MTV Web Site
January 1998

The following review of Great Expectations: The Album appeared on the MTV web site in January 1998.

Various Artists
Great Expectations: The Album

Great expectations of a classic? Start with the soundtrack -- the work of Patrick Doyle. Doyle is known not only for his music for Carlito's Way and Sense and Sensibility, but also for his Oscar-nominated score to Hamlet and his acting roles in film adaptations of two other Shakespeare plays, Henry V and Much Ado About Nothing. Doyle attempts a bridge from the classics to contemporary sound that evokes the film: Great Expectations the movie, which opens January 30th and stars Ethan Hawke and Robert DeNiro, has switched sets from Dickensian London to modern-day South Florida and New York City. We shall see....

Like the movie, the soundtrack is a somewhat incongruous compound of chronology and genre. The standout tracks are Mono's "Life In Mono" (actually a multitrack trip-hop treasure with a succulent female vocal) and Poe's "Today," a winsome pop song reeking of cheeky mysticism and chockablock with random instrumental and percussive breaks. Almost as pleasing is the well-honed Morna melancholy of "Besame Mucho," with "Barefoot Diva" Cesaria Evora sounding every inch a Cape Verde version of Billie Holiday (but a couple of octaves lower). Other than these tracks, great expectations turn out to be ill-founded.

The album opens with a couple of Tori Amos compositions, a throwaway, bongo-based "instrumental vocalization" called "Finn" and the less-than-tempting spaghetti western-style "Siren." Both grunge greats' soliloquies disappoint: Soundgarden's Chris Cornell continues his solar obsession in "Sunshower," an indifferent exercise in prog-rock with overbearing drums, while STP's Scott Weiland does a fair Tom Waits imitation in "Lady, Your Roof Brings Me Down." Reef's "Resignation" is a Stonesy blues-grunge affair, while former Lisa Loeb sidekick Duncan Sheik offers vaguely REM-ish melancholic wistfulness on "Wishful Thinking". "Like A Friend" is typical Pulp proletarian melodrama. "Her Ornament" is predictably awful pop-rock-by-numbers from The Verve Pipe. Lauren Christy's "Walk This Earth Alone" is transplanted Heart bypassed by a little guitar distortion. "Breakable" features a buyably intelligent lyric matched by neither Fisher's non-refundable, generic vocal nor the string-laden ballad beneath it. David Garza's "Slave" is a horrible white-reggae mistake.

Of the older stuff, "Success" waddles aimlessly back and forth in a clumsy, '50s rock'n'roll kind of way (and was the worst track on Iggy Pop's classic "Lust For Life" album, anyway). And it's a measure of the album's overall quality that the Grateful Dead's "Uncle John's Band" is one of the freshest-sounding tracks. Uncle Charles must be swiveling.

-- Dave Kendall

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