BLAZE Soundtrack Paints Moving Tribute to Fallen Legend

Various Artists
BLAZE: Original Cast Recording
(Light in the Attic Records)
Release date: 9/21/18

Listening to the soundtrack of a film one has yet to see is a test for the ears. Free of images to pair with the music, the mind digests the sounds heard in as-is fashion. While such an experience can be just as fulfilling as playing a record linked to a well-watched favorite movie, the flip-side is akin to looking at an incomplete picture. The bones are there, but the rest of the canvas is waiting to be fleshed out.

For the soundtrack to the new biographical film “Blaze” directed by Ethan Hawke, the above description is pretty apt. Centered around the tumultuous life of deceased country singer and songwriter Blaze Foley, “Blaze” sounds like a movie that attempts to paint a picture of a character who defies easy description. The soundtrack to the film, featuring performances by the musician and actor portraying Foley, Ben Dickey, amongst others, is a fitting companion piece. What the project lacks in completeness, it makes up for with musical highlights.

Foremost among these highlights are Dickey sung covers of some of Foley’s best-known songs “Clay Pigeons” and “Picture Cards.” The former is a seemingly hopeful tune played on acoustic guitar in Foley’s signature loping finger-picking style. Over added sound effects that mimic chirping birds, Dickey sings of starting over again and going “down where people say y’all.” However, the song’s bright melody belies additional lines about hiding sorrow and changing the shape the singer is in. It’s an optimistic number shrouded in sadness, and given the tragic outcome of Foley’s short life the sentiment is liable to cut straight to a listener’s heart with repeated listens.

Perhaps even more aching in nature, “Picture Cards” is a love song sung from the edge of despair. Again featuring Dickey on vocals and finger-picked acoustic guitar, the track is accented by lonesome harmonica that trails over lyrics that talk of finding daylight in a lover’s eyes, but also of not trying to fall in love and trying instead to wash those feelings away. Still more heartbreaking is the addition of the sound of pool being played in the background of the song’s latter half, as if Dickey is performing the number in a lonely bar with apathetic patrons focused more on their billiard game than on the singer in the corner.

If the impression given so far is that the Blaze soundtrack consists of nothing but melancholy country tunes, then let the record also show that there are moments of levity too. Snippets of chatter like Dickey’s introductory “Okey-dokey smokey” that opens the album, or what appears to be director Hawke cheering at the conclusion of the song “Big Cheeseburgers and Good French Fries” give an added air of informality to the recording of the soundtrack as a whole, and promote jovial feelings of what the atmosphere may have been like on set. This observation goes double for the off –the-cuff sounding duet between Dickey and co-star Alia Shawkat on the cover of Roger Miller’s “Oo-De-Lally” best known from its appearance in Disney’s animated feature “Robin Hood.”

It is also worthwhile to note the album is not just a showcase for Dickey’s talents, though he shoulders the majority of the workload, even writing his own tribute to Foley and the singer’s former partner Sybil Rosen, entitled “Blaze and Sybil’s Lullaby.”  Musician Charlie Sexton, who appears in the film portraying another ill-fated singer and songwriter, Townes Van Zandt, gets in on the action too, contributing a cover of the Van Zandt song “Marie.” And Alynda Segarra of the band Hurray for Riff Raff, who plays Blaze’s Foley’s sister Marsha in the film, is tasked with bringing the soundtrack to a close with her sparse rendition of the Lucinda Williams’ penned tribute to Foley “Drunken Angel.”

The lyrics to Williams’ song provide a telling summation of Foley’s life and untimely death. “Sun came up it was another day / And the sun went down you were blown away,” the words go. “Why’d you let go of your guitar / Why’d you ever let it go that far.”

Those are good questions. Blaze Foley lived a life full of contradictions, so many in fact that even a film garnering as much early praise as “Blaze” probably has its hands full trying to accurately portray every angle of a man, who spent his time running away from tidy identification. The pieces of his story are there, like breadcrumbs ultimately crafting a phantom trail to some firm resolution, but legends are always more than the sum of their parts.

With BLAZE: Original Cast Recording both Foley and Ben Dickey have been cast as stars. Listeners who track down the album and see the film will gain a fuller picture of both men, but if the soundtrack is all one gets to experience just the songs will do. The best of the bunch rise above the level of simple stars. Their timelessness, like Foley’s own saga, will live on forever.

Read more by Michael Cimaomo at www.michaelcimaomo.wordpress.com.

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Dave Grohl’s Sound City soundtrack is ‘reel’ deal

Sound City soundtrackNo drummer jokes here, even if the set-up practically begs for one. Instead, what do you get when a drummer directs his first movie? The answer: one kickass soundtrack.

For those music fans who haven’t yet heard, and that number must be pretty small given the media blitz that has surrounded the project, former Nirvana drummer and Foo Fighters front-man Dave Grohl has directed a film which focuses on the history of the California recording studio Sound City, and specifically the “magic” of the facility’s custom analog Neve recording console.

