20 Watts

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

20 Watts Reviews Jimi Hendrix’s Valleys of Neptune by gjfitton

Jimi Hendrix's 11th posthumous release maintains his legendary status

PREVIEW: Jimi Hendrix’s Website
WE GIVE IT: 15/20 Watts

There is not much to say about Jimi Hendrix that has not already been stressed for decades. Best guitarist of all time? Possibly. Ground-breaking innovator in the rock genre? Absolutely. And in 2010, that legacy is far from forgotten with his eleventh posthumous release, Valleys of Neptune.

All of the songs on Valleys of Neptune were recorded at the tail end of the 1960’s (right before his death) and clearly illustrate the transition of rock ‘n’ roll from a more psychedelic sound to the harder, funkier one employed throughout the 1970s. The studio precision and sound quality are tremendous. This twelve-song release contains a collection of tracks that mostly qualify as funky. The southpaw’s guitar on an instrumental cover of Cream’s “Sunshine on Your Love” definitely does Eric Clapton justice, and the minute and a half intro on “Lover Man” is a bit astounding. “Lullaby for Summer” contains the usual excellent guitar work with truly lively drum rhythms. “Ships Passing Through the Night” is quintessentially Hendrix, as it is the style that most of his mainstream fans know and love. The album’s strongest track is “Valleys of Neptune,” with Hendrix’s emotional voice luring the listener into his introspective lyrics. Continue reading

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PREVIEW: LISTEN to Free People’s “Wintry Mix”

Well, we almost made it through an entire semester with no snow, but according to this week’s weather forecast, that dream will soon become a distant memory. I don’t know about you, but Syracuse’s constant gray skies and inches of snow blowing in my face sort of put a damper on my day. If you’re the same way, pop in your headphones and listen to Free People’s “Wintry Mix” playlist. The 15 winter-themed tracks will help you actually enjoy the mounds of snow, and make you feel as though you’re living in a winter wonderland– not a sub-zero ice box.

What’s best about the playlist is that it’s a truly eclectic mix of music. There’s classic rock, indie rock and even a bit of 90s and Bob Marley thrown in. And what’s even better than the array of artists? Free People made sure to put together songs that represented the winter season in general, as well as the holidays. So instead of going crazy listening to the same Christmas songs over and over again on the radio, listen to “Wintry Mix” on your way to class and enjoy the extreme weather that you’ll be experiencing until April.

–Dana Mikaelian, Communications Director