HOW'S THAT? Your favorite radio station's playing so much of "tomorrow's music today" that yesterday is pretty much history? Well, don't get mad -- get to the movies. As you can see, much of this batch of late-summer soundtrack albums reflects Hollywood's current infatuation with those innocent and evidently unforgettable '50s and '60s -- when gas was cheap, Vietnam was winnable, and we, like Tina, said nice things about Ike.
BACK TO THE BEACH --
(Columbia 40892). Though the movie strains via relentless hijinks and music to negate the nagging feeling that Annette and Frankie didn't need to be reunited (at least not here in front of everybody), the album flies more easily as a lark. There are updates here with real muscle, including one by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Dick Dale of "Pipeline," and another by Dave Edmunds of "Wooly Bully." And a couple with real ham -- Pee-Wee Herman skipping through the Trashmen's "Surfin' Bird" (which reminds me, has anyone ever seen Pee Wee Herman and Big Bird in the same room together?), and Herbie Hancock tracking techno-mud through the studio with his idea of "Wipeout." Meanwhile, there's lots of proper beachwear -- warm, lightweight stuff -- from Aimee Mann, Marti Jones, Private Domain and Eddie Money. And yes, Frankie Avalon ("California Sun") and Annette Funicello (collaborating much too sanely with lunatic L.A. band Fishbone on "Jamaica Ska") are back. Ah well. Too bad the album's producers didn't include here the work of some local lunatics -- or was that not really a few bars of "When I Go to the Beach" by D.C.'s Slickee Boys heard for a brief moment of this silly movie?
THE BIG TOWN --
(Atlantic 7 81769-1). Ten late-'50s gems, the most sparkling of which are Big Joe Turner's "Shake, Rattle and Roll," La Vern Baker's "Jim Dandy," "Fever" by Little Willie John, the original Drifters version of Leiber and Stoller's "Ruby Baby," and Ray Charles' "Drown in My Own Tears." Also included is Bobby Darin's evergreen "Mack the Knife." (In the movie, in which Matt Dillon and Diane Lane get their shot at the aforementioned golden years, you'll only hear the instrumental version.)
DIRTY DANCING --
(RCA 6408-1-R). The soundtrack exhibits the same split personality as the film; this is an engaging mix -- not quite a fusion -- of '50s-'60s ballads and '80s dance tunes. The former includes the Ronettes' "Be My Baby," Mickey and Sylvia's "Love Is Strange" and the Five Satin's "In the Still of the Night," plus one remake -- the Blow Monkeys' subtly lush "You Don't Own Me." Contributing producer Michael Lloyd also shows he can wield a hammer; he consistently nails the beat here in a handful of collaborations with L.A. studio vets, plus on the swinging "love theme" sung by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes, "(I've Had) The Time of My Life." Some effort was made to get some new stuff from outside inbred L.A., and a couple stand out: "Overload," a sturdy rocker by Toronto's Zappacosta, and an enigmatic ditty from Louisiana singer Tom Johnston, "Where Are You Tonight?"
(Polydor 833274-1 Y-1). Don't expect a big helping (pun unimportant) of the Fat Boys in the soundtrack to their McMovie. After the Boys huff inimitably through "Baby, You're a Rich Man" and Tom Kimmel rocks craftily through his paean to pain "Trying to Dance," you got a couple of confections from Bananarama ("I Heard a Rumour") and Bon Jovi ("Edge of a Broken Heart") and too many minutes of uninspired technofunk from the Latin Rascals, Ca$hflow, Anita, Art of Noise and Gwen Guthrie.
FULL METAL JACKET --
(Warner Bros. 9 25613-1). An evocative trip back, about half of it helped along by early Vietnam-era nuggets -- including the originals of both "Surfin' Bird" and "Wooly Bully" (see above) by the Trashmen and Sam the Sham & the Pharoahs. Plus: Nancy Sinatra (on -- what else? -- "These Boots Were Made for Walkin' "), the Dixie Cups ("Chapel of Love"), the Marine Hymn, singer Johnny Wright doing his best with Tom T. Hall's truly amazing fighting-man's farewell "Hello Vietnam" (as in, "Goodbye my sweetheart/Hello Vietnam"). Finally, composers Abigail Mead (whose appropriately spooky but thin synth-noodling fills Side Two) and Nigel Goulding build, with significant digital input, an affecting go-go tune out of a drill instructor and his troop's familiar marching cadences.
HARRY AND THE HENDERSONS --
(MCA 6208). First, an incongruous sasquatch love song starring (in order of forgettableness) Joe Cocker and saxophonist Michael Brecker. Then, composer Bruce Broughton gets to show off bright and distinctive orchestral maneuvers that rank up there with the best Bugs Bunny 'toontracks -- and that's meant as a big compliment. This is sly and stirring music; the movie should have been so light on its feet.
HE'S MY GIRL --
(Scotti Bros./CBS SZ 40906). Here the jewels are scarce, but precious: Mountain's "Mississippi Queen," Paul Revere & the Raiders' "Kicks" and "Time Has Come Today" by the Chambers Brothers. For me it was an easy decision -- a roommate swiped my Mountain album in 1974 and I've been unable ever since to get the man-Mountain Leslie West on my stereo -- except those rare moments when DC-101's computer breaks down. To you, though, it might matter that the other seven tracks here are secondhand funk, flimsy fusion or neo-Van Halen ripoffs hardly worth the vinyl.
(Varese Sarabande STV 81330). Ah. I think I've found the reason so many people told me this mean-spirited re-"Terminator" flick had a heart (it did, but they should've kept it in the special-effects director's tote bag): Their heads were turned by Basil Poledouris' pounding, careening, maddening score -- crisply performed here by the Sinfonia of London Orchestra conducted by Howard Blake and Tony Britton. If you're mad at the neighbors, this is the one to crank -- especially Side One, where everybody on screen gets shot about a zillion times and everybody in the string section breaks a sweat.
WHO'S THAT GIRL --
(Sire 9 25611-1). With Madonna's acting career swerving safely if temporarily toward cable TV (where "Quality" is our middle name but everybody still calls us "Bob!"), we could trash the album, too. But no, we can't. Madonna has a way with hooks -- let's credit co-producers Patrick Leonard and Stephen Bray, shall we? -- and she's represented here by three solid cuts, the best of which is the title hit. In all, this is the usual technically keen job, with clever dance tunes by Duncan Faure, Club Nouveau, Scritti Politti (the reggae-tinted charmer "Best Thing Ever") and Coati Mundi -- who, in the odd and ultimately stupid movie itself, played a short bald bad guy. In his Latin-flavored "El Coco Loco" track here, he is still short and bald -- but this time he's actually funny.