"South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut--Music From and Inspired by the Motion Picture" (Atlantic). This hilariously foulmouthed collection, which caustically sends up Broadway and Hollywood musical cliches, clearly deserves its "Parental Advisory" label, and even then it's likely to be an acquired distaste. If you can't stomach the antics, or the voices, of the animated show's kiddie cast, you're going to have a real hard time negotiating their star turn in the recording studio.
There are irony-drenched "Oklahoma!"-style ensemble numbers like "Mountain Town" (put down for its "white-bread, redneck" ambiance) and a "Les Miz"-style "La Resistance," as well as the hilarious "Blame Canada" (payback for all the cultural guilt attached to "South Park," violent video games and rock and rap music). But there is also a sensitive side to the music, mostly written by Trey Parker, with some help from Marc Shaiman: emotionally tortured Satan, the Dark Prince, belting "Up There" (where he belongs?) and sounding like a mix of the Phantoms of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Paul Williams; Saddam Hussein tremblingly promising "I Can Change"; Stan, Kyle and Eric wondering, "What Would Brian Boitano Do?"; an overly sincere Michael McDonald moaning a mock-theme, "Eyes of a Child."
Unfortunately, the album then gets to the "inspired by" section and can't live up to its promise. Trick Daddy's variation on "Uncle [Expletive]" sounds no different in language or attitude from your typical Dirty South missive, while midget rapper Joe C. and his boss, Kid Rock, do nothing to elevate that song about Kyle's mom. Weirdest of all: Rush's Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson dueting (or is that quarteting?) with a far more animated Terrance and Phillip on "O Canada." Could this mean war after all?
"The Blair Witch Project: Josh's Blair Witch Mix" (Chapter III Records). If a chilling movie can be made from footage supposedly discovered by accident, why not a soundtrack taken from a mix tape found in the abandoned car that took the unfortunate filmmakers to the edge of the woods that supposedly swallowed them up? Except for one brief early scene, there is no score or background music in "The Blair Witch Project," meaning the doors are wide open here. So what's on Josh's mix tape? Spooky, scary campfire songs by Lydia Lunch ("Gloomy Sunday") and the Creatures ("Don't Go to Sleep Without Me"); Skinny Puppy's disconcerting "Draining Faces," itself a mix of found sounds, samples and electronica; portentously gloomy tracks like Laibach's "God Is God" and Type O Negative's overly expansive "Haunted"; and sound samples from the film itself, including Antonio Cora's closing credit construction, "The Cellar." Bonus: The CD has an enhanced component featuring exclusive footage not seen in the film.
"Eyes Wide Shut: Music From the Motion Picture" (Warner Sunset/Reprise). A familiarly eclectic soundtrack clearly shaped by director Stanley Kubrick, who took much greater interest in underlying scores than most filmmakers do, and not because he was looking for a hit soundtrack to promote his project. For instance, Kubrick turns to an old favorite, modernist Hungarian composer Gyorgy Ligeti, for the brooding dissonance of "Musica Ricercata, II," a solo piano turn negotiated by Dominic Harlan, who also addresses Franz Liszt's rumbling "Grey Clouds." But there's also sweet dance music (the Victor Silvester Orchestra's "When I Fall in Love," the Peter Hughes Orchestra's "Strangers in the Night"); segments of Jocelyn Pook's beautifully eerie original score for small string ensemble; and the obvious rock song, in this case Chris Isaak's "Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing." The last, a walk-on-the-wild-side rumination, is clearly appropriate to the convoluted sexual tensions at the heart of the film, but it isn't half as sensual as Oscar Peterson's bluesy exploration of "I Got It Bad (and That Ain't Good)."
"Dr. Strangelove: Music From the Films of Stanley Kubrick" (Silva Screen Records). An intriguing companion piece that touches on most of the great Kubrick scores, performed here by the City of Prague Philharmonic. This works well on familiar classical pieces from "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Barry Lyndon," as well as a suite of early scores by Gerald Fried and Alex North's bombastic main title music for "Spartacus." North's discarded original score for "2001" was finally released a few years back--it's worth investigating from both a musical and a contextual angle--but nothing on it could have become a musical cliche like the "Sunrise" fanfare from Richard Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra." As for the famed electronic music scores--Walter/Wendy Carlos's weird variations on Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" for "A Clockwork Orange" and the haunting "Dies Irae" from "The Shining" and Abigail Mead's modern-dance-type themes for "Full Metal Jacket"--they are well performed here by Mark Ayres.
"Runaway Bride: Music From the Motion Picture" (Sony Soundtrax). This romantic comedy reunites the hitmaking "Pretty Woman" crew: stars Richard Gere and Julia Roberts and director Garry Marshall. This time Julia's no heart-of-gold hooker but a ditsy beauty who's already left three grooms at the altar. Gere, a cynical celebrity reporter, investigates. Which means loads of lighthearted love songs and a somewhat less stellar reunion: Daryl Hall and John Oates on the flaccid Desmond Child-penned "And That's What Hurts" (the soundtrack also features the duo's 1982 classic "Maneater"). For an all-star collection, this has more than its share of duds, notably Eric Clapton sleepwalking through one more Diane Warren ballad, "Blue Eyes Blue," and Billy Joel's first studio recording in two years, a horridly ragged remake of Lloyd Price's "Where Were You (on Our Wedding Day)?" On the plus side: Shawn Colvin's lovely ballad "Never Saw Blue Like That"; Evan and Jaron's jangly power pop on "From My Head to My Heart"; the soaring "You Sang to Me," a sneak preview from Latin pop star Marc Anthony's English-language album (look out, Ricky!); and two new tracks from one of country's hottest acts, the Dixie Chicks--the spry "Ready to Run" and yet another remake of the Supremes' "You Can't Hurry Love."