...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.
This is not a soundtrack recommendation. Indeed, Back to Black, the sophomore effort from English sensation Amy Winehouse is a million miles from what I usually urge readers to heed in this column. But for those that love their 1960s girl groups, blistering soul singers like Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield and most especially, The Goddess, Laura Nyro, Back to Black is a CD that you need to own.
In a previous life I toiled away as a singer-songwriter and Nyro was always my greatest muse. Something about the late singer’s wild song structures, piercing vocals and her frankly idiosyncratic ways spoke volumes to me (and still does – she’s always gonna be the greatest in my book). Also, her refusal to be constricted by typical musical boundaries. Nyro wrote songs that incorporated pop, jazz, rock, soul, and much more in a musical era that worshipped at the altar of such creativity.
Here and there over the ensuing three decades (yes, that long ago) I’ve come across talents that have reminded me of Nyro’s – if only for the uniqueness of the artist in question. Rickie Lee Jones was certainly one (and she’s written many times about Nyro’s influence on her), Kate Bush and PJ Harvey two others. Of course we can’t leave out Jane Siberry (now officially renamed Issa), Bjork, Ani DeFranco, and in some respects, Tori Amos (though vocally I’ve never caught Amos fever). An acquaintance pointed me to Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab” video and after one listen I was hooked. I went to her website, www.amywinehouse. com and immediately became further entranced after hearing more samples from Back to Black, which, like Winehouse’s first CD, Frank, has taken her native England by storm. It’s not just the clever production that so perfectly mimics the Supremes-Dusty dynamic of the early sixties, it’s Winehouse’s unadulterated writing skills, her throaty, soul soaked voice and what sounds like her own private lyricism. She’s a very emotional girl beautifully in touch with her talent – at only 23! Next up (I’m sure) will be stardom in America (her two CDs have yet to be released here).
If they ever get around to making a movie out of the life of my beloved Laura Nyro, Winehouse is the gal to play the lead. Then I’ll get to write about the soundtrack for a movie that will blow the roof off theatres. In the meantime, order Back to Black (you will not be disappointed), check out her myriad videos and live appearances on www.youtube.com (apparently, like the young Nyro, she’s sowing some wild oats) and be the first on your block to tell everyone else about this extraordinary young woman. Just remember that I told you about her first.
Don't forget to check out previous soundtrack recommendations by visiting the ARCHIVES
Next Recommendation: TBA
Top: The cover of my new musical obsession's sophomore CD, Back to Black. Below, a very Nyro-esque portrait of Amy Winehouse, a powerhouse talent from England who's destined to take America by storm. Sez me!