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Jagger, Stewart score big

From the Autumn 2004 issue.

Alfie: Music from the Motion Picture
Alfie: Music from the Motion Picture
By Mick Jagger and Dave Stewart

Virgin Music: 2004

To hear sound clips or learn more about this release, Turbula recommends viewing its Amazon.com entry.

There is a sense of wistful melancholy running throughout this soundtrack from the pens of Mick Jagger and former Eurythmic Dave Stewart. Jagger lends his ever rougher, ever more evocative pipes to most of the songs here, and it isn't hard to imagine that the sense of regret imbued in these tunes was earned the hard way.

From the opening rock 'n' roll of "Old Habits Die Hard" (the best, most haunting Jagger performance in recent memory) through the techno funk of "Jack the Lad" to the blues of "Blind Leading the Blind" and the hip hop of "Wicked Time," this is an album awash in depression. Even a new Christmas song, "Lonely Without You," is far more likely to rival Elvis' "Blue Christmas" than "Jingle Bells."

In fact, the only upbeat moment here comes on the instrumental "Oh Nikki," which has an infectious boogie shuffle beat and bright horn charts – giving it a Memphis/Stax feel.

But the rest of the album is decidedly dark, albeit quite listenable due to the sheer caliber of Stewart and Jagger's songwriting and the excellence of the performances. Young Brit singer Joss Stone has a couple of guest appearances, including a remake of the Bacharach-David title theme made famous by Dionne Warwick. And Sheryl Crow duets with Jagger on an alternate version of "Old Habits."

What is most impressive about this album is that it stands on its own as a self-contained musical vision. Not having seen the film yet, your loyal correspondent can't say how well these compositions work within that environment.

But as a musical album, this is one of the best recordings Jagger has made in some years, and marks a triumphant return of Stewart to the spotlight.

Review by Jim Trageser. Jim is a writer and editor living in Escondido, Calif., and was a contributor to the "Grove Press Guide to Blues on CD" (1993) and "The Routledge Encyclopedia of the Blues" (2005).

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