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SONIC DEATH MONKEY Soundtrack Reviews - Good Night, and Good Luck.

by Natasha Theobald

If you are the type of soundtrack junkie who loves to buy for the crazy mix of music, artists, and styles found in your average soundtrack compilation, this may not be the review for you. If, however, you have an interest in discs rich with talent, flush with songs you will find familiar, either because you have heard them or because they are part of a universal consciousness (so well aged and beloved are they), this is a CD worth checking out. Perfect for background music at your next dinner party or moments of solitary reflection at the end of a day, this jazz compilation will leave you with a real sense of both heartache and hope.

While many soundtracks strive for a blender effect, throwing in as many different things as possible to appeal to the widest possible audience, the producers of this CD have taken a different approach. Rather than filling up with sounds from various artists and eras, they have chosen to strive for consistency, for making a cohesive whole. This is a set of tunes for those who might seek the talents of the individual artists in solo affairs. Here, however, the songs are what have been selected with great care, to convey story and mood and tone.

The talent begins with Dianne Reeves, a jazz vocalist famous for a triple Grammy win of note, one for the vocals on each of her last three recordings. She is joined by Matt Catingub on saxophone, Peter Martin at the piano, Jeff Hamilton on drums, Robert Hurst and Christoph Luty on bass, and Alex Acuna and Alan Estes for additional percussion. Each artist, it seems, is given ample opportunity to shine.

The CD starts on a note of whimsy, with Straighten Up and Fly Right. The selection features a great piano section and contains lyrics about monkeys and buzzards, if you can believe it. There are two more fairly upbeat tunes sprinkled among the rest of the songs. Each is short and quick and a breath of fresh air among more serious selections. You're Driving Me Crazy, while still a 'he done me wrong' song, offers a high spirit through both piano and horn. TV is the Thing This Year is the closest thing to a dance tune, other than the sway in each others' arms variety.

After the initial burst of energy, songs two through four suggest a bit of a turning point. I've Got My Eyes on You is very much an Every Breath You Take precursor. For those of you who still think that song is romantic, stalking is not better than sending a lovely note or flowers. The former song has a very strong warning that someone had better watch what they do, because someone has their eyes on you. She's watching him, she has spies watching him -- there are some very basic trust issues at hand. The next two songs, Gotta Be This or That and Too Close for Comfort, both seem to be ultimatums. The first lays things out pretty clearly -- it has to be her or me. The saxophone solo hits the same rich notes as Reeves' voice, which makes for a compelling musical statement.

One of the strongest themes seems to be that of heartache. Of course, this is a CD of jazz standards. This version of How High the Moon is evocative and strong, with emotion in the voice and a great saxophone response to each phrase. It is about love that is far away. Who's Minding the Store? is a song of loneliness. "I silently call your name" certainly is a lyric of some desperation, and the ultimate question is who he is with now, who has taken her place. Solitude lays vocals over an assured piano with lyrics about being haunted with memories that never die. (This may be a good time to mention that this may not be your best post-break-up listening material, unless you really want to wallow.) The last is interesting, Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall. The character singing has had more than her share of hard times, but her outlook is oddly strong. She seems world-weary but the kind that retains a sense of humor, of perspective, and of light. It was unexpected and satisfying.

There are a couple of advice songs thrown in for good measure. Pretend exhorts the listener to pretend to be happy until he or she is truly content. It is much like the tune about whistling until you feel as brave as you are making believe you are. I don't know how well this actually works, but it seems to be popular advice. Another, Pick Yourself Up, arrives with something like a calypso beat, a welcome change within the journey through this play list.

The last few songs bring some ray of hope. The sole instrumental selection, When I Fall in Love, lets the saxophone take the lead with the beautiful melody, pausing only to give the piano a brief turn. There is something sexy about the anticipation inherent in this song, whether the words are there or not. It's not about 'if' but 'when,' and things are going to be amazing. Hope finds an easy metaphor in There'll Be Another Spring. It brings hope of rebirth and renewal, seasons of change and new life.

The last song on the CD is One for My Baby. It starts with one of my favorite sounds, bass strings being plucked. It is just the bass and the voice, telling the story of closing a bar and bending a bartender's ear about the long road ahead. The voice sounds determined, resolved. This is not ending on a sad note; it is finishing with some sense of moving forward, living on.

I have lived with this CD on fairly constant rotation for almost a week, and I never tire of it. Reeves does have an amazing voice, clear but with depth and emotion. You won't be weeping a la Nina Simone, but you will feel something authentic. For a fairly traditional take on some more than traditional tunes, this mix doesn't feel old-fashioned in a negative way. In fact, it feels old-fashioned in the most positive way possible, in the 'they don't make things like this anymore' way. Of course, they do, and here is proof.

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originally posted: 10/10/05 05:56:12
last updated: 10/10/05 06:03:07
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