VANILLA SKY: SOUNDTRACK
Review by Brad Green:
Did you hear Paul McCartney at the September 11 benefit concert? The one he organised
himself. The worthy cause prohibits too much criticism, but I really feared he’d lost
it. It wasn’t just that the singing was woeful; it was simply astonishing that such
immense tragedy could inspire no more from one of the great songwriters of our time than
“I will fight for the right to live in freedom” and an equally lame melody. So it’s particularly edifying to find McCartney back to his imaginative best here.
His title track is enveloped in a McCartney specialty: a chord progression that is at once
unpredictable, and as snug and familiar as old slippers. The lyric skips a fine rhyme
between the playfully silly and the playfully surreal, his own bass lines (one assumes)
feature pleasingly and prominently and he croons the sweet melody with all the vitality of
a mop-topped young pop star.
Unfortunately, some of the younger pop stars here don’t deliver anything nearly as
tasty. Because of his background in rock journalism, and because he’s married to
Nancy Wilson (ex-frontwoman of the excellent glam-rock outfit Heart), everyone expects
Cameron Crowe-produced soundtracks to be treasure troves of precious pop. Personally, I
found the soundtrack to Almost Famous and now this CD to be as inconsistent as many rock
critics’ taste and logic.
That Radiohead are the reigning darlings of the pop press speaks volumes. Mostly it says
that musical chops are not required to earn that mysterious endowment called
“cred”. Here, their Everything In It’s Right Place is, like most of their
material, mildly original and mostly boring. Which is at least better than the
interminable and insufferable mix-mash of sampled blancmange from the Chemical Brothers
– who have been dubbed innovative, but who dabble in formula. Sadly, they are
actually outweighed in the mediocrity stakes by the programmed repetitiveness of the aptly
R.E.M. – another pet of the press – aren’t heard at their best here,
despite being offered in a double dose, and Crowe’s talented wife improves matters,
but only moderately, by contributing some airy acoustic guitar ambience. Elevator Heat is
a pleasant instrumental, but hardly gets warm and never reaches any great heights.
Instead it’s the old stars who are the lights in the vanilla firmament. Peter
Gabriel’s Solisbury Hill is an evergreen masterpiece, an instant ear-grabber and
cleverly crafted composition (seven/four time signature and all) in one. On the other
hand, Todd Rundgren’s Can We Still Be Friends certainly isn’t profound, and it
certainly shouldn’t be; for it’s a successful pop song in the purist sense
– a simple sentiment expressed, well, simply.
But it is in echoes of The Beatles – beyond Paul’s contribution – that this
odd assortment of the brilliant and the boring does ultimately bounce in the right
direction. The Monkees’ Porpoise Song is an ocean of class and originality away from
I Am The Walrus (as The Monkees were from The Beatles) but still ripples with sixties
psychedelia. Hardly a masterpiece, but brimming with fun. However, Bob Dylan’s Fourth
Time Around is the genuine article; a folk-rock triumph – captured here in a stunning
live performance – it is as successful a riposte to Norwegian Wood, as
McCartney’s title track is to Strawberry Fields.
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TITLE: Vanilla Sky
ID: 325583 014338
Warner Music Group
ARTISTS: R.E.M.; Radiohead; Paul McCartney; Peter Gabriel; Julianna Gianni; The
Monkees; Looper; Red House Painters; Josh Rouse; Leftfield/Afrika Bambaataa; Sigur Ros;
Jeff Buckley; Todd Rundgren; Bob Dylan; Nancy Wilson; The Chemical Brothers
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.