PASSENGERSOriginal Soundtracks 1
NOT A NEW U2 album but a collaboration between the members of that band and producer/aural architect Brian Eno, Passengers, like Eno's Music for Films series, is a collection of cinematically inspired soundscapes. Unlike Eno's recordings, Passengers doesn't really work. With Music for Films Eno wrote songs as soundtracks for movies that didn't exist, lending the pieces a coherence and completeness on their own merit. Passengers' music may work very well with the visual images in the films they come from (admittedly, none of which I have seen), but as a purely audio collection it falls flat. Of course, with a cast as talented as this there are some fine moments--the beautiful "Your Blue Room" would still be a highpoint on any U2 album--but too much of Passengers sounds like filler. Bassist Adam Clayton's claim that Passengers was a way of releasing music there was no room for on U2's own albums hints at indulgence more than inspiration. Titan tenor Luciano Pavarotti lends a nice touch to "Miss Sarajevo," but adds nothing new to the pop/opera hybrid Malcolm McLaren was doing a decade ago. Eno fans should check out his recent collaborations with bassist Jah Wobble; U2 fans should wait for the next official album.
ROB MOUNSEYMango Theory
THE FIRST CUT here sounds like Michael Franks--before the coma. Other cuts are reminiscent of electric Miles Davis, jazz-tinged Sting, hot Brazilian pop and (not surprisingly) some of the heavies Mounsey has arranged for and produced: Steely Dan, Donald Fagan and Paul Simon. But Mounsey has his own musical intelligence that is coherent and expressive, versatile and fun. His Flying Monkey Orchestra, referring to his well-used battery of electronic and acoustic instruments, is artfully enhanced by notables Michael Brecker on EMI, bassist Will Lee and trumpeter Lew Soloff. Mango Theory is a refreshing departure from the easy listening pseudo-jazz flooding the airwaves.
BRUCE SPRINGSTEENThe Ghost Of Tom Joad
READING ABOUT THE recent shutdown of Bethlehem Steel Corp.'s final remaining blast furnace seemed pure synchronicity. A man was singing, in the voice of a disenfranchised worker, about the closing of the American dream: "When I die I don't want a part of heaven/I would not do heaven's work well/I pray the devil comes and takes me to stand/At the fiery furnaces of hell."
"Youngstown" is one of twelve memorable folksongs during which Springsteen recovers his soul after a long journey through the glittery wilderness of fame. That tune has a haunting, atmospheric arrangement (pedal steel, strings, brushed snare), as do a few others. "Across The Border," about the "pastures of gold and green/And cold, clear waters" dreams of refugees from Mexico to Bosnia, gets fleshed out with harmonica, sweet fiddle, and a Jordannaires-style choir. But the album is mostly pitched in stark Nebraska acoustic tones, thus repositioning Springsteen in the Leadbelly-Guthrie-Dylan lineage.
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