Noteworthy: Reviews of Movie Soundtracks

Cars – Motion Picture Soundtrack (Disney): Some movie soundtracks are great for just plain listening, and others rely on the movie to work. I'm afraid this falls in with the latter, and, as a founding member of the Randy Newman Can Do No Wrong Fan Club, that's not easy to admit. The disc jump-starts with "Real Gone," a rip-snorting rocker that is the best thing Sheryl Crow has done in ages. Chuck Berry's charmingly loose take on "Route 66" follows, and Brad Paisley demonstrates why he transcends country with two moving songs about hope and finding yourself. Old reliable James Taylor takes on Newman's tear-jerker "Our Town" and sounds bored and stiff. The rest of the disc is mostly Newman's fine-tuned instrumental music, fueled with NASCAR thunder, Aaron Copeland strings, and country twang. It works perfectly ... in the cineplex. Grade: B–
– John Kehe

Film Works 1995-2005 – Craig Armstrong (Family Recordings): The difficulty in locating a copy of Scottish Renaissance man Craig Armstrong's 10-year time capsule is well worth the effort, as the compilation is as meticulously engineered as his moody movie soundscapes. From the high-profile, gothic "O Verona" from Baz Luhrmann's "Romeo + Juliet" to the obscure, reflective theme from Peter Mullan's "Orphans," the collection is a well-thought-out, dramatic arc unto itself. It is also a satisfying gateway to works like the polished "The Quiet American" and the quirky "Plunkett and Macleane," which is well represented by three tracks here. Grade: A–
– Robert Newton

A Prairie Home Companion – Various Artists(New Line Records): A proactive method that some record labels employ to discourage the scourge of file-sharing is to bundle CDs with something tenable such as innovative or collectible packaging or value-added material. The 10 songs on the bonus DVD that accompanies the smile-bringing, heartbreaking soundtrack to veteran Robert Altman's latest ensemble jubilee – adapted from Garrison Keillor's long-running public radio show – is a great example of not only shrewd marketing but also keen complementary programming. Some of the material, such as the brief but hilarious "I Used To Work In Chicago" by Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly only appears on the supplementary platter, and performances such as "My Minnesota Home" by Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin showcase the cast's incredible versatility while warmly reminding us how intertwined music and storytelling really are. Grade: B+
– R.N.

The Promise – Klaus Badelt (Superb Records): While esteemed Chinese director Chen Kaige's historical epic may not be the successor to "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" that he planned, German composer Klaus Badelt brings his Euro-pop sensibility (the opener is pure Enigma) and hard-fought Hollywood experience to create a fitting score – for the film Kaige should have made. Lush, layered, and orchestral, one need not even have seen the film to appreciate its workmanlike crafting and epic scope. Grade: B
– R.N.

Superman Returns – John Ottman (Rhino Records): John Ottman's clever and skillful mini- symphony for The Man Of Steel's long-awaited return is as fitting and respectful as director Bryan Singer's treatment of the comic-book legend. While Ottman incorporates some of original "Superman" composer John Williams's themes throughout – helping to maintain the story's continuity and momentum – he makes the piece his own. Nearly as rousing as Williams's driving march is Ottman's "Memories," a perfect cue to alert us to the possibility that the hour of music that will follow will not be the pale Frankensteining of Williams's 1978 "Superman" score that Ken Thorne did for 1980's "Superman II." Grade: B
– R.N.

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