February 23, 2008

Mr. Director's CD Review #1

This Week's Review: "INTO THE WILD" Motion Picture Soundtrack, by Eddie Vedder
* * * 1/2 (out of * * * *)

As winter drags on, and on, and on, I find myself listening to a lot of music that reminds me of the warm sunny days of my childhood summers. Stuff like "SUMMER'S END" by Foo Fighters, or "SILVER LINING" by Upstanding Youth (check out www.upstandingyouth.com)...the stuff that warms me from inside out, so to speak.

During my musical explorations, a friend of mine lent me a copy of Eddie Vedder's latest album, the original motion picture soundtrack to the film "INTO THE WILD." Being an Eddie Vedder/Pearl Jam fan I eagerly received the album and began to listen to each track just like I would to any other of his albums. It was great stuff. But about half way through track #7 I remembered that this wasn't just some solid rock album...it was a movie soundtrack! There are filmed images--cinematic expressions, so to speak--that accompanied these tunes, and I had been approaching it all wrong. So I stopped the disc and went back to track #1, "SETTING FORTH" and listened with my film-score ears. The result: WOW. I haven't even seen the movie (it's on my request list at the library...) but I could FEEL the images as if they were playing inside me; the angry teen, the misunderstood parents, the wide-open American frontiers, the complex adolescent relationships between boys and girls...they were all there, in the music.

Vedder's "WILD" soundtrack could be categorized as a rock album, with only one instrumental track (well, two if you count Vedder's howling on "THE WOLF" as instrumental). It debuted at no. 11 on the US Billboard 200 charts as a rock album, and the song "GUARANTEED" (which, along with "HARD SUN," is one of my favorites) was nominated for a 2008 Grammy award.

Sean Penn ("WILD" director) picked Vedder to provide the songs for the film, and most of the tracks on the album do appear in the movie. Composer Michael Brook (who scored the films "An Inconvenient Truth" and "Who Killed the Electric Car") is credited as composer of the orchestral score for "WILD," but I think the prize goes to Vedder, who was able to pair lyrical melodies with a visual story to create an album that both holds its own as a rock record while reinforcing the story's 3-act structure. What the heck does that mean? Track 1 ("SETTING FORTH") gets the story rolling with an upbeat jam that describes the hero's resolve to abandon his world to journey into the universe...

Be it no concern
Point of no return
Go foward in reverse

This I will recall
Everytime I fall

Setting forth in the universe

Act 2 really gets under way by track 3 ("FAR BEHIND"); the upbeat and happy-sounding guitar/drum rhythyms implying a sense of freedom and excitement that accompanies changes in life. Then it gets darker and more complex as Act 2 moves past the epic-sounding "HARD SUN" and into track 9 ("THE WOLF"). And just when it sounds like the protagonist will be consumed by loneliness and pain, he reaches a redemptive "END OF THE ROAD" to his journey into the wild:

I won't be the last
I won't be the first
Find a way to where the sky meets the earth
It's all right and all wrong
For me it begins at the end of the road
We come and go...

I really like this album. It's a great bridge between orchestral scores and guitar-driven rock melodies, and like the best of both of those, is able to tell a visual story through music alone. Definitely worth a listen (or two).

Thanks to www.lyricsmania.com for the lyrics.

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