Records: Soundtracks special

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The Independent Culture
A Bronx Tale (Epic, CD/tape). A good example of the soundtrack a l'American Graffiti, in which the director plays disc jockey, with the cinema as his sound system. There are times during Robert De Niro's directorial debut when the choices make you laugh out loud with approval: the boy protagonist who begins the movie in 1956 to the Cleftones' 'Little Girl of Mine' would certainly have been listening to the Impressions' 'I'm So Proud' in 1964 and the Rascals' 'A Beautiful Morning' in 1968. Not so sure about 'Nights in White Satin', mind, but when Donald Byrd's 'Cristo Redentor' turns up, it puts you in a mood to forgive anything. Richard Williams

Short Cuts (Imago, CD/tape). Performed by a fading jazz singer in Altman's bleak epic, these sour songs gradually drive her daughter to suicide. Annie Ross croaks like Tom Waits at his most resigned about ageing and feeling blue and breathing the bad air of LA. The songs are a step away from 3am-in-a- jazz-club cliche - despite authorship by rock literati such as Elvis Costello and Michael Stipe. But Ross's reliance on hackneyed, pathetic words ('they know me in London . . .') gives her character the dead-end inadequacy Altman wants to show. Iggy Pop provides deadpan relief with 'Evil California', and some closing earthquake rumbles show that this hour's pessimism isn't far off the mark. Andy Beckett

Schindler's List (MCA, CD/tape). One of the jokes - and there are such things - in Schindler's List has someone sitting in a house playing a piano while outside the Cracow ghetto is ransacked. Two soldiers below suspend their marauding: 'Mozart or Bach?' asks one. 'Mozart,' says the other (it's Bach). Which is typical of how music gets into the film - from within the storyline, and as a poignant soundbite from the distant world of normal life. John Williams's score only 'applies' extraneous music sparingly, and when the big tune comes - eased into at the end rather than slapped across the whole thing - it arrives with unsensational effectiveness. A culturally precise blend of Jewish folksong, Schumann, maybe, and not too much Hollywood, it is well judged. Above all, it avoids what any music would have threatened: to debase a film of towering force with the romantic clamour of a TV mini-series. Michael White

Philadelphia (Epic, CD/tape/LP). The album of Jonathan Demme's Aids film is as discriminating as you'd expect from the director of Stop Making Sense. It's a mixed bag, like most soundtracks, but a superior one: Bruce Springsteen, Peter Gabriel and Neil Young have each written a song for it. Some film- goers might find this line-up a bit heterosexual, but none could call it untalented. Springsteen's 'Streets of Philadelphia' is another of his post-E-Street-Band brooders: subtle, well crafted, better the 20th time than the first (which may not be quite the thing in a film). Gabriel's 'Lovetown' is the same but less so - a strangely mousey funk track. What makes the album worth buying is Young's title song, an almost classical piece for piano, voice and shimmering synthesiser. The words are prosaic but the voice is higher and purer than ever. Tim de Lisle

In the Name of the Father (Island, CD/tape). Jim Sheridan's film about what happens if you're in the wrong place, from the wrong place, at the wrong time, produces a selection of oldies (Thin Lizzy's 'Whiskey in the Jar', Bob Marley's 'Is This Love?', the Kinks' 'Dedicated Follower of Fashion') plus three new songs, written and performed by Dubliners - mainly Bono and his friends Gavin Friday (of the Virgin Prunes) and Maurice Seezer. All three are good. The title track is itself three songs in one: an Irish rap, a U2-ish anthem and a sampled- fiddle tune like an Irish jig played in the key of rage. Then there's 'Billy Boola', a Seventies good-time number set to the beats of 1993, and 'You Made Me the Thief of My Heart', a wispily compelling ballad sung by Sinead O'Connor. I don't know what it has to do with the Conlon family, but I like it. TdeL