Category: Soundtracks

La Bamba – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

ARTIST: Various (Mostly Los Lobos)                         220px-Labambasounds

TITLE: La Bamba



SINGLES: Come On, Let’s Go (#21 US, #18 UK), La Bamba (#1 US, #1 UK), Donna (#83 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: All of them but not these versions.

LINEUP: Los Lobos (8 tracks) with cuts from Howard Huntsberry, Marshall Crenshaw, Brian Setzer, and Bo Diddley

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Big, huge soundtrack (at least sales wise) to the move about the life of Ritchie Valens.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: If you weren’t going to use the original songs by Ritchie Valens and others (and just WHY NOT – I mean, they sound great now), then having Los Lobos record the Ritchie Valens was the least you could do.

It struck gold. The movie made a big box office impression, and the soundtrack hit the charts and made Los Lobos a household name, at least for a summer.

Yet, now, it seems unnecessary. Every song on here is found easily on the web in the original forms, and while Los Lobos does a great and reverent job with the Valens tracks, they’d be the first to tell you that you need to have the originals.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: I don’t need to tell you the title track was Los Lobos only #1 hit.


GRADE: C-: Not necessary in this day and time.

Various Artists – Zabriske Point Soundtrack

ARTIST: Various (Soundtrack)                              zabriske

TITLE: Zabriske Point




OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Dark Star, Tennessee Waltz

LINEUP: Pink Floyd, Kaleidoscope (US band), Grateful Dead, Patti Page, Youngbloods, Jerry Garcia, Roscoe Holcomb, John Fahey

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Soundtrack to infamous Michaelangelo Antonioni film is as unfocused and bland as the film, despite the presence of some heavy hitters.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: The best thing about this soundtrack album is the reworking by Pink Floyd of “Careful with That Axe, Eugene” to “Come in Number 51, You’re Time Is Up”. The best way to hear that is on You Tube, with the concluding images of the film (the house exploding over and over and over again) combined with the song.

What else is there? Some country-rock excursions, an excerpt from “Dark Star” that only makes you want to hear the whole thing, some Pink Floyd songs that were actually better than the second side of Atom Heart Mother, and some infernal noodling. Oh, and Patty Page.

This movie was a spectacular failure:  incomprehensible, pretentious, and clichéd. The soundtrack kind of fits it.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Pink Floyd had some other tracks they kept from the movie and finally reworked them into the famous “Us and Them”

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, even more noodling and more blah Pink Floyd tracks.

GRADE: C:  Maybe it should have been a Pink Floyd EP, though one of the Kaleidoscope tracks and the John Fahey tune is nice.

Original Broadway Cast – West Side Story

ARTIST: Original Broadway Cast     WestSideStoryBway

TITLE:  West Side Story




OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Jet Song, Maria, Tonight, America, I Feel Pretty, Somewhere

LINEUP: Lead Vocalists: Reri Grist, Michael Callan, Grover Dale, Larry Kert, Carol Lawrence, Ken Leroy, Tony Mordente, Chita Rivera, Eddie Roll, Leonard Bernstein and Irwin Kostal’s orchestras

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Original cast recording for one of the most loved musicals ever.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Many know the movie soundtrack, but the Original Cast recording was also popular when it was released in 1957.

You probably know the basics: Sharks vs. Jets. Tony and Maria. Romeo and Juliet. The songs and orchestration and fabulous though, even if these are different performances than what you may be used to hearing. The orchestras are what make this pop to me. Larry Kert as Tony and Carol Lawrence as Maria give top notch performance.

If you like musicals, you’ll love this.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This didn’t win the best musical at the Tony Awards. The Music Man won instead.

IS THERE A DELUXE VERSION: Yes, there is an extended version with more orchestration.

GRADE: A-: So many standards here, and great performances.


Original Broadway Cast – Avenue Q

ARTIST: Original Broadway Cast Recording                 Image-AvenueQlogo

TITLE:  Avenue Q




OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Nothing has broken out of the theatre scene.

LINEUP: John Tartaglia, Stephanie D’Aburzzo, Rick Lyon, Natalie Venetia Belcon, Ann Harada, Jordan Gelber, Jennifer Barnhart

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Musical about puppets living on Avenue Q works on stage, but not really as a stand alone.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Anyone who has seen this play knows that it’s wonderfully subversive. A play about coming-of-age and the requisite anxieties of post-college life, performed by cute puppets who swear, drink and do other things not found on Sesame Street.

The soundtrack album, with the music detached from the sight of puppets, doesn’t quite work all of the time. Some of the songs really tie to the puppet action, and away from it, seems a bit off. And instead of songs, there’s dialogue too, which when you want to listen to the music sometimes interferes.

See this on the stage, and if you really like some of the songs, a few do work.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This won three Tony awards in 2004.


GRADE: B-: Better see the play.


Spring Awakening – Original Broadway Cast

ARTIST: Original Broadway Cast Spring_awakening

TITLE:  Spring Awakening




OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: They fit the context of the song, so I don’t know if any leaked out on pop radio

LINEUP: Jonathan Groff, Lea Michele, John Gallagher, Jr., Lauren Pritchard, Skylar Astin and more

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Contemporary musical about the coming of age in a restrictive, conservative society in 19th Century Germany. It’s not a happy one.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: Spring Awakening was a smash hit. It was full of sexuality, longing, disappointment, and death. The music, though, rises above the sometimes difficult subject matter, and tells the story without being too maudlin.

