CD reviews: Django Unchained soundtrack, A Fragile Tomorrow, Blue Cactus Choir
Thursday, January 3, 2013
Various artists ‘Django Unchained’ original motion picture soundtrack/Universal Republic
Quentin Tarantino already has taken his place among Hollywood’s great film directors thanks to movies such as “Pulp Fiction” and “Kill Bill.”
Just as good as his films, though, are the soundtracks that accompany them.
Tarantino, who has tastes in music that run beyond eclectic, handpicks the music that appears in his films, and the songs that play throughout his latest release, “Django Unchained,” make up another winning collection.
As usual, Tarantino has mixed things up in his take on the classic spaghetti Western genre, and along with expected musical selections by artists such as Ennio Morricone (who also composed the iconic theme from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly”), he has slipped in more unorthodox choices for a film set in the mid-1800s.
Tracks by the likes of Anthony Hamilton, James Brown and Rick Ross might seem out of place in a period Western, but the music serves a purpose, and it all works here.
In addition to the music, the soundtrack is filled with sound bites from the film itself by actors such as Samuel L. Jackson, Christoph Waltz, Jamie Foxx and Don Johnson.
Just as the soundtrack for “Pulp Fiction” became almost as legendary as the film itself, so I predict will this soundtrack be as influential.
Key Tracks: “Django,” “I Got A Name,” “100 Black Coffins”
A Fragile Tomorrow Be Nice Be Careful/Piewillie
When local rock group A Fragile Tomorrow set out to record its latest album, it shot for the moon.
Thanks to connections in the music business that the band has developed through hard work and dedication, it enlisted producer Mitch Easter (R.E.M., Wilco, Dinosaur Jr.) and managed to score vocal assistance from the likes of Don Dixon, Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls, Vicki and Debbi Peterson of The Bangles, and Susan Cowsill.
The resulting album, “Be Nice Be Careful,” is primarily a power pop record, and the songs contained within show a new level of maturity by the band, which includes three brothers.
Chief songwriter and lead singer Sean Kelly has a singing voice that reminds you of classic ’90s crooners such as Evan Dando and Robin Wilson, and the lyrics on songs such as “Don’t Need Saving,” “Loyalty Lies” and “All My Friends Are Gone” are deep indeed.
The high points of “Be Nice Be Careful” come on “Kernersville,” with its Rickenbacker guitar jangle reminiscent of early R.E.M., and “Mess You Made,” which features a groovy little organ riff that likely would make bands like The Zombies nod in approval.
All of the big names involved aside, this is a beautifully crafted collection of songs by four young men who are riding high on the success of their own hard work, with nowhere to go from here but up.
Key Tracks: “Crooked Smiles and Greedy Hands,” ”Kernersville,” “Mess You Made”
Blue Cactus Choir Once in a Bluegrass Moon/Porgy
Fans of bluegrass and folk music from out Nashville, Tenn., way will recognize the name Marty Atkinson.
Since striking out from his home in Ontario, Atkinson has traveled around the U.S. and Mexico soaking up the sounds and atmosphere.
The music written and recorded by Atkinson as a result of those travels doesn’t sound like anything else out there, but it’s rarely uninteresting.
Atkinson’s latest project, Blue Cactus Choir, collects musicians from some of Nashville’s best-known bluegrass and folk groups, including those who play regularly with Ricky Skaggs, Delbert McClinton and Nanci Griffith.
On “Once in a Bluegrass Moon,” Atkinson shares vocal duties with California-born songwriter Katy Boyd.
The resulting music skirts that wonderfully laid-back line between bluegrass and folk, and tracks such as “Blue Moon Over Mexico,” “A Cat Called Ginger and a Dog Called Fred Astaire” and “Where I Don’t Belong” have a definite retro feel to them, as if they are trying to lull the listener back to a simpler time.
Atkinson and his band manage to fit 21 tracks onto a single CD, a feat only bettered by the fact that the easygoing vibe is more or less maintained throughout this beautiful album.
Not every song hits a bull’s-eye, but the majority of “Once in a Bluegrass Moon” makes for great listening.
Key Tracks: “A Cat Called Ginger and a Dog Called Fred Astaire,” “Where I Don’t Belong,” “I Wish You Were Mine”
By Devin Grant