Michael Mann's film biography Ali had one of the most hyperactive soundtracks in memory. Music underscores nearly every minute of the film, which seems at times to move less from scene to scene than song to song. Ever since Mann's Miami Vice days, his stylistically diverse, richly textured, and often dark musical selections have done as much to set the tone for his projects as the fast-paced editing and invariably "stone-washed" look of the cinematography. Mann and his composers, Pieter Bourke and Lisa Gerrard, masterfully set the emotional tone of each scene without resorting to emotionally manipulative clichès. But the sheer volume of the music in Ali sometimes overwhelms the substance of the story. The ice-cool style and the constant barrage of music keep the audience gliding on the surface without ever truly revealing the emotional core of the film's fascinating subject. And yet, despite all that music, the producers of this soundtrack album (the first of two released by Interscope) somehow felt the need to add songs that were never used in the movie. Unfortunately, they favored a pair of schmaltzy R&B-pop ballads by R. Kelly ("The World's Greatest" and "Hold On") over the fine Bourke/Gerrard score, which is represented here only by the trancey ambient song "See the Sun." But there are several strong tracks here that were used in the film, including Truth Hurts' soulful Motown ballad "For Your Precious Love," Everlast's moody half-rap "'The Greatest," and especially Selif Keita's powerful African anthem "Tomorrow," which was used powerfully in two of the film's more important moments.
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AllMusic Review by Evan Cater