"What a tantalising concept. A genuine retro-rock-phile compiling not only an anthology of legendary hits but also long forgotten, or never released, album cuts and live tracks.
Almost Famous is writer/director Cameron Crowe's fictionalised account of his early years as a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine. In capturing the culture of the era he has plumped for songs that resonate for him personally, the ones he feels most strongly about rather than the most famous.
But as with another film about pop music pundits, High Fidelity, there has been some deep mining without striking real gold.
Crowe has undoubtedly come up with some coups. Led Zeppelin have never licensed their recordings to soundtracks in the past, but Crowe secured That's The Way and four other Led Zep numbers that are heard in the film though not on this CD.
But That's The Way is hardly Led Zeppelin at the top of their game, although it seems to have influence Peter Gabriel when he penned the magnificent Salisbury Hill.
Similarly, cuts from The Who, Yes, The Beach Boys and even a rare early live recording of David Bowie covering Lou Reed's I'm Waiting For The Man fall under the bar of their most famous recordings, when it could be reasonably hoped to hear them surpassed.
This is epitomised by the fact that the best song here is probably the most well known: Elton John's Tiny Dancer. As finely crafted a pop song as you'll find in the last forty years, but nothing new to us - although it's kinda nice to have it crop up here, seeing Sir Reg himself has abandoned it at recent live gigs in favour of modest ditties like Sad Songs and Crocodile Rock, which could easily have been composed by songwriters with less talent than can be found in a single hypoactive EJ hair-follicle.
A selection from the guitar-laden Nancy Wilson score (formerly of glam rockers Heart, and Crowe's wife) is a pleasant but rather wishy-washy ambient outing. While there is one truly bad seed - Mr Farmer a sonic disaster cultivated by The Seeds with less style than the punning of this sentence.
Almost Famous had the potential to be Absolutely Fascinating for genuine devotees of retro rock; in some ways it is, but its possibly a trifle disappointing for those who are Also Fastidious."
Published February 22, 2001