THE WANDERERS -- by various artists, Warner Brothers, BSK 3359
MORE AMERICAN GRAFFITI -- by various artists, MCA2-11006
DRACULA -- by John Williams, MCA3160
Thou shalt renounce thy musical past, ridicule it and ultimately reclaim it, in token of which thou shalt have to shell out to reacquire all those doo-wop and D.A. rock 'n' roll records that thou stepped on when thy older brother went off to college. -- The Gospel according to K-Tel.
The relative success of the soundtrack albums to "More American Garffiti" and "The Wanderers" depends to a great extent on how you feel about greatest-hits collections, since each is an attempt to evoke those magical memories via the jukebox, and recreate the late '50s and '60s.
There is some confusion about whether the songs on "The Warriors," hanging like lesser masters on an exhibition wall, should be taken seriously as historic artifacts of some vanished culture. What was Lee Dorsey really saying when he muttered insinuatingly, "I'm sittin' on my la-la waitin' for my ya-ya"? Can the decline in morals, the family unit and the dollar be traced to Phil Spector and Chuck Berry? And anyway, isn't that what we liked about them?
"The Wanderers' is a collection of a dozen songs that would make Sha Na Na weep -- three from the Four Seasons, two from the Shirelles, two from Dion (including, of course, the title song), and one each from Dorsey, the Angels, Ben E. King, the Contours and the Isley Brothers (original three-brother version).
The Four Seasons especially are at their innocuous-macho best with such falsetto epigrams as "Walk Like a Man" and "big Girls Don't Cry." Anyone who thinks that Frankie Valli had to put up with airhead lyrics in "Grease" hasn't looked back very far. The Bee Gees were exactly colleagues, grease is the word to describe that sort of slick sentimentalism that floats inexorably on the surface of your mind.
On the other hand, it's a revelation to be reminded of the vitriol and self-satisfaction poured by the Angles into "My Boyfriend's Back." It fairly reeks of nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah-nyah. (This is, incidentally, the only song which appears on both "Wanderers" and "More American Graffiti.")
Dion, whose restless,, alleycat-romantic presence is invoked throughout by the title, comes off as a trifle thin and scratchy on "Wanderer" but wonderfully melodramatic and arm-over-the-eyes in "Runaround Sue." But the finest male voice represented on the album is King's on "Stand By Me."
The production quality of these songs. makes it stunningly clear how far the recording industry has come. Overbudding would have done wonders for a few off-key notes. But somehow the whole nasality of the album is convincingly Brooklyn/Pittsburgh/Detroit/New Jersey chic: This was the music of the inner-city warriors and their frustrated girlfriends. And if the smell of the gutters and the sounds of stickball didn't reach south of the Mason-Dixon line, they nevertheless were recognizable as twin under the skin of the seemingly innocent seductions of the Everly Brothers and the first irrepressible grindings of the young Elvis Presley.
"More American Graffiti" has a longer reach, stretching across an entire decade. It's two-album set, blithely mixing Motown and "Moon River," bubblegum and Byrds, "I'm a Man" and "Just Like a Woman." It is also far more successful as a social document, perhaps because of the mid-'60s music was inextricably joined to civil unrest.
These are the prices to a great social puzzle, the revolution of an entire generation and the creation of a viable counterculture which still exists, albeit disguised in pinstripes and designer-frame glasses. Aretha Franklin, shuddering in the throes of gospelized R&B, demands the "Respect" only grudgingly afforded blacks and women even now; "?" and the Mysterians quiver "96 Tears" with a flagellating electric organ (and don't think they didn't know that pun was there); Barry Sadler, chin tucked to his collarbone, salutes "The Green Berets." All the questions -- social, sexual, political -- which raged through the United States in the decade of indecision are reflected, if not analyzed, in this collection.
The music remains moving, even when a little pretentious ("The Sounds of Silence") or polemic ("I Fell Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag"). There are love songs of extraordinary residual power: "My Man, "Since I Fell for You," "When a Man Loves a Woman." And there is conviction: from Martha Reeves' panting "Heat Wave" to Dylan's desparing "Like a Rolling Stone." Whether or not the movie itself is revealing, the soundtrack is unusually memorable.
A brief notice: while John Williams' soundtrack to "Dracula" is not meant as a social document, it nevertheless has its telling moments, if for no other reason than that Lucy's liberation and Dracula's fundamental eroticism are absolutely implicit in the music. "Dracula" is a throwback to Williams' eerily nervy work in "Jaws," rather than the sweeping and sometimes sophomoric good humor of "Superman" and "Star Wars." Once you've seen the movie, the music itself is pretty arousing. Simply as a symphonic arrangement, however, it's probably only for those who count among their favorites Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain" and Dukas' "Sorcerer's Apprentice." CAPTION: Picture 1, Even Still More Oldies But Goodies From The Seasons; Picture 2, The Shirelles; Picture 3, And The Vandellas