Okay, kids, today’s topic is synergy. You don’t need a marketing degree to know that an event movie will frequently propel its requisite album onto the charts, regardless of the music’s aesthetic qualities. Yet occasionally, a soundtrack emerges that works both as a nostalgic keepsake and a coherent collection of songs.
Vanilla Sky (Reprise) is a case in point. Compiled by director Cameron Crowe, it’s a characteristically smart compilation. How cool is it that someone could buy the album because Tom Cruise is a hunk and get turned on to a moody, nine-minute tone poem by Icelandic band Sigur Ros? Factor in goodies from R.E.M., Radiohead, Bob Dylan, Jeff Buckley, and Paul McCartney (who recorded the trifle of a title track), and you’ve got a tidily eclectic set.
And speaking of McCartney, I Am Sam (V2) gets the High Concept award for making boomers smile while attracting the young ‘uns—wall-to-wall Beatles covers by the likes of the Wallflowers, the Black Crowes, Eddie Vedder, and others. Even if there are few radical reinterpretations (Chocolate Genius’ ”Julia” is a notable exception), these songs are like old friends. Particularly nifty are Paul Westerberg’s doleful ”Nowhere Man” and Grandaddy’s easy-rolling ”Revolution.” Best of all, you don’t even need to see the movie to enjoy it.
Ocean’s Eleven (Warner Bros.) is a bit more problematic. The film itself is a remake of the 1960 Rat Pack classic, but don’t expect to find Dean Martin crooning ”That’s Amore” here. The bulk of the music—composed by David Holmes (Out of Sight)—is instrumental, and tools along in funky blaxploitation mode (with occasional nods to early-’70s Miles Davis). It’s fine for what it is, but someone decided to spice things up with annoying snippets of film dialogue, which help to derail the flow. Percy Faith, Perry Como, Quincy Jones, and Elvis Presley are also represented here, but the disc ultimately feels schizy and unsatisfying. I guess one needs to see the film—which brings us back to that pesky synergy business. Vanilla Sky: B+; I Am Sam: B; Ocean’s Eleven: C