"Leaving Las Vegas" writer-director Mike Figgis puts the most on the table in the showdown of Sin City cinematic collections, getting Sting to sing three torch-song standards and composing the jazz-noir score himself. But it's "Casino" soundtrack producer Robbie Robertson who's holding the most aces.
Gambling is the theme in Robertson's tour of his apparently impressive record collection--high-rolling not for cash, but for love. For pal Martin Scorsese's film, the former Band man assembled an ambitious, eclectic and colorful 31-track trek from blues (Muddy Waters, B.B. King) to bop (Louis Prima) to rock (Cream, Roxy Music) to Bach, with even the most unlikely segues (Devo to Dinah Washington?) seeming natural. And the range of passions leaves nothing out, from Timi Yuro's shamelessly overwrought 1961 hit "Hurt" to the excerpt from Bach's heaven-yearning 1720s hit "St. Matthew Passion" that closes the two-disc collection.
OK, there's no Frank or Elvis or Wayne Newton--Dean Martin is the only Rat Packer and Prima the only true lounge lizard represented--but this two-disc set still feels like the city itself: all high hopes and dashed dreams . . . and coming back for more. Viva Las Vegas!
Sting's three "Leaving" turns ("Angel Eyes," "My One and Only Love" and "It's a Lonesome Old Town") are strong enough to show his artistic range, but not enough to make us hope he does a whole album of standards. Wisely, neither he nor Don Henley, with an aching version of "Come Rain or Come Shine" borrowed from his "MTV Unplugged" performance, come on like swinging hipsters, but read the misty material fairly straight. That aura comes from Figgis' modern jazz pieces, which adequately support the story's emotional roller-coaster but don't demand repeated listening.
Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor), two stars (fair), three stars (good) and four stars (e x cellent).