The Sopranos

Recipe for a soundtrack: Take one part Three Dog Night, add a cover of a Bob Dylan or Paul Simon song done by a new, "edgy" artist, mix with a convoluted cut of rap and toss in half-a-dozen recent single B-sides. Then find a film or television series to match your soundtrack with. Nine times out of ten, soundtracks suck.

And then there is Peppers and Eggs, the second soundtrack to The Sopranos. The show, which wraps up its third season this Sunday, has redefined musical direction for both the big and little screen. Frequent viewers of the show are as obsessed with the song playing during the end titles as they are with the plot arcs (my prediction for Sunday--Christopher dies). Creator David Chase oversees the selection of music for the show; his selections demonstrate a level of creativity and aptness that is absent from other soundtracks.

A Sopranos song always has some meaning or relationship to a larger theme of the show or episode. Nils Lofgren's haunting "Black Boots" captures the depression that Carmella Soprano felt midway through this season. Kasey Chambers' ode to dependency, "The Captain," defines the Gloria Trillo. The Kinks' "Living on a Thin Line" opened and closed the season's most controversial episode, where a stripper was brutally beaten by her mobster boyfriend.

Peppers and Eggs also has a cover--Bob Dylan sings the unpoetic, yet appropriate Dean Martin tune "Return to Me." Somehow Dylan's voice and subtle musical changes make it seem like a deep, transcending song. Add Elvis Costello, R.L. Burnside and Pigeonhed, and you have an album more diverse than a multicultural center. Toss in an Italian Massive Attack-sound-alike named Madreblu and Otis Redding and you have a dish that will entertain the pickiest of guests.

Until you hear a good one, you don't realize how bad most soundtracks are. Peppers and Eggs is a very good one.

--By Martin Barna


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