Entertainment

Mitchell: Plenty to listen to on Smash’s latest soundtrack

Bombshell, The New Marilyn Musical From SMASH (Sony)

For non devotees, Smash is an NBC television series about a Broadway musical based on Marilyn Monroe that is in rehearsal while the two main “bombshells” of the title compete with one another to see who will be the main cast member and who will be the understudy.

It stars Katherine McPhee as Karen and Megan Hilty as Ivy.

Bombshell is also the second TV soundtrack after last year’s The Music Of Smash and it is much wider in scope, with 22 songs and 70 minutes compared with last year’s 13-track album.

The songs are realized by Tony and Grammy winning composer Mark Shaiman (City Slickers, Sister Act, A Few Good Men and many more) who has a sharp ear for detail and some clever lyrics on many of these songs that are often very wordy—as you might expect from a Broadway theatrical musical that is unfolding its plot with song as well as dialogue.

The first Smash cast album had songs written by stars such as Ryan Tedder (OneRepublic) and Carrie Underwood, and that debut enjoyed a minor hit with a cover of Christina Aguilera’s Beautiful.

This new cast recording doesn’t have all-star outside help but is, in fact, even more ambitious than the first release as it explores Monroe’s life from childhood to foster homes, to her marriage and separation from Joe DiMaggio, to JFK dalliances, to actors studio method acting classes, etc.

The soundtrack’s ambition can also be heard in the eclecticism of music here from the show tune swing of the title track Bombshell to the doo wop of History Is Made At Night (not the Wanda Jackson classic), to the humorous Vegas glitz of Don’t Say Yes Until I Finish, and the campy big band rock and roll of I Never Met A Wolf Who Didn’t Love To Howl.

Fans of the TV show will probably really enjoy this lengthy soundtrack album but I don’t hear a hit off this set, although the closing song Don’t Forget Me has a sense of anthemic resolution that wraps things up and may be the attention-grabber for devotees.

Finally, the first season of this series is now also available on a four-DVD set so there is plenty of new Smash product to scoop up.

B-

Bullet For My Valentine: Temper Temper (RCA)

This Welsh alt metal and sometime screamo band has enjoyed big successes with their last two albums Scream, Aim, Fire and Fever that hit No. 4 and No. 3 respectively on the album sales charts.

This new album has been released in this fallow season for new product and so it too will most likely chart very high, but if you are familiar with Bullet For My Valentines’ metal core you won’t find too many challenges musically on Temper Temper where even the title repeats.

The group has rehired producer Don Gilmour (Linkin Park) to keep things humming along and the songs here are all short, sharp and to the point with lots of first world complaint rock.

There is some credible eye for and eye truculence on the opener Breaking Point and some tachycardia inducing truculence on Temper Temper and even a dash of drug addled truculence on Truth Hurts.

Bullet For My Valentine try a couple of new angles here with the speedy chug-itta, chug-itta rhythms of Dirty Little Secret (girl troubles) and some boogie metal on Dead To The World (existential numbness) while one of the stickered feature tracks, Riot, explores screamo with a Khachaturian sabre dance guitar freak-out that lives up to Kerrang magazine’s dub a couple of years ago as the Best New Brit Newcomer.

To me screamo is dead but Bullet For My Valentine offer just enough innovation for their hard core fan base.

C+

New Years Concert: The Vienna Philharmonic 2013 (Sony)

These New Years concerts at the Vienna Philharmonic have been ongoing for a very long time and 2013 marks year number 73.

The guest conductor for this year’s festivities is Franz Welser-Most (as he was a couple of years ago) and as ever this concert celebrates the music of the Strauss family dynasty.

There are seven tunes by pappa Josef Strauss 1827-1870 (classical music liner notes always give the composers birth/death years for some reason) and brother Johann Strauss II (1825-1899).  However, for the very first time the Vienna Philharmonic has introduced Richard Wagner’s very well known gem Lohengrin Prelude To Act III because he was such a big influence on the Strauss boys as per the liner notes.

It is also revealed that a few hitherto never before performed tunes such as From The Mountains Waltz, Theatre Quadrille, The Spinner French Polka and Hesperus Path Waltz are performed also for the very first time.

As this was a new years celebration, it feels like the audience and conductor let there hair down and played more casual and exploratory instead of the sometimes gravitas angle of classical music in keeping with the sense of the moment.

You will, for example, have to buy the DVD or Blu-ray to see why the audience laughed throughout the curious sounding Reminiscences Of Ernst (aka The Venice Carnival Fantasia) by pappa Johann Strauss I (1804-1849).

As expected the highlight here is the beautiful encore performance of The Blue Danube that is the best known tune ever from this always over-achieving family.

As an interesting side note there was a 90 year old woman in the audience by the name of Hedwig Aigner-Strauss who is the grand daughter of Karoline Strauss whom pappa Josef affectionately called Chatterbox and that titular polka is played here too, bringing everything full circle somehow.

While some high brows bristle at the hoi polloi of tourists who flock to these New Years concerts, a good time was still had by all. Check out the enthusiastic clap along to the Radetzky March.

B+

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