Short Takes

Along with its other fine accomplishments, the new movie called The Atomic Cafe - a compilation of documentary and propaganda footage from the 1940s and 1950s, dealing with nuclear power - has generated a first-rate soundtrack album. It's also called ''Atomic Cafe'' and is available as No. 1034 from Rounder Records in Somerville, Maine.

Basically, it's a collection of authentic ''bomb songs'': popular ditties recorded between 1944 and 1962, all connected with dawning public awareness of the nuclear age. The music ranges from folk and gospel to rhythm 'n' blues and country, with broad hints of rock 'n' roll on Side 2. The lyrics range from amazing to confounding.

The first side begins with a warning about the excesses of nuclear power (''I'm sorry to say . . . Brother Atom has gone astray'') by the Golden Gate Quartet, recorded in 1946.'' and moves on to other themes.

The other side of the disc focuses more on love songs with atomic metaphors: ''Nuclear baby, don't fission out on me,'' sings Skip Stanley, while Little Caesar and the Red Callender Sextette croon of ''my atomic love for you. . . .''

Noted personalities of the period are mentioned here and there, including Gen. Douglas MacArthur in ''When They Drop the Atomic Bomb,'' an ode by Jackie Doll and his Pickled Peppers. And technology is fingered more then once as a villain. The Sons of the Pioneers mention scientists who are ''splittin' atoms while the diplomats split hairs.

Every number is a shard of authentic - and hummable - history, adding up to a particularly noteworthy record. Incidentally, some cuts are introduced by bits of speech from key moments in the movie, and several numbers are extras not included in the finished film.

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