I prefer the soundtrack album to the actual movie nine times out of ten. Here’s one of those nine (we can listen to Logan’s Run some other day): This is an album I loooooooked for for years, checking the L’s in every record shop I visited – and for months there’s been a copy here at Hymie’s marked at a lean four bucks.
I’m still happy I found my copy of Lenny, even if nobody else wants one of their own. I haven’t watched Bob Fosse’s 1974 biopic about Lenny Bruce since I was working in a video store fifteen years ago, but I’ve listened to the soundtrack by Ralph Burns dozens of times.
(“Opening Theme – Lenny”)
Burns’ first score was for Bananas, Woody Allen’s lampoon of 70s radicalism, but it was never released on an album. He then worked on Bob Fosse’s Cabaret, drawing on decades of experience with classic big bands and their arrangers. He had played with Woody Herman’s big band in the 40s alongside Neal Hefti, Bill Harris and Chubby Jackson and he co-wrote songs with Billy Strayhorn, Leo Konitz and Ben Webster. Burns also wrote the string arrangement for Ray Charles’ “Georgia on my Mind” and arranged several Broadway shows – that’s how he met Fosse, probably best remembered by Broadway enthusiasts as a choreographer but best known in pop culture as a film director.
His 1974 black and white movie about Lenny Bruce isn’t a classic (hell, I don’t think Cabaret is either), but Dustin Hoffman’s performance is pretty remarkable. On record he really channels Bruce’s act. So the Lenny soundtrack is a synthesis of some of Bruce’s best bits (no “Djini in the Candy Store” though) – it’s the “Greatest Hits” album that couldn’t be made for contractural reasons.
Cookin’ jazz plus fan-fuckin-tastic comedy?
I’ve always kept the Lenny soundtrack on my shelf of “weird” records but it doesn’t really fit there. It shouldn’t be filed with the frumpy musical directed by Tom O’Horgan that Blue Thumb released around the same time. It’s a healthy synthesis of comedy and jazz, especially in the track that blends Bruce’s bit about “King of Kings” and all with Miles Davis’ second recording of “It Never Entered my Mind”.
(“Dirty / It Never Entered my Mind”)