Director Martin Scorsese is known for the care he takes in choosing the music for his movies (indeed, he is known for the care he takes in every detail of his movies), and his 1980 film Raging Bull, a screen biography of the boxer Jake LaMotta, was no exception. Scorsese did not employ a regular Hollywood composer to write a background score; instead, he teamed with former Band guitarist Robbie Robertson in picking lots of period pop music of the 1930s, '40s, and '50s, adding in excerpts from Pietro Mascagni's opera Cavalleria Rusticana, with Robertson bringing in a few instrumental tracks he cut with former compatriots Garth Hudson and Richard Manuel. The result was a collection of music that would have given a music licensing expert nightmares if a soundtrack album had been attempted at the time of the film's release. And who could know that Raging Bull would go on to become one of the most celebrated movies of its era? It seems astonishing 25 years later that there was no Raging Bull soundtrack album. So, now there is. Licensing challenges overcome, the double-CD runs 125 minutes, only four minutes shorter than the film itself. It works as a mini-history of pop music from the crooner era of the 1930s (Bing Crosby, Russ Columbo) to the big-band era of the '40s (the bulk of the music, including tracks by Benny Goodman, Harry James, Artie Shaw, and more) and on to the singers' era of the '50s (Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Frankie Laine, Perry Como, et al.). Mixed in are Robertson's small-group sessions ("At Last," "A New Kind of Love" [aka "You Brought a New Kind of Love to Me"], and the Hudson-composed "Webster Hall") and a handful of Italian songs along with the opera pieces, as well as such oddities as Marilyn Monroe singing "Bye, Bye, Baby" from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and an actual soundtrack clip of Robert DeNiro as LaMotta attempting to be a standup comic ("That's Entertainment"). It's a curious and interesting collection of music that fans of the film will enjoy.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann
Track Listing - Disc 1
Track Listing - Disc 2