Artist: Various Artists
Album: 25th Anniversary Edition of Singles: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack-Deluxe Edition
Label: Epic Soundtrax/Legacy Recordings
Release Date: 5.19.2017
In 1992 grunge was exploding, Seattle had taken over the music world with bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Cameron Crowe wanted to capture the zeitgeist of an era through a romantic comedy called “Singles” in the veneer of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan,” as his love letter to Seattle and to all the bands and musicians working at coffee shops during the day and playing music all night. “Singles” went on to become a cult classic, with fans that still visit and take pictures of the actual building in Seattle, where the movie was filmed. The original soundtrack provided an introduction to emerging grunge rock bands that were relatively new at the time, allowing for an introduction to a mainstream audience. Twenty-five years later, the Singles soundtrack is being commemorated with an expanded and re-mastered release via Epic Soundtrax and Legacy Recordings. The two-LP edition features original soundtrack songs such as Alice in Chains’ “Would,” Pearl Jam’s “State of Love and Trust,” Soundgarden’s “Birth Ritual” etc. The soundtrack was really intended to be more of an anti-soundtrack, a mix-tape of sorts. Cameron Crowe has mentioned that he himself used to make mixtapes from Seattle based radio station “KCMU” (now KEXP) and to him including the bands that appear in the soundtrack was in part “a tribute to those hard-working bands that welcomed me to their city with open arms, and the music so many still love so much.”
Songs that give life to the re-mastered album include The Smashing Pumpkins’ “Drown,” which is just like a sonic intoxicating daydream. In addition, Pearl Jam’s “State of Love and Trust” and “Breathe” represent an early version of the band’s prowess and showcase Eddie Vedder’s golden, raspy baritone voice. Alice in Chains appears twice in the album with the tracks “It Ain’t like That,” and “Would?” the latter kicking off the soundtrack. Although the album is loaded with low bass rumbles and riffs that bloom into bold, electric tracks, Paul Westerberg’s power pop “Dyslexic Heart” and “Blue Heart” contrast sharply with the rest of the bands included in the album. Nevertheless, Cameron Crowe’s intent in selecting a wide variety of bands and musicians is laudable. It was his way of representing Seattle’s sonic DNA through musicians like Jimi Hendrix, long time Seattle rock band Heart (as The Lovemongers), Mudhoney, Screaming Trees, among others. The 25th Anniversary Edition includes superb gems such as a bonus disc of demos, acoustic recordings and live tracks that have never been issued in CD or vinyl format. Among the bonus recordings is the Poncier Tape, a collection of songs written by Chris Cornell in response to fictitious song titles written jokingly by Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament. Taking inspiration from the movie character Cliff Poncier, Cornell wrote “Spoonman.” The pyschedelic “Flutter Girl” and the folk ballad “Seasons.” At its most simplistic, the Poncier Tape is Chris Cornell on fire. In addition to the Poncier Tape tracks, the bonus disc includes music Cornell wrote for the film that went unused.
Among those incidental tracks are the minimally-instrumented soundscape “Score Piece #4” and “Ferry Boat #3,” showcasing Cornell’s thrilling vocal performance and powerful emotional heft. Throughout the bonus disc, there’s a sense of punctuated explosive highs and harmonious verses. Listening to the album within days of Chris Cornell’s death truly gives a new perspective to each of the songs in this celebratory version of the “Singles” soundtrack. The fact that Cornell dominates the tracks in the album lets us know how involved he was with “Singles” and with bringing in new bands for the soundtrack (he alerted Crowe of Chicago band Smashing Pumpkins). It reminds us of a snapshot of time in which the movie was made. The Seattle from the early 1990’s that appears in the film is quite different now, but the essence of grunge is embedded in the legacy of bands included in the celebratory album laden with soaring, reckless, perfect songs.