Grohl himself, along with the rest of Nirvana, recorded the seminal album Nevermind at Sound City. And a virtual who’s-who of rock legends also passed through the studio’s doors to lay down their own contributions to music history straight to tape. Unfortunately, with digital technology becoming ever more the norm, Sound City’s commitment to old-school recording techniques made it an endangered species and the facility closed in 2011. But luckily Grohl was there to rescue the Neve and have it installed in his own studio, Studio 606. And that’s where the idea for a film began.

In the documentary Sound City: Real to Reel, Grohl attempts to give viewers a sense of the many hit songs and records that were recorded at Sound City as well as the power making music live in the studio holds compared to the process of piecing tracks together on a computer. To accomplish this feat, Grohl tracked down many of the artists who spent time at Sound City in the past and invited them to reunite at Studio 606 to write and record songs on the fully-restored Neve console.

Watch the official trailer for “Sound City Real to Reel” here:

Rick Springfield, Paul McCartney, Stevie Nicks – these musicians and more showed up to jam, and the resulting movie soundtrack (out today) is nothing short of special. Perhaps the most high-profile appearance on the album is that of McCartney who joined forces with Grohl and former Nirvana members Krist Novoselic and Pat Smear to knock out the wild rocker “Cut Me Some Slack.” The song had its official live debut during the “12-12-12” concert to benefit Hurricane Sandy victims, but amazingly took only three hours to create and record.

Elsewhere, the album-opening cut “Heaven and All” features Black Rebel Motorcycle Club members Peter Hayes and Robert Levon Been attacking their instruments while Grohl pounds away on his drums. And Trent Reznor shows up to help craft the meditative finale “Mantra” with Grohl and Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Josh Homme. In between these two tracks, listeners also get treated to appearances from Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen, Fear vocalist Lee Ving, and the rhythm section of Rage Against the Machine – drummer Brad Wilk and bassist Tim Commerford.

The number of stars on hand for one record is almost enough to make one’s head spin. But somehow, just like in the film, Grohl pulls it off. Sure, not every moment is a bona fide success. But the simple fact that an artist of Grohl’s stature is willing to look back into the past for inspiration, when so many others in the music industry today have their eyes constantly scanning the horizon for whatever high-tech recording toy is coming next, is a sign that classic rock ‘n’ roll can still be found, even if its spirit lives in a recording desk Neil Young once called “the Enterprise on steroids.”

To listen to a stream of the soundtrack to “Sound City: Real to Reel” via NPR please visit http://www.npr.org/2013/03/03/172990757/first-listen-dave-grohl-friends-sound-city-real-to-reel#playlist

And for more information on the movie “Sound City: Real to Reel” please visit http://buy.soundcitymovie.com/.

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“Girls” soundtrack just wants to have fun

Girls soundtrack vol 1Various Artists

Girls – Volume 1: Music From The HBO Original Series

(Fueled By Ramen)

In the interest of full disclosure, I must reveal that I have not watched a single episode of the popular HBO series “Girls.” I’m aware of the show’s existence of course. The creator and star of the series Lena Dunham has been honored by multiple awards shows for her work, and has appeared time and again on various other programs, where she has been interviewed regarding the show and its content. However, I still haven’t hopped aboard this particular television bandwagon. But now I may have found a reason to do so.

Featuring songs by such bands as Tegan & Sara, Fleet Foxes, The Troggs and more, Girls – Volume 1: Music From The HBO Original Series has been dubbed the “musical companion” to the series, whose second season recently debuted on January 13. Opening with the track “Dancing On My Own” by the Swedish dance-pop artist Robyn, the release is an instant immersion into the world of not just fictional female twentysomethings, but also a certain pop culture swimming pool that prides itself on diverse musical taste and a good time in equal measure.

“Music is such a huge part of my creative process,” Dunham says in the press materials that accompany the album. “I make playlists to write by and listen to as I head to set in the morning, and I experiment in editing with songs that the characters would love and that accurately reflect their struggles. “Girls’” music supervisor Manish Raval and I are crazy about everything from the pop that teen girls devour to the niche indie rock from days of yore.”

Such non-discriminating taste shows in the way Volume 1 unfolds from one number to the next. The anthem-like “Girls” by reggae fusion artist Santigold appears just a few slots before the delicate indie pop of Belle & Sebastian, and elsewhere the piano-based musings of singer and songwriter Michael Penn is preceded by the even sparser piano ballad “Love is Won” by Hudson Valley artist Lia Ices (aka Lia Kessel).

When listened to as a whole, the cumulative effect of such a record is akin to the experience of listening to a friend’s mix-tape. Sure not every track will resonate upon first playback, but each surprise levied by the inclusion of songs like “With a Girl Like You,” “Montezuma” and even a cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Fool To Cry,” is worth the experience. Plus you might even learn something. But first you have to push play to understand.

For more information on the HBO series “Girls” please visit http://www.hbo.com/girls/index.html.

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