NCIS, the popular TV crime drama, managed to be on the air for more than five seasons before anybody thought to assemble a "soundtrack" album for it in February 2009. That album, subtitled "The Official Soundtrack" for some odd reason (is there an unofficial one?), contained previously released songs featured on the show by such notable performers as Bob Dylan and John Mellencamp, along with tracks by such developing acts as Keaton Simons and Sharon Little, who, not coincidentally, are contracted to CBS Records, the label that released the album. (This CBS Records is not to be confused with the old CBS Records that ceased to exist by that name at the end of the 1980s when it was purchased by Sony and became Sony Music Entertainment.) The first NCIS soundtrack got into the charts, so here is a second soundtrack, less than nine months later, released early in the show's seventh season. Although it has far fewer tracks, only 12 in fact, compared with the 22 on the first volume, it is a far more ambitious collection, consisting largely of performances that are exclusive to it, in some cases by major stars like Dylan, Mellencamp, Norah Jones, Joss Stone, and Sheryl Crow. (Not surprisingly, Simons and Little are present again, too.) The big headline is the inclusion, for the first time on a legitimately released album, of Dylan's song "California." The press release incorrectly states that it "originally dates from the artist's Bringing It All Back Home sessions." In fact, Dylan recorded it on June 9, 1964, the night he cut his Another Side of Bob Dylan LP. It didn't make the cut for that album. Then, Dylan reworked the song and turned it into "Outlaw Blues," which he recorded on January 15, 1965, and which was included on Bringing It All Back Home. Naturally, the early version, "California," languished in the vaults, except for its appearance on bootlegs. All of which is to say that this is not a major find for Dylanologists, but it's nice to have it out legally after all these years. And opening the soundtrack with an outtake of a rough draft of a minor Dylan song turns out to be a good indication of the rest of the contents. The other songs by the big names also sound like tracks that got left off album projects because they weren't strong enough. Jones' "That's What I Said," Stone's "Every Time I Turn Around," Mellencamp's "Someday the Rains Will Fall," and Crow's "Murder in My Heart" are all identifiable as music by these artists without being anything special from them. The rest of the album is a miscellany of generic modern rock (Sick Puppies' "That Time of Year," Saosin's "Move Slow") and welcome curiosities -- Otis Redding's "I've Got Dreams to Remember," a posthumously released song that was a hit in 1968, a year after his death, and Tom Lehrer's perennially amusing Gilbert & Sullivan parody "The Elements," a musical setting of the periodic table.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann