Reviewed by John Cheek
The fact that this CD has been released with almost minimal publicity or promotion, actually says more about the embarrassing problems with the American stage show, than any shortcomings with the recording itself. Bedevilled with delays, technical problems and rehearsal accidents, the Broadway critics lined up to write its obituary, the moment its 'run' actually began. They've had to wait; Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark has been a quiet success at the box-office and, should the show ever cross the Atlantic from it's present New York venue, it could be worth checking out. Which can probably be said of 'Music from...', which is a studio recording, rather than a live document of the cast, and features U2's Bono and The Edge on a number of the 14 tracks which they themselves wrote for the show. Although only one song is a U2 effort - Larry and Adam are otherwise absent - the recording is produced and mixed by long-term cohort Steve Lilliwhite. Perhaps because of the myriad problems realising the stage production, the soundtrack sounds rough, even rushed: it's all the better for it, as it possesses a raw quality that can even be described as "charmingly naïve", akin to U2's early albums. Whilst the band have contributed a number of songs to film soundtracks over the years, and The Edge is no stranger to even more as an individual writer, he and Bono have once previously written the soundtrack to an (ill-fated) stage show. Their Clockwork Orange work was completed 20 years prior, and yet they've been reluctant to reveal the results; only the B-side, "Alex Descends Into Hell (For A Bottle Of Milk)" has seen the light of day. Perhaps they feel self-conscious operating in the stage show genre. As it turns out, 'Music From...' shows that they have an ear for scoring a musical without neglecting their rock constituency. It certainly sounds like U2, both from the sound of the familiar guitar signature and the Christian-themed lyrics throughout, not to mention titles like "If The World Should End" and "I Just Can't Walk Away". This soundtrack is distinguished by its virtuoso guitar songs and effects and could be located on a sonic landscape somewhere between Supertramp and Jesus Christ Superstar. A pop-up, pop-art opera with its second track, "Boy Falls From The Sky", evoking Jesus' incarnation: "Lightening splits the sky, kisses your face/Yours is the sacrifice, yours is the grace." There's lots of emphasising the need to "bel-ieve", to think of God and country; references to the eyes of needles and intelligent design solutions, as evolution has had its day. The sheer range of the songwriting and arrangements is quite obvious on this soundtrack, perhaps most notably on the camp "A Freak Like Me Needs Company" which alludes to the dark underbelly of the Rotten Apple, without losing a sense of compassion or humanity. This album's a rarity, and one worth digging out, especially if you don't normally have U2 in your personal or car stereo.
The opinions expressed in this article are
not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed
views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may
not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a
Interested in reviewing music? Find out