Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy. Here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album or band is unique in some way & not every submission was reviewed. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog) (last update 5/23/2017)

June 22, 2012

Rock Of Ages Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

(Click on heading to visit official movie website.)
Style: soundtrack, hard rock
Label: WaterTower Music
Year: 2012
Home: Seattle, Minneapolis, Chicago

Members: Mary J. Blige, Tom Cruise, Alec Baldwin, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Russell Brand, Paul Giamatti, Malin Akerman, Constantine Maroulis, Julianne Hough, Diego Boneta ~ vocals
Adam Anders ~ bass/guitars/b. vocals
Peer Anstrom ~ bass/drums/keyboards
Josh Freese ~ drums
Kevin Randolph ~ keyboards
Michael Landau, Tim Pierce ~ guitar

Additional: Brandon Fields ~ saxophone
Deyder Cintron, Kala Balch, Nikki Anders, Shelley Rosenberg, Colin Benward, Ravaughn Brown, Jimmy Burney, Alex Brown, Edie Lehmann Boddicker, Drew Ryan Scott, Missi Hale, Maxine Williard Waters, Oren Waters, Jeanette Olsson, Storm Lee, Chole Leighton, David Loucks, Angela Michael, Dorian Holley, Sean Holt, Jenny Karr, Amy Keys, Carmen Carter, Terrell Carter, JC Chasez, Alvin Chea, Kamari Copeland, Julia Tillman, Danny Wagner, Tim Davis, Luke Edgemon, Terry Wood, Gigi Worth, Kandace Ferrel, Onitsha Shaw, Ken Stacey, Matt Sullivan, Windy Wagner ~ b. vocals

The notes are all there in this soundtrack to the successful Broadway show turned all-star movie, albeit in sometimes abridged form during the instrumental sections to cut to the vocal chase. A vocal coach has turned a bunch of non-singers into note perfect crooners. Sadly they didn't bother to hire any coach to turn them into rockers or anything more than actors singing. Rock music is about soul, its about expression, its about angst, it's about vocal imperfections, its about a raspy voice, it's about a growl ... quite often it's about not being able to actually sing. This is a heavily polished soulless album where the vocal imperfections have been minimalized & the rasp completely removed. It's like a live album with no sounds of the audience where the band performs studio perfect versions. It's a tough listen. Yes, the movie paints the picture that 80's music verges on shallowness. But, they've demonstrated it musically a bit too perfect. Shallow songs have now gotten even worse. It may work on the screen, or stage, but not sans the visual context. What's worse is the instrumental element of 80's - & Slash is just as important as Axl & some have said maybe more so - has been pulled from the focus dampening even more of the spirit. It's like the Stones with Keith or Led Zeppelin without Jimmy or Deep Purple without Richie. In favor, I will say that I am impressed by actors who I never took for singers to hit notes far better than I ever expected. Tom Cruise, Russell Brand, Alec Baldwin & company are not embarressing themselves in terms of ability. Though, Juilanne Hough turns in a few too many Barbie doll versions of Cyndi Lauper for my ears. But, to repeat, just hitting notes is half of the battle. Anyone can just about learn how to sing in key & push their range but it takes more than that to be a rock'n'roll singer ... if not a real singer in any genre. I would recommend Moulin Rouge as a far better soundtrack covers movie ... & that didn't always have the best singing. This verges on slap together mockery, particularly with some of the mash-ups. Moulin Rouge actually brought out new meaning with the old songs ... take for example "Roxette" or "Like A Virgin" which leave the Police & Madonna far behind. Part of me, enjoying the idea of a 80's rock movie long after the fact, doesn't want the soundtrack to reflect the film as on screen things might be better. I haven't seen the film, nor have I seen the Broadway show ... though I did know the original hairdresser for the run. I want to. I will. I'll just forget about what I've already heard. Actually, there's lots of soundtracks that don't work without the visuals. Though the song is always great, out of context most people have no clue what Sondheim's "Send In The Clowns" is remotely about. I do have to say I enjoyed Alec Baldwin few moments singing & its ashame they're but only a few. He doesn't have the most picture perfect voice but yet it shines because of that fact. He's also funny ... this album could use some humor. Foreigner's "I Want To Know What Love Is" is one of the few songs that comes off as fresh. Now with a female voice, Malin Akerman, the change in gender brings new depth to the original, it might even be better. "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" with Catherine Zeta-Jones is one of the few authentic sounding rock songs & also is just as good as the original. Mary J. Blige shows up on a few songs & you can hear the difference between the singer & the actors. Her songs are the best by far. Blige's rendition of Journey's "Anyway You Want It" is the most vibrant song in the collection & sounds like Rent, which tried for a hard rock feel without imitating & succeeded because of it. "Undercover Love" is an 80's Sheila E type techno beat hip-hop/pop that comes out of nowhere. Nice to see they are talking about other parts of the 80's but this is just a bump on the road. What I'd like to see next is a compilation of all the songs in their original form, as this is obviously for people who don't like 80's music but to be trendy want to say they do. For those that feel I'm being harsh, just because these don't compare to the original versions that we all love, citing another movie is proof that this is not the case at all. I love interpretation as much as anyone. Further, to show I'm not alone I'd like to do something I rarely do & cite the music critic resource of the masses, allmusic.com, so one can compare two different critics: "That's kind of what squeaky clean Julianne Hough does here - she pretends she’s a rocker but never can disguise that she'd recoil in horror if a Tommy Lee crossed her path, let alone a Mick Mars. But that's who Rock Of Ages is for: the legions who want to pretend to rock, who laugh at the excesses of the past because they're loathe to engage with the present. On film or on-stage it might be easy to get wrapped up in the spectacle, but on record, the candied affectations are too much to bear. Apart from Alec Baldwin, that is. He's funny."