"Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me--Music From the Motion Picture" (Maverick). Madonna's contributions to soundtrack records have been decidedly uneven, but you can add "Beautiful Stranger" to the "win" list. Co-produced with William Orbit, who created most of the music for Madonna's Grammy-winning "Ray of Light" album, its bright Bangley beats are pure paisley pop. Both clever and idiomatic, the song is matched on this album only by R.E.M.'s uncharacteristically lighthearted cover of Tommy James's 1971 hit "Draggin' the Line."
Not all the other covers on this CD work so well: Lenny Kravitz blunders through the Guess Who's "American Woman," Big Blue Missile and Scott Weiland serve up an awful "Time of the Season" and Melanie G (the artist formerly known as Scary Spice/Mel B) totally mishandles Cameo's "Word Up" (career up?). Elsewhere, deejay Dimitri From Paris provides a quirky remix on Quincy Jones's "Soul Bossa Nova" (this will surely show up very soon in a car commercial), best new friends Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach gamely reprise the latter's "I'll Never Fall in Love Again," and Mike Myers serves up a hilariously wicked takeoff on "Just the Two of Us," as lovingly sung by Dr. Evil to Mini-Me. Yeah, baby!
To hear a Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8181.
"Notting Hill: Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture" (Island). Elvis Costello appears in this romantic comedy, too, with a sweet, scene-stealing rendering of Charles Aznavour's "She." It's a highlight in a collection that vacillates between prepackaged teen pop idols (Boyzone, 98 Degrees), country appeal (Shania Twain, Ronan Keating), an Elliot Smith clone (Steve Poltz) and genuine soul classics like Al Green covering the Bee Gees' "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart" (heard too recently on the "Good Will Hunting" soundtrack) and Bill Withers's "Ain't No Sunshine," with the original followed by an inexplicably faithful cover by the Lighthouse Family.
To hear a Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8182.
"Music Inspired by the Motion Picture 'Wild Wild West' " (Overbrook/Interscope). Will Smith, Dru Hill and Kool Moe Dee carry the credit line on this western's theme song, but its success is wholly due to Stevie Wonder, whose 1976 hit "I Wish" provides the track's irresistibly catchy, propulsive underpinning (and so what if Kool Moe Dee already worked this seam in 1987?). Aside from Enrique Iglesias's first English-language effort, the trembly "Bailamos," the soundtrack is truly urban cowboy, from the stilted party anthem "Stick Up" by Lil' Bow Wow and Jermaine Dupri, to "Bad Guys Always Die," a surrealistic, annoyingly violent scenario in which Dr. Dre and Eminem show how "real cowboys get down." When these guys get ready to ride--or, as they put it, "jump in the saddle, ready for battle"--it's old-fashioned horsepower meeting a modern beat--pure bull.
Other rap tracks include Slick Rick's smooth "I Sparkle," MC Lyte's "Keep It Movin' " and the dramatic "8 Minutes to Sunrise," teaming the sharp-tongued Common with Erykah Badu sound-alike Jill Scott.
To hear a Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8183.
"Big Daddy: Music From the Motion Picture" (C2Records). Another mixed cover package. On the plus side, Sheryl Crow tenderly revisits Guns N'Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine" and Shawn Mullins traipses through George Harrison's "What Is Life." On the downside: Everlast and the White Folx stumble through Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart," and co-writer Tim Herlihy unwisely expands his career goals in "The Kangaroo Song."
An Adam Sandler soundtrack seems the perfect place for songs titled "When I Grow Up" (by Garbage) and "Instant Pleasure" (a surprisingly good tune by Rufus Wainwright), but the six dialogue snippets add nothing, and the oldies make for a very odd mix: the Pharcyde's "Passing Me By" next to Big Audio Dynamite's "Rush" next to . . . Styx's "Babe"? Another Spice Girl gives it a whirl--Melanie C on a passable "Ga Ga," co-written with Phil Thornalley, who co-wrote the Natalie Imbruglia chart topper "Torn." Unfortunately, the song is better than the singer.
To hear a Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8184.
"Son of Sam--Original Soundtrack" (Hollywood). Director Spike Lee has come up with some superb soundtracks in the past, both scored and compiled. This one's a lazy stroll down memory lane, circa summer 1977, when "Son of Sam" murderer David Berkowitz had the Big Apple on edge. For the most part, it's an accurate reflection of what was hot and what was on New York radio, from Marvin Gaye's studio jam "Got to Give It Up," the Emotions' "Best of My Love" and Roy Ayers's "Running Away" to Abba's "Dancing Queen." But the Who's 1971 classic "Baba O'Riley" was already an oldie by 1977, and such tracks as Chic's "Everybody Dance" and Machine's "There but for the Grace of God Go I" didn't come out until 1978 and 1979, respectively. As for Grace Jones's cover of Edith Piaf's "La Vie en Rose," it dates from 1985.
To hear a Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8185.
"American Pie--Music From the Motion Picture" (Universal). Any picture focusing on a group of young males bonding over a common goal--in this case, trying to lose their virginity--is bound to have a testosterone-fueled soundtrack that will either be urban-oriented (read rap/R&B) or suburban-rooted (read alt-rock). "American Pie" is built on the MTV-friendly rock energies of such groups as Third Eye Blind ("New Girl," same old song), Blink 182 (a pulsating "Mutt") and Sugar Ray ("Glory"). The main problem is that many of these groups sound interchangeable. You really do need the liner notes to figure out who's singing what. The exceptions: Bic Runga, the only female voice heard, making a play as this year's Natalie Imbruglia on the sinewy "Sway" and on "Good Morning Baby," a shimmering duet with Semisonic's Dan Wilson. Also distinctive: the Atomic Fireballs, who turn in a wild and woolly Cab Calloway-style jump blues on "Man With the Hex."
To hear a Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8161.
"Tarzan--An Original Walt Disney Soundtrack" (PGD/Disney). The selling point for millions of young fans clearly won't be Mark Mancina's original score or the three songs recycled with vocals by Phil Collins, but "Trashin' the Camp," Collins's studio encounter with 'N Sync. The song's fun, too, which helps on an album that's otherwise uneven. Collins's yearning "You'll Be in My Heart" is one of his typically maudlin ballads--like Elton John with extra sugar--while the rhythmically invigorating "Two Worlds" barely registers by the time it's finished. Mancina's score is actually pretty good. More associated with noisy action films like "Speed," "Con Air" and "Twister," Mancina proves adept at lighter fare. But does anyone really need four variations on "Two Worlds"?
To hear a Sound Bite from this album, call Post-Haste at 202-334-9000 and press 8162.
CAPTION: Will Smith, in the "Wild Wild West" title role, brings an urban cowboy flavor to the soundtrack.
CAPTION: Rob Schneider, left, Cole (or Dylan) Sprouse and Adam Sandler in "Big Daddy," whose soundtrack features artists from Sheryl Crow to Styx.