LAUREL CANYON: SOUNDTRACK
Review by Brad Green:
In the spirit of goodwill, I guess we should put it down to authenticity. The story revolves around a record producer. She has enjoyed a measure of success, ergo the music must pong. Full marks for realism then.
This is basically a collection of earthy rock, which in some ways is apt because it never gets off the ground. Even the girly country-pop of the air-stewardess comedy View From The Top, soars (so to speak) in comparison. One advantage enjoyed by that soundtrack is that the producers, no doubt wary after her efforts on Duets, made sure Gwyneth Paltrow only opened her mouth for dialogue this time. Here unfortunately, Allesandro Nivola, who plays the toy boy rock star said record producer (Frances McDormand) is shacking up with, is given reign to sing his own tunes – the one’s penned for him by Sparklehorse’s Mark Linkous that is – with predictable results. The tick for verisimilitude doesn’t help much once we have to put up with the mediocre vocals on CD. Mind you, Linkous himself hardly does any better with the lame Sparklehorse horse effort that closes a very average album.
Energetic numbers by Mercury Rev and Butthole Surfers (I wonder if John Hopoate is a fan?) are slight improvements without ever threatening to rescue the whole. A seriously funky workout by Leroy, aptly titled Good Time, is superior again but still hardly enough. What should rescue the record is the presence of a couple of older tracks by the serious talents of T. Rex and Steely Dan. But Planet Queen is one of those T. Rex songs that sinks irrecoverably into its own psychadelia and the Steely Dan cut, while a veritable gem in this company, is inclined to be overrated. Although Steely Dan fit a template I generally adore – intelligent songwriting, jazzy chord progressions, impeccable musicianship – and I do like much of their output, this track is an example of their tendency to sound clinical or even contrived. Do It Again, a song about gambling addiction, is as smooth as a felt casino table and emotionally gripping as a game of tiddlywinks for tuppence.
The album does boast one genuinely terrific, if totally incongruous, track. You could put a case that Eartha Kitt purring her way, with French inflexions, through the sultry jazz of C’est Si Bon is alone worth the price of the CD. You could also put a case that an actual Eartha Kitt album would be much better value.
Published October 30, 2003
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TITLE: Laurel Canyon
ARTISTS: Mercury Rev; Steely Dan; Allesandro Nivola; Lee Michaels; T. Rex; Butthole Surfers; Leroy; Clinic; Scapegoat Wax; Baxter Dury; Bertrand Burgalat; Eartha Kitt; Sparklehorse