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Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Walk The Line Original Soundtrack (Ronan)

Walk The Line Original Soundtrack

There are two main types of soundtracks. Firstly there are ones made up of many different artists – these albums often read like compilation albums and often don’t fit into the film at all (exceptions being Garden State and any Quentin Tarantino movie). Then there are soundtracks from just one artist, such as Badly Drawn Boy’s About A Boy soundtrack. Most of the time these are successful, but in some cases (Bjork’s latest atrocity) they don’t work at all. Then there are film scores, but they’re a different situation altogether. The Walk The Line soundtrack falls into none of these categories. You could say it’s like the I Am Sam soundtrack in the way that it’s all covers, but then again on the other hand it’s nothing like it. The album is all cover songs, but instead of being performed by popular artists, they’re performed by the actors themselves. No, don’t click onto another review, because this album works. Very well, in fact.

As you would expect most of the songs are Johnny Cash songs – the film is about Johnny Cash after all. And the actor playing him – that would be Academy Award nominee Joaquin Phoenix – does a fairly mean Johnny Cash impression. The album opens with ‘Get Rhythm’, a very upbeat country song which lets you immediately know what you’re in for with this album, and also shows that Phoenix does sound very, very good. You’d know it wasn’t Johnny himself, but you wouldn’t complain because Phoenix’s own voice is very good, and his JC impression is excellent. In places you’d know it was Phoenix, as his speaking voice is quite unique-sounding. The title track ‘I Walk The Line’, a more well known Cash song, is also done justice here. I won’t go into descriptions of the songs or their lyrics, because that is not what this album (or cover albums in general) are about. Heck, we all know the late Johnny Cash was a good tunesmith.

Cash’s second wife, June Carter Cash was an excellent artist in her own right, and she is played by Reese Witherspoon in the film. It originally seemed to me like a strange choice, but once you hear her voice, you understand why. Although it’s not a patch on June’s, Witherspoon does have a very country voice – and is a breath of fresh air compared to the usual actress-turned-singer crap (Nicole Kidman I look in your direction). ‘Wildwood Flower’ is not a song that I know very well, but from hearing this rendition I want to hear the original version – surely that’s a good thing!

The Jerry Lee Lewis cut ‘Louis Boogie’ has a start which sounds strangely like ‘Dogtanian and the Three Muskehounds’ (I don’t know if you got that over there, but here’s a link to it on IMDb) The actor playing the role, Waylon Payne pulls the song off very well, but it’s the only song on the album which has really dated – the genre sounds somewhat stale. This is followed by Phoenix again with the seminal ‘Ring of Fire’ – everybody knows this song, so does he bring anything new to it? (I usually try not to use Brandon’s catechism style when reviewing, so sorry for using it this time B) Well, no. But he doesn’t need to. He sings it as Cash intended i.e. the way Cash did himself – In preparing for the movie, Phoenix learned everything about Cash including the way he stood onstage, and even the way he held the guitar when playing, Now that’s method acting.

The next song ‘You’re My Baby’ is sung by singer-songwriter (but here actor) Jonathan Rice who is playing Roy Orbison. Rice is that bastard who gets more credit than he deserves and is dating Jenny Lewis from Rilo Kiley (I only call him a bastard because I’m jealous, on both accounts.) We all know Rice is a good songwriter and also a good singer, and here he proves that he is a good singer – although the song is perhaps a bit too short to show this fully. ‘Cry Cry Cry’ is Phoenix again, and could very well be the best cover on the album – he just works the song so well. This is followed by my favourite Cash song: ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ – it’s my favourite song because it contains the immortal line “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die.” Phoenix doesn’t say it with the same animosity that Cash does, but how could he – he hasn’t had it as hard as Cash did – although his brother did burn out rather than fade away, so I suppose that’s where some of the emotion comes from. He probably can’t sing it like Cash because he wasn’t imprisoned like Cash was.

