How to get ready for the ”Sopranos” premiere
To say that the new, second season of HBO’s phenomenal phenomenon ”The Sopranos” is eagerly anticipated is putting it mildly. Fresh episodes don’t start until Jan. 16, but HBO will be repeating the original batch of 13 shows about the quirky nexus of Mob criminality and analytic psychology in the week leading up to that date.
In the meantime, we get ”The Sopranos: Music From the HBO Original Series,” a soundtrack to the series that has just been released, coexecutive-produced by series creator David Chase and Martin Bruestle. The CD includes, of course, the show’s growly, already-verging-on-overplayed theme song, A3’s ”Woke Up This Morning.” But it’s immediately followed by a cut that utterly captures the dank mood of the TV series: R.L. Burnside’s swampy blues ”It’s Bad You Know.” Burnside at his best makes mysteriously incoherent music that seems to spring deep from his subconscious – the last thing he should do is start paying visits to ”The Sopranos” Dr. Jennifer Melfi (Lorraine Bracco), because unraveling his psyche might brighten his music, and you want it to remain as dark and delirious as it is.
The CD is obliged, given its Italian roots, to name-check a Sinatra song – in this context, Frank’s ”It Was a Very Good Year” comes off as self-congratulation on the part of the series. And as for the presence of a 1982 Little Steven track, well, let’s just say that Steve Van Zant, who also plays Mob soldier Silvio, is a better actor than he is a disciple of Bruce Springsteen, whose own mordant ”State Trooper” is here, appropriate to the stark, quiet menace of the TV show. Wyclef Jean’s ”Blood Is Thicker Than Water” is diluted by sappily sung quotations from Sly and the Family Stone’s ”It’s a Family Affair” – a too-blatant Mob invocation.
Two of the most effective cuts are by Brits: ”Complicated Shadows” from Elvis Costello and ”The Beast in Me” by his compadre Nick Lowe summon up the volatile mixture of motivations that spur the violence in ”The Sopranos.” I’ll keep replaying the R.L. Burnside cut to plumb its mysteries, but otherwise, this CD remains a promotional souvenir that’s just a reminder of how good the real thing is – and, with any luck, will remain as of Jan. 16.