Review by Brad Green:
The film synopsis reads like a fusion of Fame and Revenge Of The Nerds, but fortunately the soundtrack takes its cue from the former.
The album comprises a combination of songs written specifically for the film and performed by the cast, covers performed by the cast and a number of source music tracks. Of the songs penned for the purpose, the standout is undoubtedly the CD opener How Shall I See You Through My Tears. Written by Michael Gore who landed a well-deserved Oscar for the Fame title classic, it’s a big gospel-influenced number delivered with power and panache. Nonetheless, it is upstaged later by its counterpart among the source tracks. Right On Be Free is a passionate wail of a gospel melody, driven by a roaring funk motor of drums and bass and performed by The Voices Of East Harlem -- a 20-strong group of ages ranging from 12 to 21 that brought out a sadly limited number of releases in the early 1970s.
The other custom-built tunes sound appropriately enough like they belong on an episode of TV’s Idol. I can proudly claim to have never seen a second of that show, but the little music that’s filtered through to me has come across much as the filler does here: slickly produced, well sung and totally contrived. Perhaps the best performance among these cuts belongs to Tiffany Taylor who does exactly what’s expected of her with the de rigueur power-soul ballad, sounding much like a young up-and-coming Afro-American diva trying to sound like Mariah Carey trying to sound like Aretha Franklin. There’s enough talent at each stop on that train that the result, while not exactly a breath of fresh style, isn’t nearly as stale as one might anticipate.
Aside from Right On Be Free, the source tracks are a mixed bag, ranging from The Replacements’ pleasantly languid Skyway to a drippy ballad by Warren Wiebe and one of Oasis’s typically lame attempts to add contemporary edge to Beatles-esque idiom. On the other hand, the ensemble cast rendition of Tudd Rundgren’s obscure classic The Want Of A Nail vies with the East Harlem voices for the album highlight. Stephen Sondheim’s wickedly satirical The Ladies Who Lunch also gets a treatment, which is passable as a showcase for young talent but curiosity value only for anyone familiar with Barbra Streisand’s real deal.
The CD offers a few multi-media extras including the movie trailer, cast photos and bios, a very brief interview with the director and some extra film footage. Cosmetic as usual but a bit more extensive than most CD “enhancements”, and as every budding superstar should know it’s always a good idea to make the punter feel like they’ve got their money’s worth.
Published March 4, 2004
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ID: 038 280-2
ARTISTS: Tiffany Taylor; The Replacements; The Wonder Stuff; Snow Patrol; The Voices Of East Harlem; Warren Wiebe; Oasis