can't Explain") to the high-torque hush of L.T.J. Bukem's "Demon's Theme," the selections run the gamut of genre's sonic possibilities, while the best tracks -- such as the BT/Richard Butler collaboration "Shineaway" -- demonstrate just how deep dance music can be.

A Life Less Ordinary

Soundtrack (Innerstate/London 314 540 809)

Like the movie it accompanies, the soundtrack to "A Life Less Ordinary" is too ambitious for its own good. Although it would be nice to imagine a musical environment that would have room for both the straight-up sentimentality of Elvis Presley's "Always On My Mind" and the high-concept irony of Beck's "Deadweight," this album doesn't quite create one. In fact, it conveys quite the opposite impression, coming across as if its extraordinarily wide-ranging artists -- everything from Bobby Darin to the Prodigy -- were assembled more for marquee value than musical effect. Meanwhile, the overabundance of trendy tripe will make many listeners wishing the producers had relied a little more heavily on established stars, particularly given the lukewarm nature of tracks by oh-so-hip acts like Ash, Faithless and Folk Implosion. As a result, even worthwhile tracks such as the Cardigan's luscious "It's War" or R.E.M.'s hauntingly stark "Leave" end up seeming lost in the clutter like so many forgotten gems.

Pub Date: 11/06/97

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