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Movie Music: Almost Famous by Isabel Alcantara

The Almost Famous Soundtrack

“This song explains why I have to leave home and become a stewardess,” is one of my favorite lines in all of Almost Famous. The quote referrs to Simon & Garfunkel’s “America,” and is spoken by Anita (Zooey Dechanel) who finds solace in music and teaches William (Patrick Fugit, and our protagonist) about the true essence of rock ‘n’ roll.

Cameron Crowe‘s semi-autobiographical story about William, a young reporter following Stillwater (the next hit band) on tour across America, is best served with a large stereo system hook-up. Since the film is about music it’s no surprise that the songs make up, at least, half of the movie’s appeal.

The compilation itself is a compendium of the classic rock staples, but it’s not – by any means – generic. Yes, the artists featured are The Who, Yes, Simon & Garfunkel, Rod Stewart and The Beach Boys (to name a few), but the songs are not the overplayed hits that plague the radio waves. Instead, each track sounds fresh and unexplored in an eclectic mix of 60s and 70s rock. Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” sounds personal and nostalgic when being sung by the all-star cast in the bus scene, Zeppelin fans will note that “That’s the Way” was the first Led Zeppelin song to be re-released on a soundtrack, and The Who’s “Sparks” (famously featured in Tommy) may actually be capable of showing you your future.

The mix has a cohesive mix of high energy tracks like “Sparks” and The Allman Brothers‘ “One Way Out,” with slow and soulful tracks like Cat Stevens‘ “The Wind” and Lynyrd Skynyrd‘s “Simple Man,” right along with the symphonic rock of Yes’ “I’ve Seen All Good People.” The one track of original score, “Lucky Trumble,” was composed by Nancy Wilson (of the band Heart and filmmaker, Crowe’s wife) and is a bright instrumental track that is featured discretely through the movie, and sounds comfortingly familiar even on the first listen.

The music is a crucial component this bizarre coming-of-age tale. Any classic rock fan can attest that few soundtracks actually manage to bring out the lesser known tracks of popular artists and make them work together in a woven tapestry of real rock and roll. The great mix of music, and the newfound nostalgia the movie embeds into the tracks are what make this classic rock soundtrack so appealing. Well that, and the drugs.

— Isabel Alcantara

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