Various Artists – Music From The Motion Picture Joy – Abkco 1877183401 [4/16/16] stereo double 12-inch vinyl ****:
A wonderful soundtrack vinyl of various pop & rock tracks.
(Featuring Cream; Lee Morgan; Ella Fitzgerald; Thomas Bullard, Choir Of King’s College, Cambridge; Edgar Ramirez; The Bee Gees; Willie West; The Ronettes; Salzburg Bach Choir; Ray De La Paz and The Pedrito Martinez Group; The Rolling Stones; Nat King Cole; Brittany Howard, Jennifer Lawrence; original music by Dylan Thompson and David Campbell; additional music by Blake Mills; score conducted, orchestrated and arranged by David Campbell)
Abkco Records has released (in conjunction with Record Store Day 2016) the soundtrack from Joy. Based on the inspirational David O. Russell 2015 movie about unlikely housewife entrepreneur Joy Mangano, the narrative is represented by a diverse soundtrack. Vinyl enthusiasts will be overjoyed as one of the formats is a double 150-gram record that has been pressed with an electric blue finish.
As with many of Russell’s soundtracks, there is a wide array of musical genres. Side A opens with the Cream’s psychedelic blues classic, “I Feel Free”. This concise number showcases why Cream was a true pioneer in rock music. Eric Clapton’s distorted guitar licks combine effortlessly with Ginger Baker’s propulsive, manic drumming. Singer/bassist Jack Bruce distinctive vocals are unique to the British Invasion. Following this raucous number is a brief instrumental (“Joy Romantic Theme”) which is rendered as a sweeping waltz with strings and orchestration. Another brief snippet is cast member Edgar Martinez singing a Jobim composition (“Aguas De Marzo”).
The side concludes with a masterpiece, Lee Morgan’s hard bop “The Sidewinder”. Recorded in 1964, this track is considered to be a defining moment in soul jazz. Fifty years later, this music is still dynamic. The rhythm section (Barry Harris/piano, Bob Cranshaw/double bass and Billy Higgins/drums) lays down serious grooves as Morgan (trumpet) and Joe Henderson (tenor saxophone) combine on unison lead. Morgan’s extended solo is colorful and white-hot.
Henderson’s cool tenor is a perfect complement. Flipping the disc, the listener gets the inimitable Ella Fitzgerald (with the Chick Webb Orchestra) celebrating big band theatrics on “I Want To Be Happy”. Fitzgerald’s uncanny vocal phrasing and a reed/flute interlude is elegant and intriguing. In unpredictable fashion the next two songs are classical choir pieces. “In The Bleak Mid Winter” (sung by Choir Of King’s College) is solemn with church organ accompaniment that builds to a rousing chorus. The second interpretation, Maurice Duruffle’s “Notre Pere Op. 14” (by the Salzburg Bach Choir) displays fuller resonance, some volume modulation and exudes spine-tingling religious ambiance. The segue to a salsa version of Randy Newman’s “Mama Told Me Not To Come” (which sounds like the Three Dog Night cover) does not benefit from this sequencing. A tepid reincarnation of “Something Stupid” (the surprising No. 1 hit by Frank and Nancy Sinatra) doesn’t mange to blend the Jennifer Lawrence and Ramirez voices like the original.
Music From The Soundtrack Of Joy reverts to better form on Side Three. Bee Gees (a Russell favorite) deliver a glowing performance on “To Love Somebody”. The impeccable string arrangement and the trademark vocal harmony of the Gibb brothers make this a gospel/pop standout. Willie West brings his authenticity to the Allen Toussaint-penned “Baby, Baby I Love You”. The soulful background vocals and funkiness give this a festive Southern feel. A trio of soundtrack excerpts (“I Am In Love”, “Mop Drawing” and “Racing In The Street”) showcase cinematic versatility. Then, one of the greatest Christmas rock songs (“Sleigh Ride” by The Ronettes) wraps things up. The acclaimed Wall Of Sound (with the equally acclaimed Wrecking Crew) frame one of the most unforgettable female vocal group of the ’60s.
Side Four may be the best of all. Vintage Rolling Stones nastiness kicks off with “Stray Cat Blues” (from Beggars Banquet). Mick Jagger’s gritty vocals and Keith Richard’s stellar guitar work (including slide) are proof that they are modern blues wizards. Some of the more compelling score music appears here. “Texas” has effect-laden bluesy guitar licks against strings. “Markham” has a complex percussive vibe with an underlying hypnotic pulse. After a Nate Cole Christmas ditty (“A House With Love In It”), there are two updated versions of “I Feel Free”. The initial a capella one is catchy. In between these two cuts is a solo piano take on the “Joy Theme”.
Most of Music From The Motion Picture Joy is interesting and nostalgic (in a good way). Both the stereo and mono mixes are excellent.
Side One: I Feel Free; Joy Romantic Theme; Aguas de Marzo; The Sidewinder
Side Two: I Want To Be Happy; In The Bleak Mid Winter; Notre Pere, Op. 14; Mama Told Me Not To Come; Something Stupid
Side Three: To Love Somebody; Baby, Baby I Love You; I Am In Love; Mop Drawing; Racing In The Street; Sleigh Ride
Side Four: Stray Cat Blues; Texas; Markham; A House With Love In It; I Feel Free; Joy Theme; I Feel Free (Bonus Track)
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