American Hustle – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack – Madison Gate/ Legacy 88843089651 limited-edition stereo vinyl (2 discs) [11/28/14] ****1/2:
David O. Russell’s 2013 film, American Hustle was a sardonic examination of 1970s America. Focusing on the infamous Abscam sting, the story takes full advantage of the moral ambiguities and garish fashion, not to mention the facts! An erstwhile cast chews up scenery (including Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence) with gleeful abandon. Director Russell and musical supervisor Susan Jacobs assembled an eclectic, representative pastiche of musical culture to viscerally ignite the plot machinations. Over the last 45 years, some movie soundtracks have used individual songs in lieu of a traditional instrumental score. Easy Rider, American Graffiti and Saturday Night Fever are among the many song-based soundtracks that transformed cinema.
Madison Gate/Sony has released a limited-edition, double vinyl 150-gram expanded (six additional tracks) vinyl album in conjunction with the Black Friday promotion for Record Store Day. The 12-inch discs (one blue, one red) are packaged in gatefold with an illustrated cast portrait on the cover. There are photo collages on the sleeves and movie photos of the cast members inside the gatefold. But the best news is the high-quality analogue recording of classic ‘70s songs and other material. And there is no better display of “Seventies Gold” than on Side Three. Four quintessentially arranged songs light up the soundscape. “Live And Let Die”, recorded by Paul McCartney and Wings continues in the tradition of Bond movie mega-hits that began with Shirley Bassey’s “Goldfinger”. All of the cinematic pomp (and a trademark funky McCartney break) make this song accessible and a backdrop to Lawrence’s rubber gloved housecleaning movie dance. “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” should remind listeners of the impeccable harmonics of the Bee Gees. The layered vocals and Barry Gibbs’ high vibrato are timeless. Next up is Elton John with the title song of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”. He and Bernie Taupin are a superb writing team and Elton’s falsetto-laced vocals are framed perfectly by the stings. Finishing the side is a later Temptation hit, “Papa Was A Rollon’ Stone”. This represented a shift from the Motown structure to a pulsating, techno sound with a great trumpet intro.
What makes this album stand out is the engineering (Patricia Sullivan) at Bernie Grundman Mastering. When compared to standard CD versions of the songs, this vinyl is more textured and vibrant. The vintage live rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Jeep’s Blues” is dynamic, especially Johnny Hodges’ sax tonality and Ellington’s bluesy piano. The same can be said for a previously unreleased version of Ella Fitzgerald inimitable take on Cole Porter’s “It’s De-Lovely”. Her jazzy phrasing is timeless. Other resurrected material includes Tom Jones’ schmaltzy tale of revenge, “Delilah” (everyone’s guilty pleasure), Todd Rundgren’s pop masterpiece “I Saw The Light”, America (“A Horse With No Name”), Electric Light Orchestra (“10538 Overture”) and David Bowie (“The Jean Genie”, sounding like an old Yardbirds jam). Of course soul music is well represented with Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes (“Don’t Leave Me This Way”) and Donna Summer’s hypnotic “I Feel Love”.
But there are some unexpected treats. Lebanese singer Mayassa Karaa shines on an Arabic treatment of “White Rabbit” (How did Quentin Tarantino miss this one?). She does sing the final refrain: “feed your head” in English. ELO’s hidden gem, “Long Black Road” (previously available only on the Japanese release of their final album, “Zoom”) is Jeff Lynne at his peak both as a performer and producer. A solo tune from him (“Stream Of Stars”) is a feast of guitar sonic prominence. For soundtrack purists, Danny Elfman provides some cello and strings with some Latin-tinged piano on “Irving Montage”.
This is why the vinyl audiophile population is increasing!
Side One: Jeep’s Blues (Duke Ellington); Dirty Work (Steely Dan); A Horse With No Name (America); 10538 Overture (Electric Light Orchestra); I’ve Got Your Number (Jack Jones)
Side Two: White Rabbit (Mayssa Haraa); I Feel Love (Donna Summer); Don’t Leave Me This Way (Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes); Delilah (Tom Jones)
Side Three: Live And Let Die (Paul McCartney &Wings); How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (Bee Gees); Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John); Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone (The Temptations)
Side Four: I Saw The Light (Todd Rundgren); Long Black Road (Electric Light Orchestra); The Jean Genie (David Bowie); Stream Of Stars (Jeff Lynne); The Coffee Song (Frank Sinatra); It’s De-Lovely (Ella Fitzgerald); Irving Montage (Danny Elfman)