Track 9, ‘That’s Alright Mama’ is by the best singer on the album (or in the film if you will), Tyler Hilton who plays Elvis Presley. Although he doesn’t exactly sound all that much like Elvis, he sure is a good singer. Anyone who watches ‘One Tree Hill’ will tell you that. And don’t abuse me for watching it – it’s not a bad show, and the women in it are really fine – that and my ex got me watching it. ‘Juke Box Blues’ is Witherspoon again. My God, how much do I love her country voice. It’s just so refreshing. I’d love to hear a full album from her. ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ is the first duet on the album – from Mr. And Mrs. Cash (Joaquin and Reese). Their voices don’t complement each other the way Johnny and June did – Phoenix overpowers the song somewhat, but in the end it still works magnificently. Like all of this album, it probably shouldn’t work, but it does, and so well too!

‘Home of the Blues’ is more from Phoenix, but this time there are no glimpses of his own voice, he just sounds out-and-out Cash. ‘Milkcow Blues Boogie’ sounds more like Elvis that ‘That’s Alright Mama’ but mainly it just showcases Hilton’s voice more 0 if his songwriting is good, he’s sure to be much better than Roy Orbison, sorry I mean Jonathan Rice. I’m just getting so carried away with it all. Sure in fact, Elvis was much better than Roy (he was much better than most everyone), so it will only reflect their characters. ‘I’m a Long Way From Home’ is Shooter Jennings’ take on his father Waylon’s excellent song, and his only contribution to the album. The song reminds me of Cash’s own ‘I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry’ though.

‘Cocaine Blues’ is good old Phoenix again – singing about two things stupid people love too much – drugs and guns. I usually don’t like dancing (to anything), but this is the kind of song which makes me want to dance (despite its lyrical content). That’s right – a country song with ‘pizzazz’ in it. (Yes, I said it, and now I can’t take it back: pizzazz, pizzazz, pizzazz.) The last track, ‘Jackson’ is the album’s other duet, and the final song on the album. Unfortunately it doesn’t have the same impact as the first duet, ‘It Ain’t Me Babe’ but that is a classic song after all. This sadly isn’t, but even so it works – how could it not with the magnificent Phoenix and the excellent Witherspoon?

Tracks to Download: Fuck it, download them all. And then go to the film, or vice versa. Do both anyway. Pity the film isn’t out until February 2006 here. Although if anyone wants to send it to me, feel free!

8.9 – I feel like I have given too many high ratings this year, but maybe that’s because albums this good keep being released. I expected it to be decent, maybe even a little fun. But I never thought it would be excellent and a lot of fun! A fitting tribute to a legend.


At November 29, 2005 at 2:56 PM, Blogger Daysthatareover said...

Was looking forward to this review. I didn't get to see the movie but Terri did and really liked it from the sounds of it.

I think it is a cool concept that easily could have turned out shit. Good to hear it apparently did not.

At November 29, 2005 at 3:46 PM, Anonymous Steve said...

I am lukewarm about seeing the movie. A few friends liked it and a few thought it wasn't all that great.

Might have to wait for a rental.

At November 29, 2005 at 7:22 PM, Anonymous terri said...

I did like Walk the Line. I was disheartened to read in this week's Entertainment Weekly that one of their reviewers thought it wasn't as good as Ray; it's the other way around, thanks.

The performances work well in the film, Witherspoon (who was seriously good) and Phoenix really sell them. Glad to hear they translate onto the CD as well.

At November 29, 2005 at 11:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Think anything off this will get nominated for an academy award?

At November 30, 2005 at 5:34 AM, Anonymous Ronan said...

Maybe something from here will be nominated, possibly one of the duets (It Ain't Me Babe, I'd say).

Here's a cryptic clue for my next Strangely's "Year of..."

"It's Oh So Yellow."

At November 30, 2005 at 8:17 AM, Anonymous terri said...

I wouldn't be surprised if something off this got nominated for an Oscar -- I can't think of many other big movie songs this year (Rent? Elizabethtown?).

The film itself has a lot of Oscar buzz, so that would only help, I'd imagine.

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