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Review by Brad Green:
Ocean’s Eleven. If I didn’t know of the original Rat Pack crime movie I’d swear it was a cricket team. Hmmm, crime and cricket. Perhaps that would have to be Cronje’s Eleven. Yet strangely, there is a point of comparison between heist hatchers and flannelled fools. To achieve their aims both most harbour respect for arcane arts – expert safe cracking, or mastery of the wrong ‘un. The great difference is that The Heist is truly a gentleman’s game.

But these players are a long way from the finely cut lawn of Lords. Las Vegas is a treasure chest for a recidivist con, and just as much for a soundtrack producer. The man at the helm of the music is DJ and remix-meister David Holmes and his first task was to fashion a contemporary take on the Vegas swing of Sammy, Deano and Sinatra. The spirit of Rat Pack was in, but their tunes were off limits.

This soundtrack is an individual take on a venerable vibe. On the one hand smoky lounge music and slinky jazz – conveying the ritz, flash and swish of that great gambling den of the desert; and on the other freewheeling funk that evokes an underworld of wheeling, dealing and stealing. Vegas is a breeding ground for all manner of criminal machinations, mostly lurking beneath the splendour. The players might be focused and phlegmatic but there’s plenty of subliminal drama, and the music here is on the money.

Much of it is fresh, but notwithstanding the Rat Pack interdict, Holmes also stacks the deck with a few well-chosen stalwarts. Perry Como doing his mambo is the light, bright veneer and Elvis isn’t only called upon for the obvious Vegas link, he spikes up the funk to a surprising degree.

Now it’s not very polite to constantly mutter the f-word about the slick-haired hamburger fancier. He wasn’t always fat you know. He wasn’t always funky either. Soulful, yes. Smooth, absolutely. Rhythmic, incomparably. Funky? Rarely. But, A Little Less Conversation, the rather rare Elvis number featured here, demonstrates that his innovative fusion of country and R&B spilled over into all manner of stylistic forerunners. The bass and drums have enough groove to power a steam train, the horn lines are sly enough to trip James Brown, and the Great Pelvic Thruster is in his element, fuelling even more smouldering suggestiveness with his phrases than with his hips. This is the phat Elvis.

We’re also privileged with some quintessential Quincy. All of the pop polish Quincy Jones produced with Michael Jackson is of some merit, but the shame is that it overshadows his jazz genius. The potent piano, stuttering rhythms and brass patterns of Blues In The Night will open the most tightly secured imagination.

Dealing a final ace with Claude Debussy’s romantic Clair de Lune (and what’s a great crime without a little romance?), Holmes achieves with this soundtrack that rare balance of variety and stylistic cohesion. Many of the tracks are preluded with dialogue excerpts, and while this often has a disjointing effect, here the music segues underneath and the irony, humour and drama of the narrative come to the fore. Soundtracks based on jazz-funk fusion can often dissolve into blunt grooves, but this one has the sharpness of a well-planned sting.

Published January 10, 2002

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TITLE: Ocean’s Eleven

ID: 936248112


ARTISTS: David Holmes; Percy Faith And His Orchestra; Handsome Boy Modeling School; Perry Como; Arthur Lyman; Elvis Presley; Quincy Jones; The Philadelphia Orchestra


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