One From the Heart is the score to the most misunderstood of Francis Ford Coppola's films. Far ahead of its time in terms of technology, use of color, montage, and set design, its soundtrack is the only thing that grounds it to earth. Coppola's movie is a metaphorical retelling of the exploits of Zeus and Hera set in Las Vegas. Coppola claims to have been taken with the male-female narrative implications of the track "I Don't Talk to Strangers," off Tom Waits' Foreign Affairs album. That cut was a duet with Bette Midler. Midler wasn't available for One From the Heart, however, so Waits chose Crystal Gayle as his vocal foil. The result is one of the most beautifully wrought soundtrack collaborations in history. Along with producer Bones Howe, Waits and Gayle cut their duets largely from the studio floor, live with the small combo-style studio band that included the saxophonist Teddy Edwards, drummer Shelly Manne, trumpeter Jack Sheldon, pianist Pete Jolly, and bassist Greg Cohen, among others. The opening cut, a Waits piano intro that flows into the duet "Once Upon a Town," is a study in contrasts: first there are the stark ivories and the tinkle of a coin falling upon a bar before Waits' then-still-smoky baritone (now ravaged indescribably) entwines with Gayle's clear, ringing, emotionally rich vocal, and then joined by Bob Alcivar's string orchestrations before giving way to a jazzed-out down-tempo blues, where the pair sing in call-and-response counterpoint about the disappointments in life and love. These are echoed a couple of tracks later in another duet, "Picking Up After You," which is the ultimate starstruck breakup tune. And while there are only four duets on the entire set, they are startling in their ragged intimacy, contrasted with a stark yet elegant atmosphere and cool noir-esque irony. Gayle's solo performances on the set, which include the mournfully gorgeous "Is There Any Way out of This Dream," with beautiful accompaniment in a tenor solo by Edwards, and the shimmering melancholy of "Old Boyfriends," are among the finest in her long career. For his part, Waits' "I Beg Your Pardon" and "You Can't Unring a Bell" fit deftly into his post-beat hipster canon, though they are offered with less droll irony and more emotionally honest flair here than they would have if they were on his own solo recordings. Likewise, the piano and vocal duet of "Take Me Home" offers Waits' piano as a canny and intuitive counterpart to the deep sensuality of Gayle's vocal. One From the Heart is a welcome addition to any soundtrack library to be sure, but also an essential one to the shelf of any Waits or Gayle fan.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek