Banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck has certainly broken more boundaries than any other picker in recent memory, from his early days performing bluegrass-inspired folk compositions on Rounder in the late '70s to his quirky jazz freak-outs with the Flecktones throughout the '90s. In late 2001, this peculiar innovator released an album of banjo interpretations of classical works by Bach, Chopin, and Scarlatti. Before classical purists roll their eyes, they must remember that the banjo hasn't always been seen as the instrument of choice of backwoods musicians in the Appalachian mountains, but as recently as the 1940s was used as a primary rhythm instrument in all manner of parlor music.
An above-average soundtrack to a mediocre film, this dance-oriented album hits more than it misses. The title track by David Bowie is fluff by his standards, but as it's produced by Nile Rodgers (a year before their collaboration on Black Tie White Noise), it's danceable fluff. Further in, the album samples the beginnings of the '90s techno revolution, with excellent tracks from Future Sound of London ("Papua New Guinea"), Moby ("Next Is the E"), Ministry's Bush-era primal scream "N.W.O.," and Mindless's "Mindless." Brian Eno's exclusive track "Under" is one of his best from the '90s.
Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels managed to turn Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan's recurring one-joke skit about two clueless clubheads into a major motion picture. That's why they call him an entrepreneur. More importantly, the soundtrack to said film makes a good excuse for a compilation full of surefire club hits whose sights are set squarely on the dancefloor. From the inescapable "What Is Love" (Haddaway) to 3rd Party's revamped version of M's '80s hit "Pop Muzik," A Night at the Roxbury is a nonstop dancefest, full of relentless beats and hooky synth riffs guaranteed to fire up even the most lackluster of parties.
The Grammy-winning trumpeter/composer returns to his jazz-renaissance roots with a set steeped in the glossy hues and tones of New York City at night. Blanchard’s score for the soundtrack of Robert De Niro’s new film captures a late-life crisis with jaunty blues, brooding balladry and svelte modern jazz. The mood-setting themes have strong melodies and rhythmic edge, and with saxophonist Ravi Coltrane stretching out and on-form pianist Kenny Barron leading a classy rhythm section, the jazz is for real. Blanchard pares his playing of excess, and plays beautifully.
Power Rangers gets a big budget reboot and super composer Brian Tyler is along for the ride. Tyler is the primary composer for the Fast and Furious soundtracks, including the forthcoming eighth installment. Also in the past year, Brian has helmed the duties for The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Now You See Me 2, xXx and others.
By dropping the needle on classic rock cuts and forgotten ‘70s pop confections, The Guardians of the Galaxy flipped the conventional thinking of soundtracks on its head. The blockbuster continues this fine tradition on the sequel, pulling from a dusty crate of one-hit wonders and FM rock. Vol. 2 bounces along with ELO (“Mr. Blue Sky”), glam (“Fox on the Run”), power pop (“Surrender”), and more than one guilty pleasure (“Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)”).