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Mamma mia! Movie lovers can fill MP3s with the hits
Blockbuster season may be winding down, but the soundtrack for one of this summer's movies has scaled the top spot on the Billboard 200 chart as it ends. The never-going-to-let-you-go " Mamma Mia!" is the first soundtrack to claim the top spot since "Juno" did so in January. That's the first time in a decade that more than one soundtrack has managed the feat.
Naturally, that makes a trio of selections from the ABBA musical the starting point for this latest soundtrack compilation—one that includes both songs and musical scores. The bulk of our suggestions come from recent releases, though a few vintage tracks are here as well, for balance. The list combines tracks from CDs and online download services.
1-3. "Mamma Mia": "Mamma Mia," "Slipping Through My Fingers," "Lay All Your Love on Me," Meryl Streep, Dominic Cooper. Streep's exuberance, energy and expert support from the backing vocalists carry her through the title song while the gentle ballad "Slipping Through My Fingers" shows off the emotive strength in her delicate voice, while Cooper's silky smooth baritone glides through "Lay All Your Love on Me." 4. "The Dark Knight": "Aggressive Expansion," Hans Zimmer-James, Newton Howard. The combination of these two movie composing titans è proved very successful in setting the mood for "Batman Begins," and their music here for summer's biggest blockbuster, typified by this driving, propulsive, tension filled track, again helped define the movie's edginess. 5. "Journey to the Center of the Earth": "Iceland," Andrew Lockington. Lockington's biggest challenge in creating his sweeping score for this 3-D remake of the 1959 beloved family classic was trying to erase the memory of the iconic music Bernard Herrmann wrote for the previous version. Herrmann, a longtime Hitchcock and Welles collaborator, was and will probably always be considered the unparalleled dean of film composers. Lockington's score, exemplified by this cue, which follows the characters' trek through Iceland, won't erase the dark beauty of Herrmann's music, but it's majestic and jaunty at once just the same--a neat trick--and his score holds its own. 6. "Bottle Shock": "Main Theme," Mark Adler. Adler's winning, New-Age sounding score (solo violin, acoustic guitar and piano over strings) for this little indie bout the rise of Napa Valley wine country cunningly uses percussion effects that echo the sound of clattering wine bottles. (Available from iTunes shortly.) 7. "Vicky Cristina Barcelona": "Barcelona," Giulia Los Tellarini. Los Tellarini's sexy, teasing vocals in this lightly flavored bossa nova set the tone for Woody Allen's romantic valentine to gorgeous, sunny Barcelona. Charm personified. 8. "Chaos Theory": "Instant Gratification Priorities," Gilad Benamram. If the outset of this Ryan Reynolds dramedy reminds you faintly of the Doris Day-Rock Hudson sex comedies, look no further than Benamram's score. Whether intentional or not, his use of vibes, muted horns, and sugary strings, especially in this sensual little cue, seems to pay homage to Frank DeVol's jazzy "Pillow Talk" film score. 9. "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist": "Nick and Nora's Theme," Mark Mothersbaugh. Until the soundtrack (which features a host of up-to-the-minute bands) arrives online and in stores later this month for this forthcoming Michael Cera teen comedy, the film's Web site lets you create your own endless streaming playlist. The soundtrack also will include this perky little theme, a perfect example of low-tech '80s synth--down to the cheesy percussion and video-game sound effects. Written and performed by Devo lead singer-turned film composer Mothersbaugh. 10. "Wanted": "The Little Things," Danny Elfman. Elfman, who often collaborates with Tim Burton, has one of the most recognizable sounds in film music. In a nice change of pace, he returns to his new wave origins as the singer of Oingo Boingo, and takes the lead vocals on this hard-rocking title track from the Angelina Jolie action flick. 11.-12. "Young @Heart": "Should I Stay or Should I Go?," "Fix You," The Young @Heart Chorus. The gimmick of seeing the documentary in which senior citizens warble new wave and rock tunes would only seem to be exacerbated by listening to the soundtrack that accompanies the film. But surprisingly, both are winning and filled with marvelous moments. Two of the best are these--the first sparked by the vigorous reading of the Clash hit song by the late Eileen Hall, and the second by the emotional, just-right singing by Fred Knittle of Coldplay's "Fix You." 13. "Hamlet 2": "Rock Me Sexy Jesus," The Ralph Sall Experience. This number, gleefully done in bad taste, is the highlight of the high school musical parody comedy starring British comedian Steve Coogan. Though the song doesn't pack nearly the same punch as the film version (which features Coogan as Jesus in a muscle tee and tight jeans) this '50s-rock-meets-Broadway-pastiche (think "Grease") has enough laughs and repeat choruses to keep toes tapping. Comes in explicit and dance remix versions. 14. "Tropic Thunder": "You're My Brother," Theodore Shapiro. The lead track to the score soundtrack sets the tone for this Ben Stiller-Robert Downey Jr.-Jack Black war movie comedy. It's big and bold, with percussion thundering like a herd of elephants, piercing flutes and a lone male wailing over the cacophony. In other words, it's a ripe parody of a gazillion other action movie scores. The song soundtrack features the usual '60s tunes associated with Vietnam War flicks and the rap tunes featured in the film. 15. "Brideshead Revisited": "Sebastian," Adrian Johnston. This beautiful, intricate, yet simple solo piano track leads off Johnston's sumptuous, densely layered score, which appropriately accompanied the lavish film version of the Evelyn Waugh novel. For score soundtrack enthusiasts, this is one of the year's best releases. 16. "Private Fears in Public Places (Coeurs)": "Coeurs," Mark Snow. Best known as the composer of "The X-Files" theme, Snow wrote a haunting, piano-based score for this 2006 French film from director Alan Resnais. The score has recently been released in a limited edition of 1,000 units, available at http://buysoundtrax.stores.yahoo.net/prfeinpuplor.html. 17. "Shaft Anthology: His Big Score and More!": "Chasin' Shaft," Isaac Hayes. Blaxploitation soundtrack fanatics rejoice! This three-disc set from premier movie score label Film Score Monthly has been in the works for more than three years and went to the pressing plant just as news of Hayes' untimely death was announced. Sure to become a collector's item, the set contains new-to-CD tracks and previously unreleased music that Hayes wrote for the "Shaft" films (and the short-lived TV series), along with other rare goodies. This track, an up-tempo (if that's possible) instrumental version of the familiar theme, is just one of dozens of cues attesting to Hayes' innate musicality. It's available for preorder at screenarchives.com. 18. "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl": "Bye Bye Blackbird," Bridgette Bryant.cq Bryant's voice soars overhead in this new R&B version of the Jazz Age chestnut, just one of the many highlights of this delightful song soundtrack that mixes current and vintage performers such as the Puppinicq Sisters and Cliff Edwards. 19-20. "Sex and the City": "Theme," "All Dressed In Love," The Pfeifer Broz. Orchestra, Jennifer Hudson. The summer ends right where it began with these two infectious tracks--the first, a quickie reworking of the familiar theme tricked out in big band finery, while home-town girl Hudson lends sass to a retro soul R&B track that easily and gloriously takes us home.