Dusty treasures

Oct 11, 2000 at 12:00 am
The sound track companion piece to Cameron Crowe’s magnificent new rock ’n’ roll movie, Almost Famous, is like a delightful trip up and down the early ’70s AM-FM dial. Chock-full of material featured in the flick (this isn’t one of those “inspired” by the movie type of sound tracks), Almost Famous will have aficionados dusting off their vinyl 45s.

Right off the bat, Almost Famous proceeds to do what every Cameron Crowe sound track does. It takes you right back to the movie-going experience. It complements the movie, which is not an easy feat by any stretch of the imagination. When woven into the fabric of the film, these songs (like those in Crowe predecessors, Singles and Jerry McGuire) crystallize Crowe’s filmmaking vision — often adding dramatic nuances that would otherwise be missing. On their own, Rod Stewart’s “Every Picture Tells a Story” or David Bowie’s cover of Lou Reed’s ode to scoring, “I’m Waiting for the Man,” are potent bursts of reality. When taken within the context of the movie, they become monumental assessments. Other sound tracks that have managed to do this as effectively have ended up as classics of a generation, including The Big Chill and Singles.

More great tracks? How about Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” or Led Zeppelin’s gorgeous “That’s the Way” (marking the first time Zep has ever granted the right for its music to be used in an original motion picture sound track — the actual movie includes an additional four Led Zep tracks not represented here). Then there’s Cat Stevens’ “The Wind” and the movie’s centerpiece, Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer.” An often overlooked classic, “Tiny Dancer” is the album’s showstopper (or this sound track’s version of “Secret Garden,” if you wish.) The track is so strong, in fact, that VH1 has now started playing it using movie footage in lieu of an actual promotional video.

A quick word about the film’s musical protagonists, Stillwater: Visually, the band is a dead-ringer for Free — right down to the singer’s clenching of the mike stand. Musically, they’re a Humble Pie-Bad Company-Led Zep combo. “Fever Dog,” the one Stillwater track featured on the compilation, is produced by Heart’s Nancy Wilson (Crowe’s wife), and features Seattle stalwart Mike McCready (Pearl Jam-Mad Season) and Nancy herself on guitars.

Read our review of the movie Almost Famous.

John Franck writes about music for the Metro Times. E-mail [email protected].