|10-11-2022, 11:41 AM
Born to be mild
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
Never Mind the Movie: Here's the Soundtrack
Possibly the worst criticism a reviewer can give of a movie is to say “The only good thing I can say about it is that I came out humming the theme tune”, and it can definitely be true more often than not. Sometimes a movie is just so bad that the only thing that even slightly rescues it is the soundtrack. Now of course if a movie is good and has a great soundtrack too then that’s perfect, and naturally not every great movie will have a great score, which of course leads us to the bottom of the barrel, the movies that are terrible and have awful music. But the one I want to discuss does not fall into that worst category, although in fairness without the music that supports it it would most certainly be down there.
Yeah, I’m sure you all remember this classic! Stallone does his best (read, worst) to emulate Eastwood and comes off looking more like Duh!-ty Harry. It’s a truly awful movie, as can be said of the vast majority of Stallone’s cinematographic output. It did at least have a half-decent tagline, which got absorbed somewhat into the popular consciousness, though most people who use it today would probably be hard-pressed to remember where they heard it. To be honest, I don’t even know if it was an original line: maybe the writer stole it from somewhere else. But that’s not important.
Neither is the movie. It’s a pretty bargain-basement cop revenge thriller trying to masquerade as something of higher quality and failing utterly. Probably the only line I recall from it is Stallone, as Cobra, throwing a lighted match down on top of a suspect who had been doused in petrol and muttering “You have the right to remain silent!” Oh, hilarity ensued! And this man would later play my favourite of all crimefighters, the fascist totalitarian future cop Judge Dredd. And screw that iconic role up in a way that still has me occasionally waking up bathed in sweat and screaming “He took his helmet off! Dredd never took his helmet off!”
But enough of such reminiscences. The thing that saves Cobra from being a total turd in all areas is the soundtrack. Peopled with the likes of John Cafferty, Jean Beauvoir and Miami Sound Machine, it’s a clear example of the adage, which I just made up and claim copyright to in perpetuity in all territories extant or to be discovered in the future, “Forget the movie, listen to the music” (Copyright Trollheart MMIII, all rights reserved). This movie has such a good soundtrack that you can almost - almost - forget how bad the actual film is. Of course, while watching it the one time I did, in the cinema, I was basically unaware of the music, as I tried to keep up with the plot - bad mistake: there basically is no plot! But afterwards when I saw the album I thought sure why not? In fact, if I recall, I bought it for the song that becomes the opening track and if I remember (and want to) closes the movie.
Cobra Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Various Artists - 1988 (Scotti Brothers)
Now I believe I still have this somewhere in my record collection, but in 1988 I was mostly still buying vinyl, and truth to tell this didn’t see the light of digital release until four years later, so the vinyl copy is all I got. Sadly I no longer have a turntable, and though I got a USB one for Christmas last year (or was it the year before that?) I am too lazy to even open the box and so have never used it. Ah, don’t get me started!
So I'm not doing separate videos here. The whole OST is now available from the You of Tube, and is below, so although I'll be talking about each track individually, I will only post the full soundtrack video.
That track I bought the album for initially is there. John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band rock us in with “Voice of America’s Sons”, with a sort of John Cougar Mellencamp vibe melded to some heavy AOR, blasting keyboards and growling guitars, Cafferty’s voice a raspy growl as he laments the state of America for the ordinary workingman. A great hook in the song, punchy powerful and rocky, and indeed a good ending song for the movie - I seem to recall Stallone riding off, stone-faced on a motorbike as the song played behind him, his mirror shades hiding the conflicting emotions that weren’t playing across his eyes as he departed with a grunt. I think the grunt rode pillion behind him. Great guitar solo but in many ways it’s the peppy keyboards that carry the song with a real sense of upbeat, er, ness, and a nice little sax break there near the end.
You’d think after a powerful opener like that the chances of getting a good followup would be small, but you’d be wrong. Jean Beauvoir, known for his association with the Plasmatics and Little Steven from the E Street Band, hits us with a menacing, smouldering rocker in “Feel the Heat”, which was in fact a hit for him, and you can see why he is so sought after, with the kind of voice that just screams AOR and hair metal. Slower than the opener certainly, more restrained and with a sort of oppressive feel about it, it’s still powerful and retains enough of the acceptable face of rock to have made it a hit for him.
