The sounds of recent soundtracks

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‘The Artist’

If you saw “The Artist,” Michel Hazanavicius’ acclaimed silent film about Hollywood, you probably remember Ludovic Bource’s Oscar-winning score. If you had the same experience as this reviewer and the audience sat silent and rapt throughout the movie, then you were able to appreciate the soundtrack and the way it artistically supported and communicated the emotions and actions on screen. “The Artist: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” (Sony Classical) belongs in the collection of every music lover who appreciates a good movie score.


With Madonna behind the camera for the Wallis Simpson/King Edward VIII biopic “W.E.,” we can rest easy at the prospect of not having to watch her futile attempts at acting. “W.E.: Music from the Motion Picture” (Interscope) features a lushly orchestrated and dramatic score by Abel Korzeniowski. If the movie is even half as good as the music that Korzeniowski composed, including the Philip Glass-like “Brooklyn Faces,” then it would be a step up from the director’s “Filth and Wisdom.” Because she can’t remain behind the scenes for too long, Madonna can be heard singing “Masterpiece,” the movie’s less than tour de force theme song.

‘Norwegian Wood’

Jonny Greenwood of Radiohead has branched out in unexpected musical directions with his movie soundtrack work. The score he created for “There Will Be Blood” earned him deserved acclaim. His compositions for the Sixties period piece “Norwegian Wood” (Nonesuch) are moody and effectual. Interwoven on the soundtrack are three selections by avant-garde Kraut-rockers Can.

‘Chico & Rita’

“Chico & Rita” (Calle 54/Sony Music), from the Oscar-nominated animated movie of the same name is easily the most exotic and entertaining movie soundtrack since the one for the “The Triplets of Belleville.” The movie, set in 1948 Cuba, is an international love story about singer Rita (voiced by Limara Meneses) and piano player Chico (Eman Xor Oña), their tempestuous relationship and the role that music played in it. The soundtrack features Latin-tinged versions of songs by Igor Stravinsky, the Gershwins, Comden & Green, Leonard Bernstein, Herman Hupfeld, Hoagy Carmichael and Cole Porter, as well as a majority of original compositions by Bebo Valdés, who performs Chico’s songs in the film.


For his latest stint behind the camera actor/director John Turturro went in a documentary direction with his “musical adventure” about the melodic roots, traditions and influences of the music of Naples, Italy in “Passione.” The original motion picture soundtrack for “Passione” (Universal) features an exceptional array of performers and succeeds in giving the listener a sense of the musical variety in Naples.

‘We Bought A Zoo’

“We Bought A Zoo,” Cameron Crowe’s family flick starring Matt Damon and Scarlett Johansson, features music from an unlikely source. Jónsi, the openly gay lead singer of Icelandic band Sigur Rós, not only provides more than half a dozen new compositions for “From the Motion Picture We Bought A Zoo” (Columbia/Fox Music), but also includes a Sigur Rós song as well as selections from his solo debut album “Go.” Even if you didn’t care for the film, this is a soundtrack that is worth keeping in your collection.

‘Our Idiot Brother’

The Paul Rudd vehicle “Our Idiot Brother” is one of those movies that came and went pretty quickly at the local multiplex. The “Original Motion Picture Soundtrack: Our Idiot Brother” (Abkco) features a score by Nathan Larson (of Shudder to Think fame) and Eric D. Johnson (of the Fruit Bats). There are also vintage tracks by Carole King and Willie Nelson, as well as contributions by hipster acts such as Thao with the Get Down Stay Down and Generationals, and a new Mindy Smith and Daniel Tashian.

‘The Vow’

How happy are we that fashion model turned actor Channing Tatum is in the midst of a full-scale career comeback? With a few movies that have already opened and several more to come, Tatum is having a terribly good year. Following in the Nicholas Sparks-esque footsteps of 2010’s romantic drama “Dear John” is “The Vow,” in which he co-stars with Rachel McAdams. “Music From the Motion Picture The Vow” (Rhino) is a compilation soundtrack that features a couple of pop classics (one slice of Meat Loaf and a Cure cut) framing a selection of tunes by cool acts including The National (on the digital version only), Lykke Li, Voxhaul Broadcast, OK Go and Phosphorescent, among others.

‘X-Men: First Class’

“X-Men: First Class” was a major disappointment (in spite of having man of the hour Michael Fassbender in it). With music composed by Henry Jackman, the “Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - “X-Men: First Class” (Sony Classical/Fox Music), the score doesn’t do much for the cause. Although “Rise Up to the Rule” is effectively and will raise some pulse-rates.


Legendary film composers such as Franz Waxman (“The Bride of Frankenstein,” “Rebecca,” “Sunset Boulevard”), Max Steiner (“Now, Voyager,” “King Kong,” “Johnny Belinda”), David Raskin (“Laura”) and Bernard Herrmann (“Citizen Kane”) are each given their due on the Classic Film Scores series from RCA Red Seal. One disc in the series is dedicated to the “Classic Film Scores for Bette Davis” and includes music from “Dark Victory,” “All About Eve,” “Jezebel,” “The Letter,” “Beyond The Forest,” “Mrs. Skeffington” and more.

‘Pan Am’

When the ABC series “Pan Am” debuted in the fall of 2011, AMC’s “Mad Men” was no longer the ruler of the retro roost. “Pan Am: Music from and inspired by The Original Series” (Verve) has the kind of vault raiding for which the Universal label family is famous, featuring  past and current artists such as Grace Potter, Ella Fitzgerald, Getz/Gilberto, Sergio Mendes & Brazil `66, Connie Francis and Brenda Lee.

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