In their next issue, Vanity
Fair will publish their list of the top 40 movie soundtracks
of all time. But
we don’t need to wait to find out their top 10: Purple Rain, A Hard Day’s
Night, The Harder They Come, Pulp Fiction, The
Graduate, Superfly, Trainspotting, Saturday Night
Fever, American Graffiti and The Big Chill.
I don’t know about you, but
this is not exactly my top 10. I own and agree with a few — A Hard
Day’s Night, The Graduate, American Graffiti and
The Big Chill. And Purple Rain is tricky. I can understand
why others would rank it as such, but I wouldn’t. Ranking soundtracks
is complicated though, because there can be so many factors to consider.
Do the songs tell the story of the movie? Do they evoke scenes from
the movie? Are they just a collection of great songs? Ten people could
probably come up with ten different criteria for what makes a great
Therefore, instead of analyzing
Vanity Fair‘s selections, I’m going to have more fun making my own
list. Here are the parameters: It must be a movie soundtrack. I must
own it. I must have listened to it in the past year.
And I’ll give each pick a category for context. And I won’t pick all
movie musicals (even though I could.)
The Sound of Music (Best movie
This one is a no-brainer. The Sound of Music is, without question, my pick for
best movie musical ever, so it stands to reason that the soundtrack
would be the best movie soundtrack.
Coal Miner’s Daughter (Best
This album is perfect because
it evokes the movie but doesn’t require the movie; it’s a great country
album in its own right. Sissy Spacek
is brilliant in her interpretation (as opposed to imitation) of Loretta
Lynn. The only problem is that Beverly D’Angelo does not
really evoke Patsy Cline.
1969 (Best ’60s music soundtrack that nobody owns)
I’m not disrespecting The
Big Chill. I own it. I love it. But the mediocre 1988 Robert
Downey Jr., Keifer Sutherland and Winona Ryder movie
has a kick-ass soundtrack. It opens with Jimi Hendrix‘s cover
of “All Along the Watchtower” and moves on to Cream’s “White Room”
and The Animals’ “When I Was Young.” And that’s just the first three
tracks. The remaining nine, including “Time of the Season,” “Wooden
Ships” and “Windows of the World,” all rock.
Cabaret (Second best movie musical
I was going to limit this to
only one musical, but I just couldn’t omit this. It’s Liza Minnelli
at her best. (I may actually be a gay man.) And Joel Grey
at his best. Additionally, “Tomorrow Belongs to Me” is the most
unexpectedly chilling representation of the rise of the Nazi regime
I’ve ever heard. (It’s the most powerful scene in the movie and it retains
its effect on the album.)
Take a look at the scene from
The Lost Boys (Best Soundtrack that reminds me of college)
For some reason, The Lost
Boys was the tape (remember tapes?) I listened to when I was getting
ready to go out in college. The music is a distinct brand of mid-1980s
synth-rock: plenty of guitars, but some drum machines, too. “Cry Little
Sister (Theme From the Lost Boys)” is kind of haunting. And it has
surprising good covers of “People Are Strange” and “I Still Believe,”
by Echo and the Bunnymen and Tim Cappello, respectively.
Streets of Fire (Best Bombastic ’80s Soundtrack)
of Fire is
neither a perfect movie nor a perfect soundtrack, but what’s good about
it is so good that deserves special recognition. The movie opens with Deborah Van Valkenburgh
(I used to love her) sort of mooning at Diane Lane as she lip-synchs
to a bombastic, Bonnie Tyler-esque song, “Nowhere Fast.” And it
closes with a similarly bombastic (Jim Steinman-produced) “Tonight Is What It Means
To Be Young.”
If you’ve never seen it (and
don’t mind watching the end of the movie first), check out “Tonight
Is What It Means To Be Young” (with Spanish subtitles). There’s a
little bit of talk and the end of Dan Hartman‘s “I Can Dream
About You” first.
Amazing, isn’t it? Unfortunately,
the CD rearranges the songs so that “Tonight” is not the last
song. That messes up the flow. But there’s a great Maria McKee
ballad, and some other gems as well.
Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (Best Dolly Parton soundtrack)
Have I mentioned that I like Dolly Parton? Perhaps once or twice. This album
not only contains the original version of “I Will Always Love You”,
but also a Dolly duet with Burt Reynolds (“Sneaking Around
With You”). And an intro by Jim Nabors. And a song “Texas
Has a Whorehouse in It” sung by Dom DeLuise. It is wonderful.
Wonderful, I tell you.
Swing Kids (Best period-piece soundtrack)
Swing Kids has some
amazing big-band tracks — “Sing, Sing, Sing,” “It Don’t Mean A
Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing),” “Bei Mir Bist Du Schon.” Unfortunately,
these songs are intercut with incredibly depressing mood music. But
the good tracks make the album worthwhile.
It is, however, a wee bit disturbing
to realize that this is the third Nazi-related soundtrack I’ve selected.
Perhaps a little Wagner next.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (Best soundtrack
about failed transgender surgery)
If you’ve never listened to Hedwig and the
you should; this is one of the great rock musicals. John Cameron
Mitchell has a Broadway-caliber voice that he uses to full effect
on songs ranging from the rock ballad “Wicked Little Town” to the
show-tune-y “Wig in a Box” to the punk-influenced “Angry Inch.”
The song-writing is inspired and uncomfortable, and Stephen Trask‘s
collaboration makes for a lot of brilliant music.
A Mighty Wind (Best faux-folk soundtrack)
The music in Christopher Guest
movies is good. The Spinal Tap
music was good. And A Mighty Wind is good, too. While a few of
the songs, e.g., “Start Me Up,” are cheap jokes, others such as “Old
Joe’s Place,” “Blood On the Coal,” “A Kiss at the End of
the Rainbow” and “A Mighty Wind” so perfectly evoke the hootenanny
classics that they’re brilliant.
And there they are. Remember,
these are just my top picks from my collection — and I had to leave
out some of my favorites. Chime in with your picks.