It’s got folk elements, rock elements, and definite show tune elements. The performances, especially by Groff, Pritchard and Michele, are top notch. Pritchard’s Ilse especially has an integral role, and she, I think, is the best performer in terms of her character and songs.

Duncan Sheik wrote the music (Steven Saiter wrote the lyrics and the book), and the music is what comes through loud and clear. It’s varied, and fitting, and you can follow without seeing the show.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Groff and Michele were on Glee, but you knew that.


GRADE: A-: It’s not the happiest story, but it’s performed well without being bogged down in the subject matter.

Jesus Christ Superstar – Original Studio Cast

ARTIST: Original Studio Cast     220px-Jcs_uk_cover

TITLE:  Jesus Christ Superstar



SINGLES: Superstar (#14 US), I Don’t Know How to Love Him (#28 US, #47 UK)

OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Casual fans don’t. Fans of the musical know the whole thing.

LINEUP: Ian Gillan, Murray Head, Yvonne Ellman, Victor Brox, Barry Dennan, Brian Keith, John Gustafson, Paul Davis, Mike d’Abo. Musicians were Neil Hubbard, Henry McCullough, Chris Mercer, Peter Robinson, Bruce Rowland, and Alan Spenner. Of course there were many more voices and an orchestra.

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The original ‘concept’ studio album that Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice put together in preparation for the musical. 220px-Jcs_us_cover

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This technically isn’t an original cast recording, but it is the original recording of all of the music that would be in the various productions and movies. Still, though, without this blazing the way it probably wouldn’t have been big at all.

Murray Head is the ‘star’ as Judas, and while Head goes a bit bonkers at times he carries a lot of the songs with his manic voice. Ian Gillan is a pretty much perfect Jesus and Yvonne Ellman makes her career as Mary Magdalene. For me, the evil duo of Victor Brox (Calaphas) and Brian Keith (Annas) are scene stealers.

It’s really good through the first three sides, then the fourth side goes a bit…well…off the deep end, except for “Superstar”. I’m sure the psychedelic times had a lot to do with it, but it really runs out of steam for me at the end. It’s still a pretty remarkable piece of music, though.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: Weber and Rice used a few songs and snippets from past productions here, repurposed for this.


GRADE: B: That fourth side, with it scenery chewing performances and way too much psychedelic nonsense, brings it down.


Hamilton – Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack

ARTIST: Original Broadway Cast Soundtrack        Hamilton_cast_recording_cover.jpeg

TITLE:  Hamilton


CHART ACTION: #3 US, #1 Rap, #69 UK


OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Alexander Hamilton is the one everyone has seen, but there will be a lot of these songs entering the vernacular soon, especially Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

LINEUP: Lin-Manuel Miranda, Leslie Odom, Jr., Renee Elise Goldsberry, Phillipa Soo, Jonathan Groff, Anthony Ramos, Christopher Jackson, Daveed Diggs, Okieriete Onadowan, and others

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: The soundtrack to the phenomenon of a musical holds up outside of the concept of the stage.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: You never know with soundtracks to musicals if the songs will hold up outside of the context of the play and its staging. One thing about Hamilton is that while the songs all fit in the narrative, with few stand alones that can be sung as standards, listening to the entire soundtrack gives you the ENTIRE narrative (or at least 95% of it).

Seeing this staged, with the sets, extras, and choreography is obviously the way to go, but since most of us don’t have a spare four or five figures to do so at this time, this will suffice. It’s a brilliant mix of show tunes, rap and modern production. I can’t recommend it high enough.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: This is the highest charting cast album since 1963.


GRADE: A: You’ll want to play this again and again.


Soundtrack – The Harder They Come

ARTIST: Motion Picture Soundtrack 220px-JimmyCliffTheHarderTheyComealbumcover
TITLE: The Harder They Come
SINGLES: Most all of these were singles in Jamaica
OTHER SONGS YOU MAY KNOW: Many Rivers to Cross, The Harder They Come, Pressure Drop
LINEUP: Songs by Jimmy Cliff, Scotty, The Melodians, The Maytals, The Slickers and Desmond Dekker
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT: Soundtrack to an iconic film makes reggae a known commodity in the US.

SOME WORDS, PHRASES AND CLAUSES ABOUT THIS RECORD: This is one instance where the soundtrack is more well-known than the film. Jimmy Cliff starred in the movie, and also put together this soundtrack album of his material and other singles from Jamaica.

The movie was limited in its success outside of Jamaica because of the Jamaican accents of the actors (however it was HUGE in Jamaica for that same reason – not many films at all featured their distinctive patois), but the soundtrack had a life of its own here. Cliff chose wisely and the tracks are accessible to even the most novice of reggae listeners.

The title track, featuring Cliff’s clear tenor, is the clear standout with the old standard “Pressure Drop” a close second. But now many have latched on to “Many Rivers to Cross” as a track as well – especially those singing at karaoke and on talent shows.

NOTES & MINUTIAE: The only song written especially for the movie is the title track.


GRADE: A: You start your reggae exploration here, you get an idea about reggae, rocksteady and dub.