Call Baz Luhrmann just about anything you want, but don’t call him conventional. The director has made a career of taking other people’s stories and putting his own decadent spin on them.
In Luhrmann’s hands, Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” became a modern-day tale of doomed lovers complete with designer drugs and semiautomatic weapons, and it was a hit. And his remake of “Moulin Rouge” was the greatest Bollywood film never made in India, and it worked despite the fact that it really should not have.
Now, Luhrmann has decided to tackle that pinnacle of American literature, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”
While the film is based in the early 20th century portrayed in the novel, this time, Luhrmann has decided to insert 21st-century music into the mix.
He did something similar in “Moulin Rouge,” but this time, the filmmaker has decided that music by Jay-Z, Beyonce, Jack White and Gotye will substitute nicely for the jazz-age tunes that were popular back in the time the story is set.
It’s a novel idea, and had the music in question been top-shelf stuff, it might have worked. What we get on the soundtrack, though, are half-realized songs that are obviously castoffs from the various artists’ recent projects.
Jay-Z’s “100$ Bill” is uncharacteristically boring, while Florence and the Machine’s “Over the Love” is similarly tepid.
Bryan Ferry is heading in the right direction with “Love is the Drug,” but it still sounds forced.
The only two tracks that lend themselves well to the story’s subject matter are Fergie’s “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)” and Emeli Sande’s jazzed-up cover of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love.”
Again, Luhrmann has guts to try to pull this off, but in the end, the musical ends just don’t justify the theatrical means.
Key Tracks: “Love is the Drug,” “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got),” “Crazy in Love”
Singer Natalie Maines is primarily known for two things: her Grammy Award-winning work with the Dixie Chicks and the comments she made about former President George W. Bush that caused country fans to shun that band for a time.
While the Dixie Chicks weathered the political fallout of Maines’ comments, its members have been spending time apart. The other two-thirds of the band, Marty Maguire and Emily Robison, have released new music as a duo.
While Maines hadn’t originally intended to do the same, she found herself playing around with some tracks in Ben Harper’s Los Angeles studio, and before she knew it, Harper was producing what eventually became “Mother.”
The album’s title refers to Maines’ cover of the classic rock song by Pink Floyd, and Maines absolutely makes it her own. The album is a mix of covers and originals.
Maines’ take on Jeff Buckley’s “Lover, You Should’ve Come Over” isn’t quite as good as the Floyd cover, but it’s heartfelt nonetheless.
“Without You,” a song by Eddie Vedder originally included on his “Ukulele Songs” album, sounds great in a more fleshed out version by Maines.
Among the original songs, “Come Cryin’ to Me” was a Dixie Chicks song originally rejected as being too rock ’n’ roll, but its Sheryl Crow-like groove works beautifully here.
This album is far more rock-oriented than anything we’ve heard from Maines in the past, and she wears the music style well. Harper’s influence can be heard all over this album.
While many are hopeful that the Dixie Chicks get back together to record some new music soon, having an excellent album like this takes a bit of the hurt out of waiting for that to happen.
KeyTracks: “Without You,” “Mother,” “Come Cryin’ to Me”
The human ear is a pretty miraculous thing. It picks up vibrations in the air and delivers them to the brain as sound.
When music is the source of those vibrations, it’s possible for that sound to remind the listener of something they’ve heard before.
Upon hearing “Something to Believe” by singer-songwriter Charlie Mosbrook, I was struck by the confident yet melodic sound of his singing voice. That voice reminds me of similarly masculine folk voices of the past, such as Kris Kristofferson, Jim Croce and Gordon Lightfoot.
Mosbrook’s songwriting is original, though, from the excellent “Listen to a Woman” to “Creepy,” a clever song of a love hidden away.
Mosbrook was diagnosed with a progressive spinal disorder that left him an incomplete quadriplegic a few years back. Despite the physical limitations, Mosbrook has continued to write, record and tour. The song “Crooked Stick” examines his disability, but not in a self-pitying manner.
The title track is another one of the album’s better songs, and it has a great old-time folk feel to it.
Mosbrook has an impressive list of guest artists who play on the album with him, including harmonica player Steev Inglish, mandolin player Bill Lestock and vocalist Cindy Langmack.
The collection of a dozen songs will appeal to anyone who enjoys good acoustic folk or Americana.
Key Tracks: “Something to Believe,” “Creepy,” “Listen to a Woman”
By Devin Grant