OCCASIONALLY YOU find yourself in a movie theatre, ostensibly to view the "greatest motion picture entertainment of all time," and it becomes increasingly difficult to keep your eyes open. Eliminating the dialogue (which is often just what you wish the director had done), you are left with the music-and it is this music which makes or breaks the rest of the evening.
Several current films now have their soundtrack records on the market and the following is a guide to which films can be heard as well as seeen.
SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER (RSO Records, RS-2-4001). Might as well start with the best first. If you don't like disco, you'll be less enthralled by this two-record set than if you spend your weekends at Tramps, but despite some filler, this is an excellent album any way you listen to it.
Since the movie is about a disco dancer, it is also indirectly about music and the music used is top-rate. The Bee Gees perform three new compositions which rank among the best they've ever done: "More Than a Woman," "Stayin Alive," and "How Deep is your Love." Thrown in for good measure are "Jive Talkin'," K.C. and the Sunshine Band's "Boggie Shoes," and Walter Murphy's "A Fifth of Beethoven," all bona fide hits. There are also songs by Tavares, Yvonne Elliman, Kool and the Gang, and others. The non-Bee Gee material is arranged and adapted by David Shire who did the music for "Starting Here, Starting Now," which is currently at the Arena Stage.
LOOKING FOR MR. GOODBAR (Columbia, JS 35029). This album is more disco than "Saturday Night Fever" and, unlike that film, "Good-bar's music is used solely as back ground. The resultant soundtrack is a collection of dance tunes by Donna Summer, the Commodores, Marlena Shaw, and Bill Withers which do not immediately recall any parts of the movie. There are some winning tunes including "Love Hangover" by Diana Ross, Boz Scaggs'"Lowdown," and the O'Jays' classic "Backstabbers" - which is the only song that instantly brings back the movie. However, that may be only because it is used so powerfully in the coming attraction trailer.
THE TURNING POINT (20th Century Fox Records, T-549). Here we have a dance soundtrack of another color. Not too many people will be able to strut around their living rooms to this rather pedestrian collection of ballet music performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Lawrence Foster. The value of this record is that it is easy to relive the film's events while strains of Prokofiev (Romeo and Juliet), Chopin (Etude in A Flat, Op. 25, NO. 1), and a classicized Duke Ellington ("Vortex" from The River) float through the air. There is also a heavy helping of Tchaikovsky, who is probably the Fleetwood Mac of serious composer. Most of the pieces are truncated (as they were in the movie) but, even if you haven't seen the picture, the album provides a reasonable introduction for those previously introduction for those previously unfamiliar with the styles.
ONE ON ONE (Warner Brothers, BS 3076). Your basic pop album for your basic pop movie and not at all oftensive if sugar-coated profundities and simplistic melodies are your fare. Seals and Crofts are an ingratiating duo and their renditions of "My Fair Share" and "This Day Belongs to Me" do nothing to diminish their previously established mas-appeal credibility.
The music of Charles Fox is uain-spring but pleasant and Paul Williams's lyrics are his usual combination of breezy insignificance and cloying sentimentality. "One on One" also includes the instrumental passages used to accentuate scenes in the movie, but without the visual aid, they sound a bit hollow.
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND (Arista, AL 9500). There is the album jacket with that now familiar aura of light looming at the end of the highway and a sticker with critcal raves for the film (no mention of the music) right alongside. A real attention-grabber, yes, but the album itself is hardly monumental; ironic since - within the film - sound plays nearly as important a role as the visuals. What's more, most of the music makes little sense unless you've seen the film and understand the meaning behind the recurring musical sequence. The score is composed and conducted by John Williams, who seems to have a monopoly on science-fiction sound tracks these days (he's sure to garber an Oscar nomination for his work on "Star Wars") and there are a few fine moments here.
One such moment is "The Appearance of the Visitors," which cleverly interpolates "When You Wish Upon a Star." That, though, is almost neutralized by the "Theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind," a monotonous semi-disco incarnation of the repeating progression; this version is not in the film at all and is included here as a "bonus single." Enough people will see "Close Encounters . . ." to make the sound track a viable item, but given the choice, watch the film and let your ears doze during the record.