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Angelo Badalamenti: The Straight Story: Music From The Motion Picture Soundtrack

Album: The Straight Story: Music From The Motion Picture Soundtrack
Label: Windham Hill

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Albums that repackage film scores are often a dicey proposition, but the successful ones offer a chance to either relive the feel of an obsessed-over movie (Titanic) or take in a good piece of familiar, mood-enhancing background music (the uplifting Chariots Of Fire, TV's haunting Twin Peaks). Thousands more have been made commercially available, even for the forgettable likes of Raising Cain, Rapa Nui, and Stuart Saves His Family, but only a comparative few warrant attention out of context. Angelo Badalamenti's music for David Lynch's G-rated, widely acclaimed The Straight Story has just about everything it needs to break out of the film-score ghetto: It's a movie people love, it's composed and conducted by a renowned name, and its central pieces of music are worth reliving. Opening with "Laurens, Iowa," a gauzy piece that should sound familiar to anyone who knows Badalamenti's aforementioned Twin Peaks soundtrack, the album quickly settles into a series of sweetly rustic pieces, with carefully applied acoustic instruments (guitars, violins) generally overshadowing the composer's usual synths. Like most scores, The Straight Story repeats itself often: "Rose's Theme (Variation)" is a variation on "Rose's Theme," of course, but "Crystal" sounds like a variation on "Rose's Theme (Variation)." But the album is a lovely, appropriately gentle companion piece to a lovely, appropriately gentle movie. The similarly high-profile soundtrack to The Insider is a bit more conventional and doesn't stand as well on its own, but it's got a worthy selling point: music by Lisa Gerrard (formerly of Dead Can Dance) and frequent collaborator Pieter Bourke. They've written a number of the record's stately instrumentals—Graeme Revell's more straightforward offerings dominate The Insider's second half—but Gerrard fans will want to seek out the record primarily for her vocal performances on the worldbeat-tinged "Tempest" and the gloomy, pretty, seven-and-a-half-minute "Sacrifice." Ultimately, though, the presence of Massive Attack's "Safe From Harm" isn't enough to rescue the bulk of the album, which is pleasant but as passively inert and irrelevant as most of those movie scores no one buys.