Soundtracks are a lot more than movie music...
...or so I'm ready to argue as a 30 year devotee of this sorely under appreciated genre. So, in an effort to do my part, each week
I'll be making recommendations of soundtracks current and vintage, make a fuss over long awaited soundtrack scores finally getting
a well deserved release, and in general, make some noise about this often overlooked category. Beyond my long experience as a
listener and as a pianist and songwriter, both of which I've put to use in writing a quarterly soundtrack column for the Chicago
Tribune, I can only offer my recommendations. You'll discern my taste soon enough and upfront I'd like to make it clear that I'll
focus most heavily on SCORE soundtracks. In the end, all criticism is subjective but if I can point a listener toward a little heard
soundtrack or strongly advise you to either ORDER IMMEDIATELY or SKIP ALTOGETHER, all the better.
The amazing, sensational Barbara Cook was in Chicago recently (well, actually,
north of Chicago at the summer festival Ravinia) and I had the good fortune of
interviewing her for the second time (the first was in 1986). The interview
prompted me to go back and listen to all my Cook recordings - a pleasure
rather than a chore with that unique instrument of hers believe me. After
listening to all these recordings I decided to throw out a recommendation here.
Though I normally make only soundtrack recommendations, I've made the
odd exception here and there for recordings and artists I really feel
passionately about. And actually Cook did record an album of Disney songs
from Disney films that is tremendous and worth picking up. But my vote for my
personal favorite Cook recording (it's a tough job picking this) is Barbara
Cook: Live From London recorded in 1994. It includes her powerful
interpretation of "Love Don't Need a Reason," the song written by the late gay
activist, songwriter and performer Michael Callen, along with that Boy from Oz
Peter Allen, who has also sadly left us, and Marsha Malamet. It's a
heartbreakingly beautiful pop song that was made for Cook's crystalline
The recording includes many of Cook's signature cabaret songs (though not
many from her Broadway catalogue) and her definitive version of "Can You
Read My Mind?" and the lovely medley version of "He Was Too Good To
Me/Losing My Mind." There are many other songs to be savored and Cook's
voice is in top shape. The arrangements by her late musical director Wally
Harper are also topnotch.
Don't forget to check out previous soundtrack recommendations by visiting the
Next Recommendation: TBA
KATM's favorite Barbara Cook recording
and the legendary singer at 80 in April of
2008 (photo by Mike Martin).