Of course, every film (well, nearly every film) has a love scene and where would the ballad writers be without them? The Cobra OST has two, but I prefer the second one more, even though there are some fairly heavy hitters on “Loving on Borrowed Time”, with both Gladys Knight and Bill Medley taking vocals on the song. I don’t know who wrote it and I don’t much care; it’s fairly standard ballad material, with a big shimmering digital piano opening and a melody that seems to evoke that other sugar-sweet movie ballad, “Somewhere Out There”, but there’s no denying the talent of the two singers, who have both been around for a long time and really know how to turn it on, even if it is only for a crappy movie nobody will remember in five years time. Or one.
They’re well matched, and indeed Medley contributes to the other ballad, taking another female partner this time. More of that later, but right now all I can say about this song is that it doesn’t suck, but it’s not something you’d listen to much or put on any special playlists. But, you know, as I said, it doesn’t suck. Totally. And if there’s a ballad, you can be sure there’ll be instrumentals. And there are. The thing is, some of them are really good, like Sylvester Leavy’s (yeah I don’t know who he is either) “Skyline”, which just plods along at the right pace while still retaining enough suspense to make it something you want to keep listening to. Even a few touches of The Wall-era Floyd in there, if you listen closely, though mostly it’s carried, again, on some pretty super synthwork. There is, it has to be said, a pretty searing guitar solo near the end.
Gary Wright is, according to Wiki, one of the members of sixties group Spooky Tooth, and whether he’s the same Gary Wright who pens “Hold On to Your Vision” or not I don’t know, but it’s the first point where the album diverts from what I would call rock and hits into electropop territory, and even the presence of some decent guitar can’t take from the lighter feel of this song, not helped by the whistling keyboard that runs though it. Sounds like something you’d hear on the soundtrack of a really crappy mov - oh, wait… Yeah, about the first time I felt the quality of the album, such as it was, began to slip, and while I can certainly listen to Gloria Estefan, I’ve never been a big fan of her work with Miami Sound Machine. “Suave” is not the song that was ever going to change that stance, with its upbeat salsa rhythms, boppy brass and overall sense of fiesta. Pass.
That’s the last low point, for me anyway, of the album, the second of Sylvester Levay’s instrumentals recalls the dark tension of Terminator, grinding along on swishy wind sounds and a growling, menacing synth. It’s probably the one that opened the film credits, as it definitely has the sort of introduction sound to it, and I think I can remember this being the case. Things keep rocking for Robert Tepper’s superb “Angel of the City”, with its industrial, mechanical rock themes and its weary vocal somewhat reminiscent of Joe Cocker punches its way in on the back of some almost Genesisesque synth and then just takes off with some really nice female backing vocals. Interestingly, Tepper’s first big hit was from another Stallone movie, released in the same year, and which you’re all more likely to know: Rocky IV, so 1986 was obviously a good year for him. This is certainly one of the better tracks on the album, and it’s followed by the second, and final, instrumental. Our friend Mr. Levay, who holds the dubious distinction of having the same first name as the star of the show, returns to hit us with “Chase”, and you can guess how it goes. All squibbly keyboards, screeching guitars and a sense of pursuit and capture. I'm not bothering to listen to it all the way through. Probably some fiddling around with siren-like sounds too, I'm sure.
We end then on a high note, with the second ballad which, as already mentioned, features a return for Bill Medley, this time duetting with a lady by the name of Carmen Twillie, though who she is or was I couldn’t tell you. I do actually remember this one, as it did play over a love scene and I remember thinking what a good song it was. It may also have been a factor in my decision to buy the album when I saw it included, I don’t know. Again it opens with the dreaded digital piano, but somehow it’s more restrained this time, less as if it’s taking over the song. When Twillie’s voice joins the song you do have to wonder what happened to her, as she really has a nice voice, one that complements Medley’s well. Which is not to say that Gladys’s didn’t, but she’s a well-known and legendary figure in music. This lady, to my knowledge, is not, and bearing that in mind she does a great job.
There’s some real passion in the song, which makes me wonder if there was something between the two vocalists, though maybe not. Absolutely mind-blowing sax break then, which the piano works with very well and it all builds to a crescendo, but sadly fades out and rather too soon, but still it’s a great ending to the album.
1. The Voice of America’s Sons (John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band)
2. Feel the Heat (Jean Beauvoir)
3. Loving on Borrowed Time (Bill Medley and Gladys Knight)
4. Skyline (Sylvester Levay)
5. Hold On to Your Vision (Gary Wright)
6. Suave (Miami Sound Machine)
7. Cobra (Sylvester Levay)
8. Angel of the City (Robert Tepper)
9. Chase (Sylvester Levay)
10. Two into One (Bill Medley and Carmen Twillie)
I suppose I should in some ways not slag off the movie so badly, because I’m pretty sure that had I not endured - sorry, watched it, I would most likely have passed this soundtrack by, and thereby missed a lot of really good music that should in fairness not have to be associated with such a turkey of a movie. But if sitting through an hour and a half of watching Stallone play tough and trying to struggle with his limited lines is the price I paid for getting this album, then it’s one I’m happy enough to have paid.
At least I can confidently say that something good came out of that movie for me, which is a claim I fear most others who went to see it can’t make.
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
|01-16-2023, 09:59 PM
Born to be mild
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: 404 Not Found
It’s a rare movie that survives its sequel, or to put it another way, some movies should be one-offs. especially successful ones. I mean, can you imagine Casablanca II? More Unusual Suspects? The Matrix 2? Oh, wait …. Well, a decent movie has quite often been ruined by one, two or more sequels, or in the case of one, a trilogy of prequels (cough!). But Hollywood is Hollywood and worships the Yankee Dollar, as Matt Johnson once wrote, and if there’s money in a sequel then hell, let’s make one.
Speed was a great movie. The idea was new, the acting was pretty superb and the action was more or less nonstop. Set onboard a bus which will explode if its speed drops below a certain rate, it was a big hit. It was not meant to have a sequel, but money talks and so Fox, in their wisdom and seeing dollar signs in their eyes, emulated Captain Jean-Luc Picard and said “Make it so.”
And they did. Though Keanu Reaves had at least the good sense and taste to refuse to reprise his role from the original move, co-star Sandra Bullock wanted the cash so agreed to star. The movie was a mess. Set this time aboard a cruise ship (yeah, you heard that right!) it was doomed from the beginning. The whole idea of Speed was based around the fact that the bus had to go fast. Cruise ships don’t go fast. That’s why they’re called cruise ships and why in a previous era they were known as pleasure or leisure liners. They attract the kind of people who want to take it easy, get there slowly, go the scenic route and have a lot of fun getting there.
But enough about the movie. It’s already earned enough “reverse awards” to justify the claim that it is one of the worst sequels in cinema history. It does however have one saving grace. Can you guess what it is? You can’t? Seriously? Look at the title of the thread. Yeah that’s right: it has a bitchin’ soundtrack, which is what we will be concentrating on here.
Speed 2: Cruise Control Original Soundtrack - Various Artists - 1997 (Virgin)
With contributions from Shaggy, Jimmy Cliff, Maxi Priest, UB40 and others, it’s got a lot of heavyweights on it, God knows why. Maybe they assumed the sequel would be as successful as its predecessor and hoped for maximum exposure. Maybe they saw the movie and rightly sussed that it would bomb (pun intended) and so would need at least a decent soundtrack to save whatever shred of dignity the writer, producer, director and cast could.
We kick off with UB40 and “Tell Me is it True”. Now I’ve never been a fan of these guys, but given the Caribbean link with cruise ships I suppose it’s inevitable that much of this soundtrack would be based around reggae music and artistes. For what it is, it’s okay; uptempo and quite a bit of fun, though I have always had a problem with a white guy singing reggae. Probably just me, but it’s like a white guy rapping: just doesn’t chime with me. Marshall who? Shaggy is up next with “My Dream”, but am I going mad or does he sound like Macy Grey there at the opening? Ah yeah, there’s the “Mister Bombtastic” voice I remember! Again it’s a decent enough song, though again as you all know reggae’s not my thing. But if it’s yours then this is going to (sorry sorry!) float your boat.
Tamia I do not know, but apparently she’s Canadian and here she puts in a fine performance on “Make Tonight Beautiful”, the first ballad on the album. Very sensuous voice I must say and the soft percussion is really nice. Not too much digital piano; I hate it when ballads are swamped by digital piano. And this one is not. Swamped by digital piano, that is. Some sentimental acoustic guitar which of course will never be credited, as on these soundtrack albums only the singer gets named, unless it’s an instrumental and a musician is playing it. Effective backing vocals too, one of the better tracks on the album.
Mark Morrison brings us “Crazy” and to my untrained ear sounds like Larry out of Cameo in a mid-paced disco/dance number heavy with bass and ticking percussion. Apparently this is the twelve-inch mix, but given that it only runs for three minutes and forty-two seconds you have to wonder what length the regular mix was? I definitely find the melody very like “Word Up”, but again, what do I know about this genre? Tetsuya Komuro, who goes under the name of TK, is a Japanese composer who was very influential on the pop scene (it says here) and wrote soundtracks for anime and films. However, “Speed TK remix” is exactly the kind of music I hate: uptempo, upbeat trance/rave dance. Urgh. But if you like it then this will be right up your alley. Still, as it goes on I kind of find myself getting into it despite myself. Catchy certainly.
I have absolutely no idea what “A namorada” means, but it’s the title of the next track by Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown, and as you would expect it’s not in English. With it being the national language of Brazil I can only assume it’s Portugeuse, though it could be Spanish or Mexican, as I wouldn’t know how to differentiate one from the other. Lots of peppy horns and they don’t annoy me; it’s very cheerful and celebratory. Given the eventual fate of the movie, perhaps a premature celebration? Reggae star Maxi Priest does a passable rendition of Blondie’s “The Tide is High”, which is written in a reggae rhythm anyway, so he hasn’t exactly got to work too hard to interpret it, and it’s followed by another cover, this time of Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move”, rendered by Leah Andreone, whomever she may be.
It’s in fairness a pretty uninspiring version, and Common Sense’s “Never Give Up” is fairly pedestrian too, then the great Jimmy Cliff kicks it up with “You Can Get it if You Really Want”, some fine hornwork and a nice upbeat message in the song. Nice soft organ and kettle drums and it’s bright and breezy, a nice change after two pretty substandard songs. Despite the few cover versions that litter this soundtrack, “Some People” is not the Belouis Some hit, but Shaggy’s mate Rayvon delivering another nice midtempo Marleyesque song which is actually a love song. I must admit I like this a lot. The album then closes on one more cover, the Police’s classic “Every Breath You Take”, interpreted by seventies soul icon Betty Wright, and does she do a smouldering version of it. Great way to close what’s a pretty damn fine soundtrack.
1. Tell Me is it True (UB40)
2. My Dream (Shaggy)
3. Make Tonight Beautiful (Tamia)
4. Crazy (Mark Morrison)
5. Speed TK remix (TK)
6. A namorada (Carlinhos Brown)
7. The Tide is High (Maxi Priest)
8. I Feel the Earth Move (Leah Andreone)
9. Never Give Up (Common Sense)
10. You Can Get it if You Really Want (Jimmy Cliff)
11. Some People (Rayvon)
12. Every Breath You Take (Betty Wright)
As I say, reggae is not my thing but even I found something to enjoy here, so if this is your music then don’t let the fact that the movie was so piss-poor put you off checking out the soundtrack to Speed 2: Cruise Control: it’s the only decent thing about the whole film.
Which is, after all, sort of the point of this section.
So why not just get the soundtrack, turn up the volume, pour yourself a Pina Colada and try to forget this movie was ever made? I bet the actors wish they could.
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018