Various Artists

War

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Randy Newman's cousin Thomas Newman may be better remembered for his work on the soundtracks to Desperately Seeking Susan, The Green Mile, Erin Brokovich , The Shawshank Redemption and other high profile films, but movie director and executive album producer here, Jon Avnet, who had this Newman onboard for the highly successful 1991 flick Fried Green Tomatoes, rejoins forces with him three years later to put together an unusually sophisticated 21 track compilation. Unusual in that it works artistically by combining one of the successful elements which helped make 1983's The Big Chill a sensation -- taking a bunch of

well-known songs, seven of them here being huge hits and one a Janis Joplin FM classic, while adding a bit of a twist: twelve pieces from the original score attached to the second half of the cd soundtrack. The film features Kevin Costner, a pre-Lord Of The Rings Elijah Wood and actress Mare Winningham who a year after this would release a solo cd entitled What Might Be. It's too bad Winningham doesn't sing on this film's recordings, nothing against Newman's featured vocalist Yvonne Williams, but it would have been a nice touch to what is really an underappreciated work. Boston emigre Bobby Hebb's "Sunny" is here as is New England exile Norman Greenbaum's "Spirit In The Sky" (a song which shows up in at least seven other films in the decade after this project was released -- from Apollo 13 to Wayne's World 2 ), Aretha Franklin's "Think" (yet another familiar voice to movie soundtracks, including The Big Chill ), six male pop stars from John Sebastian, Robbie Robertson, Richie Havens and Cat Stevens to three female vocalists including The Supremes-less Diana Ross & The Supremes hit "Someday We'll be Together"." The War soundtrack is cleverly put together and is really an adventurous project which somehow slipped away from the mainstream. It's worth seeking out.

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