This week I review two releases from Sony/Legacy.
- "American Hustle - Original Movie Soundtrack"
Contrary to much popular opinion, there was a lot of great music made in the 1970s. I guess one of the best aspects of music from that decade was how diverse the pop scene was - you had hard rock as epitomized by bands like Grand Funk, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, all the way to funk and disco. Music changed a lot during the decade, with the emergence of punk rock prying its way into society to take music back from the dinosaurs.
I'm not familiar with the movie "American Hustle," but I have been listening to the soundtrack. There's a lot of diversity in the soundtrack's 15 tunes, from Duke Ellington - "Jeep's Blues" - to some great tunes by the Electric Light Orchestra - "10538 Overture," "Long Black Road" - to one of the best radio singles of the era, Paul McCartney and Wings' "Live and Let Die," itself a wonderful song with the same name as the James Bond film, when people actually cared about James Bond films.
I also really love Donna Summer's dance floor-ready, eroticized "I Feel Love," as well as the Bee Gees' "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?" The other '70s star of the soundtrack is Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," a song that defined the decade of excess like no other.
I also dig Tom Jones' delicious "Delilah" and the uber-soulful "Don't Leave Me This Way" by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. Sweet.
Less successful are America's "A Horse With No Name" - a half-baked Neil Young imitation that has always sucked - and the "Irving Montage" by soundtrack guru and former Oingo Boingo leader Danny Elfman. Who cares?
I would love to have heard some more music representative of the decade - some '70s James Brown, early Elvis Costello or the Clash or maybe a little more disco and definitely some hard rock from, say, Humble Pie. But soundtracks are always a thin slice of what was used in the film. While not totally satisfactory, this is a fun and nostalgic romp from an era where even the so-so music stands up well compared with most of today's homogenized crap.
- Ronnie Milsap - "Summer # 17"
Ronnie Milsap is one of those musicians that's hard to pin down - is he a country singer, an R&B singer or a pop singer?
Milsap's had hits in all three genres, but this trip he goes back to his R&B roots and resurrects some oldies but goodies for "Summer # 17." The result is a good-natured romp through 12 tunes the singer grew up listening to when AM radio actually played music and was an important part of any teenager's life.
Basically a tribute album, Milsap shows he has good taste in the choices, with the winners including "Tears on My Pillow," "You Make Me Feel Brand New," "Mack the Knife" and "Mustang Sally."
You could do worse, and with everyone releasing albums with their favorite tunes from their childhood these days - yes, kids, the music really was better - and I think I dig this more than hearing, say, Justin Bieber's top 10.
Actually, even just the thought of that makes me nauseous. A nice slice of Milsap's memories when the song still mattered. The release date is Jan. 28.
(Miller is co-editor of Weekender.)