"As much as I'd like to occupy this space reviewing (euphemism for "rhapsodising on") the brilliance of Beethoven, the fact is that Wilhelm Kempff's sensitive performance of the maestro's Sonata No. 1 is only one of eighteen tracks here. Those attracted to this soundtrack solely by Ludwig's genius, or Kempff's virtuosity, are obviously better advised to top up their classical collection.
Similarly, the almost irresistible lure of spirited jazz-funk excursions from an ensemble featuring Herbie Hancock and Flea is tempered by the fact that it contributes a mere two tracks. The second of these, The Police Won't Find Your Car, is actually a bonus because it didn't make the final screen cut.
Flea, the finest musician in The Red Hot Chilli Peppers (one of the very few bands about which I can, with integrity, write a sentence that includes the words "alternative" and "talent" without "lack of" in between) has consistently provided such funky, sinewy bass lines on the Chilli's chart smashes that it comes as no surprise to find him slotting easily into lofty fusion mode.
Here he neatly entwines with the precise and busy framework of percussionists Alex Acuna and Paulinho Da Costa to underpin Hancock's electric (in every sense) piano chops that signify a jazz giant at the top of his game. The production quality is superb too, with the aesthetic timbre of the percussion alone providing an aural treat.
But what of the body of the soundtrack, Cliff Martinez's score? Not at all bad. And not at all riveting. Centred in ambient land, it is a dense and atmospheric work whose place is to accompany pictures, or reverie. Sometimes this music is so ambient it never seems to matter what chord is played, just so long as it is played (or programmed) with the necessary insouciance.
A lot of the cues sound distinctly like introductions to U2 songs circa the late eighties. Echoing guitars gracing ethereal synth pads. Curiously, Brain Eno, producer for the Irish supergroup during that period, makes a contribution at the conclusion of the soundtrack, with similarly lush, moody and meandering samples that are both inoffensive and unengaging.
The CD is rounded out with some one-off contributions from Morcheeba, Fatboy Slim and Rocker's Hifi. None are startling, but Morcheeba's light funk blend of laid back Rhodes vamp and tasteful wah guitar noodling evokes a mellow, seventies-style decadence that wouldn't be out of place in Shaft's boudoir, and is just as suitable here as an adjunct to Martinez's thickly textured atmospherics."
Published March 8, 2001