Current movie music has its own life

CD REVIEWS

July 16, 1998|By J.D. Considine KIDS Papillion

'Armageddon' The Album (Columbia 69440)

'Dr. Dolittle' The Album (Atlantic 83113)

'The X-Files' The Album (Elektra 62200)

Everybody knows entertainment companies are obsessed with marketing and demographics and will often generate projects in hopes of appealing to a specific audience segment.

But seldom is that thinking as obvious as it is with this summer's big soundtrack albums. These aren't just "songs from the film" - they're full-blown ancillary projects, designed to reach their audience regardless of whether the listeners have actually seen the flick in question. Maybe that's why these CDs are being billed not as soundtracks but as "The Album," as if that thing in the theaters were merely "The Movie."

Naturally, most of the season's big movie CDs have themes and a target market. For "Armageddon: The Album," the concept is almost laughably obvious: Take a movie about a big rock, and give it a soundtrack full of big rock.

Consequently, the end of the world ends up sounding like a mid-'80s album rock radio station - seems appropriate to me. The big draw is Aerosmith's "I Don't Want To Miss a Thing," an overstuffed power-ballad that sounds like every other Aerosmith ballad of the last decade, only with more orchestration. Beyond that, we get Bob Seger, Jon Bon Jovi, Journey (with forgettable new singer Steve Augeri), Z.Z. Top and just enough new acts to keep the disc from sounding like it fell out of a time warp.

Because "Dr. Dolittle" the movie is built around black comic Eddie Murphy, "Dr. Dolittle: The Album" is built around black pop. Although the music is almost all R&B, its sound is heavily influenced by hip-hop, giving it enough rhythmic muscle to seem hip while keeping the edges soft enough for pop radio.

As such, the star of this show is producer Timbaland. In addition to providing the funky, push-and-pull drum programs that propel the designated hit, Aaliyah's "Are You That Somebody?", Timbaland produced or remixed three other tracks on the album, including Ginuwine's itchily intense "Same Ol' G" and All Saints' sultry remake of "Lady Marmalade."

Timbaland's sound is also the blueprint for everybody else's beats, from Rodney Jenkins' work behind Ray J. On "That's Why I Lie" to Dutch's remix of Montell Jordan's "Let's Ride." But the album's hottest groove is the retro-soul track Jake & the Phatman lay down behind ex-En Vogue-er Dawn Robinson's cover of Aretha Franklin's "Rock Steady."

Given that "The X-Files" appeals to a lot of college-age viewers, it makes perfect marketing sense that "The X-Files: The Album" would be full of college rock. Indeed, the disc offers quite a range of alterna-rock options, from first-generation stars like X and Sting to such edgy outsiders as Filter and Ween.

None of the acts take much in the way of chances, however. Filter tones down its industrial angst and howls quite tunefully through a version of Harry Nilsson's "One," Sting remakes the Police oldie "Invisible Sun" with Aswad, and the Foo Fighters do their best Neil Young impression in "Walking After You." Even Ween sounds housebroken, coming on like a '60s psychedelic act in "Beacon Light." In fact, the only real surprise is Noel Gallagher's "Teotihuacan," a spacy, trip-hop instrumental that could pass for a Chemical Brothers outtake. The truth may be out there, but the music sure isn't.

"Armageddon": **1/2

"Dr. Dolittle": ***

"The X-Files": ** Cajun for Kids! (R2 75309)

To a Cajun kid, this album might sound like a 33 played at 78 rpm. But if you're just a kid, especially one 10 or under, "Cajun for Kids" is a boisterous introduction to classics like "Jambalaya," sung not in the slip-sliding, unarticulated tones of an authentic Louisiana band, but with kid-friendly clarity. Papillion himself grew up on the bayou, but on this album he has substituted pleasingly wholesome tones for more typical eerie falsettos and slurred phrasings. If you're a purist when it comes to introducing your child to home-grown music, it would make more sense to head for Beausoleil or Steve Riley & the Mamou Playboys. If not, "Laissez les Bon Temps Rouler!" with Papillion. ***

Stephanie Shapiro

POP/ROCK

Monica

The Boy Is Mine (Arista 19011)

Even though she's just 17, Monica has the hallmarks of divahood. She has a big-budget album, "The Boy Is Mine," PTC chart-topping duet by the same title, and the support of some of the hottest producers in R&B. All she needs now is a diva-size voice. Even though she has more power to her husky alto than her "The Boy Is Mine" duet partner, Brandy, she still doesn't have the heft to lift a ballad like Diane Warren's "Inside" to its full crossover potential. Still, she can emote up a storm, working the nasty Jermaine Dupri groove of "The First Night" like a pro, while the grit she gives the Joe Simon oldie "Misty Blue" belies her tender age. ***

J.D. Considine

The Brian Setzer Orchestra

The Dirty Boogie (Interscope 90183)

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