I find myself hoping that Steven Van Zandt’s next project is a time-management handbook, because the guy manages to accomplish more in any given year than most people do in a lifetime. I think I kind of hate him for that. Nevertheless, I’m seriously looking forward to his most recent effort: the ’60s rock-band film Not Fade Away, directed by Sopranos guy David Chase, for which Van Zandt served as executive producer and music supervisor.
Both Chase and Van Zandt recently appeared on NPR’s “Fresh Air” interview show, giving a lively interview that shed light on their creative partnership (listen to the audio here). Music is not just incidental to this film – the movie is basically a love letter to the music, and the “music supervisor” role filled by Van Zandt is as crucial to the film’s success as the director.
After hearing them talk about the music included in the film (including tracks from the Beatles and the Stones, for which they apparently “didn’t pay retail”), I thought I’d poke around and see if I could find a release date for the soundtrack album. Lo and behold, there it was on both Amazon and iTunes, just waiting for me to purchase and download it – and who am I to say no? You gotta love the instant gratification of digital music sometimes.
There is a lot to love about this soundtrack, even without having seen the movie yet. There’s no Beatles or Who but it’s a nice range of primarily 1960s artists from the Stones, the Rascals, and the Small Faces to Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, and even the Sex Pistols. “Bali Ha’i” from the South Pacific soundtrack seems a bit out of place here, but maybe after seeing the movie it will make more sense. Most of the songs are somewhat lesser-known: not “Satisfaction” but “Tell Me” and “Parachute Woman” from the Stones, for example. Despite not necessarily being “greatest hits,” they sound great, and if you enjoy ’60s rock you will enjoy these tracks. The slightly off-the-beaten-path nature of these tracks gives the album a freshness that it might not have had if all the songs had been overly familiar, too – as it stands, listening to it is one part nostalgia and two parts rediscovery, and that makes it fun.
There are also several tracks from “The Twylight Zones,” which turns out to be the actors from the movie singing with an all-star backing band consisting of Van Zandt, Max Weinberg, Garry Tallent, and Bobby Bandiera. One of these, “The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre” (previously recorded by the Cocktail Slippers), is a Van Zandt original; the rest are covers. Thanks to impeccable arrangement and production and of course a really great band, these tracks hold up well against the rest of the album and fit in nicely.
My one quibble with the album is the inclusion of a couple of back-to-back duplicate tracks, performed both by the original artist and by the Twylight Zones: “Bo Diddley” and “Train Kept A Rollin’.” In both cases, the Twylight Zones’ cover is fairly faithful to the original rather than providing an entirely new take on it, so it feels more like those games where you’re supposed to look at two nearly-identical pictures and identify a certain number of subtle differences – “in picture A the wine bottle is corked and in picture B the bottle is open” and so on. But that’s a minor thing that does not keep the album from being an entirely enjoyable listen.
Unlike most soundtrack albums, there aren’t too many tracks here that I anticipate skipping over. Although if you catch me humming along merrily to bonus track “Surgical Supply Jingle” (listen to the Fresh Air interview for an amusing explanation of this one), you might want to tap me on the shoulder and suggest that I move on…
One final note: I’m very grateful that the mp3 release includes a digital booklet with fairly complete credits. The artists, songwriters, and publishing information are listed for every track, and the “Twylight Zones” band members are credited by name. I hate purchasing digital music and then not getting as much information as I would have gotten if I’d bought the CD, because I think artist credits are important. As a very nice bonus, the digital booklet includes entertaining and informative liner notes from former Rolling Stones manager/producer (and current Sirius/XM Underground Garage DJ) Andrew Loog Oldham. Credits and liner notes? This album brings back the good old days in more ways than one!