Friday, January 26, 2007

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Music From The Motion Picture (vol. 1 & 2)

I'm a big fan of this film, and think it represents Leonardo DiCaprio's most daring work to that point.

So when was doing a clearance on the 1996 versions of the William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Music From The Motion Picture and William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Music From The Motion Picture, Volume 2, I grabbed both of them.

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Music From The Motion Picture:

The first album (a soundtrack, really), has got great stuff from Garbage ("#1 Crush"), early, dada-esque Everclear ("Local God"), solid track from The Cardigans (Lovefool), and the way under-rated Stina Nordenstam ("Little Star"). Oddly, only the love song theme from the movie from Des'ree ("Kissing You") leaves me a bit cold.

William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet: Music From The Motion Picture, Volume 2:

I hate this album. Freaking passionately.

Not because of the content -- that's actually amazing. We're talking phenomenal instrumentals intro'ed or outro'ed or overlayed with actual Shakespearean dialog from the film, which is a cool device.

The problem is this is one of the most poorly mixed professional albums I own. I have a lot of music, and this and another album have the same problem. I have to turn up the volume to catch some of the whispered, dialog, then have my eardrums virtually (literally) ruptured by the next track.

This forces me to work the volume nob constantly between tracks, rather than be able to sit back and enjoy the powerful, heady stuff. I've been trying to normalize the volume on my digital jukebox without ruining the songs, which is not going well. There's a decibel differential of 12 to 28dB (the biggest differential of any album I own), sometimes back-to-back, causing me aural pain and putting my speakers at risk. Normalizing the tracks as a batch is alternately muddying their sound or causing clipping problems.

I'm ticked that I have to spend so much time to make an album I bought listen-able. And I do a fair amount of sound work.

Again, the content is (for me) amazing, with (for me) only the "The Montague Boys" track feeling a little off.

But the technical side will keep from letting this disc live in my CD player for weeks on end, which I think it would have otherwise.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Orphans (Tom Waits)

Tom Waits and Nick Cave are two of my favorite musical artists, and when the 3-disc Orphans compilation came out in December, I snagged a copy as part of my year-end shopping binge (I've been a good boy this year).

Each disc has a different flavor, with Brawlers being uptempo, non-Latin bragadocio; Bawlers has ballads; and Bastards is, uh, all over the place (the editorial review calls it "a funhouse of angular characters, spiky anecdotes, shaggy dogs ..." -- I'm good with that).

These songs are things that were done outside of core Tom Waits projects, or songs that didn't fit on targeted albums. While this could at best be a recipe for a vapid release (or at worst, a death knell for listability), this may be one of Waits's best albums.

The songs are soulful, moody, poetic, spoken word, quirky, playful, dark, dogmatic -- you name it, and you're likely to find the deep emotions thorughout the album. And even the fun surface stuff isn't superficial.

Great album. Listen to some clips on -- then buy the album somewhere once you're sold on how great it is.

Tom Waits should do music with Danny Elfman on a Tim Burton film. And I should be in the film. My head would probably explode. But it would be worth it.