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AMERICAN BEAUTY: SOUNDTRACK

"Not the full Thomas Newman score, but a compilation of songs from the Oscars plunderer with two cuts from the score as bookends. Surprisingly, these are the least inspiring tracks.

The opening cue, Dead Already, is basically a one-bar, reverb-heavy marimba riff repeated ad infinitum. It's tremendously effective as the leitmotiv for the film, but, totally lacking in thematic development, struggles to maintain interest standing alone. The tasteful, but predictable, accompaniments of tampa, steel guitar and wind samples that waft in and out do little to maintain entertainment value.

The closing cue, Any Other Name, with its meandering-to-nowhere-much New Agey piano, is even more mediocre away from cinematic context.

But there are some genuine American Beauties among the songs, especially Bobby Darin's stunning performance of Don't Rain On My Parade. A better combination of real singin' and real swingin' is hard to find. After all, Bobby was far too cluey to follow Barbra without something special to offer.

Bill "Lean on Me when there Ain't No Sunshine" Withers provides the soundtrack's Soul with the fabulously rootsy Use Me, and Elliott Smith piles on the purity with his a Capella (well, a tad of guitar and bass) rendition of the Beatle's Because.

A bit of British gets a look in with The Who's The Seeker and Free's All Right Now. The vocal prowess of Free frontman, Paul Rodgers, was a standout in the 1970s heyday of blues-rock and - judging by his recent tour of Australia with the Ultimate Rock Symphony - he's still hitting those high notes with ridiculous ease, and reminding us of the current dearth of male rock vocalists who can claim power and range beyond the Crooners and Rhythm & Blusers.

Peggy Lee is constantly cropping up on these compilation soundtracks, and who's complaining? Bali Ha'i isn't exactly the magnum opus of the Rodgers and Hammerstein oeuvre, but Peggy's sultry tones are always worth a listen, no matter the material.

Overall, hardly worthy of the laurels awarded the film, but still a good value soundtrack for the half-dozen roses among its classic cuts."
Brad Green

Review published: 17/8/00

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TRAILER

TITLE: American Beauty

ID: 450 210-2

Dreamworks/SKG

ARTISTS: Elliott Smith, The Folk Implosion, Free, Bill Withers, Eels, The Who, Bobby Darin, Betty Carter, Gomez, Peggy Lee

SCORE: Thomas Newman

TRACKS: 12







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