Some people take their movie soundtrack collecting seriously, but most of us only have a handful of them on our shelves. Its easy for them to pile up, though, because every movie soundtrack seems to have one good song – Sometimes one song so good you bought the album entirely because of it. Here’s a few from my own collection.
Blue Collar was the only feature film that really captured the nervous energy and intensity of Richard Pryor’s stand up performances, although its not a comedy. It also has an interesting soundtrack, opening with this great track by the great Captain Beefheart:
Ravi Shankar and British composer George Fenton collaborated on the soundtrack to this epic biopic, which doesn’t stand very well as a piece on its own. While the music generally fits each scene of this great movie very well, heard separately the effort to fuse western and eastern musics flops.
This track is straight Shankar. Called “Discovery of India”, its from the part of the film when Gandhi returns to his homeland.
I looked for the soundtrack to Airplane! for years because its one of my all time favorite films, plus I love Elmer Bernstein’s jazzy scores. In Airplane! my favorite theme is the finger snapping music you hear in the airport during the early scenes – Sadly, Bernstein’s work is largely unheard on this soundtrack which mostly just features dialogue direct form the movie. I guess when I was 12 I would have loved this, but I didn’t find the record for another 20 years or so.
One highlight is featured on the soundtrack, and that’s Lorna Patterson’s joyous rendition of the Peter Yarrow song “There is Only One River”:
Actually, this one is a pretty great score – One of only a few composed by Sesame Street’s musical genius Joe Raposo, who dreamed of a career on Broadway. You can tell because his score The Great Muppet Caper is far more theatrical than Hollywood-themed score Paul Williams composed for The Muppet Movie. “Happiness Hotel” is one of my all time favorite Muppet numbers:
Lenny is the first of about a dozen great film scores composed by 50s bandleader Ralph Burns. Never particularly famous, Burns also performed as a jazz pianist before his career composing for the big and little screen. He also composed a Muppet soundtrack (The Muppets Take Manhattan).
Lenny is about stand up comic Lenny Bruce, who is played in the film by Dustin Hoffman. The soundtrack features Hoffman’s well-rehearsed rendition of a variety of famous Lenny Bruce routines (But not the “Djini in the Candy Store”, my favorite). He’s heard here before and after a recording of “It Never Entered my Mind” by Miles Davis playing with, I believe, Art Blakey. This is not the same recording of “It Never Entered my Mind” from Miles’ first Prestige album with his celebrated 50s quintet, but a rawer version with more of a nightclub feel:
Even though it won a Grammy, very little of Harold Faltmeyer’s synth-pop score to Beverly Hills Cop made it onto the record. All you can hear is the memorable theme “Axel F”. If you find the 45 of this, you can hear two other parts of the instrumental score, but all you get on the album is a bunch of 80s pop duds like Patti LaBelle’s “New Attitude” and Glenn Frey’s “The Heat is On”. Here’s Harold Faltmeyer’s super sweet theme:
Here’s a movie soundtrack which includes a great recording of the theme to an entirely unrelated television show. The Blues Brothers’ show-stopping rendition of Henry Mancini’s theme from Peter Gunn is one of the highlights of this very popular soundtrack. This soundtrack was already the subject of another post on this blog, one of the most popular of all time. I’ve always like James Brown’s “Old Landmark” best of all, but on the movie soundtrack you don’t hear his “Do you see the light? Do you see the light?” and Elwood’s hilarious revelation. Here’s the Peter Gunn theme:
The Blues Brothers, of course, ends with Jake and Elwood in prison, and we’re ending this post with a couple prison movie soundtracks. I don’t think this first one came out on vinyl. This disc includes new compositions by a remarkable list of talented songwriters, including Tom Waits, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and Johnny Cash. All of the songs were commissioned for the soundtrack and are ostensibly about death row. Tom Waits contributed two tracks that I think of as classic stuff, “Walk Away” and “The Fall of Troy” (Beautifully performed by the Pine Valley Cosmonauts on their death row concept album, The Executioner’s Song).
The storyteller who outdoes all of these various luminaries? Steve Earle. Maybe its because he’s the only one who had actually been in prison. Here’s his contribution, “Ellis Unit One”:
Here’s another prison movie. Curtis Mayfield, of course, never produced another film score as successful as Superfly, although several followed. On one he collaborated with Aretha Franklin and on another with Gladys Knight and the Pips. The soundtrack to this unsuccessful film based on Miguel Pinero’s intense play was pure Curtis, though. “Doo Doo Wop is Strong in Here” is some of the best disco-infused R&B Curtis recorded:
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