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CRAZY IN ALABAMA – Mark Snow

October 22, 1999 Leave a comment Go to comments

crazyinalabamaOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Another actor cashing in on a currently in-vogue trend by turning his hand at direction is heartthrob Spanish thespian Antonio Banderas, who has cast his wife Melanie Griffith in the lead role of his unlikely debut, Crazy In Alabama. The film is a comedy-drama based on the novel by Mark Childress, and tells the story of a backwoods Alabama boy named Peejoe (Lucas Black), whose life is altered dramatically when he gets an education in life from his glamorous, eccentric Aunt Lucille (Griffith), who herself has escaped from her abusive husband to pursue her dream of Hollywood TV stardom. The film also features supporting performances from an unlikely group of actors, including David Morse, Cathy Moriarty, Rod Steiger, 70s heartthrob Robert Wagner, novelist Fannie Flagg, rock legend Meatloaf and film directors Paul Mazursky and Randal Kleiser.

When the CD for Crazy In Alabama plopped through my letterbox and I first set eyes on the cheesy reflective sunglasses that adorn the front cover, I immediately expected it to be one of horrible synthy-pop efforts which works well in the film it is written for, but ends up falling on its face when listened to as a standalone CD through the lack of an emotional connection. Imagine my surprise, then, when the lovely, heartfelt piano and string main theme popped up in the first track, ‘Pools of Freedom’, and bowled me over completely. Although Mark Snow’s gorgeous melody is not quite as prominent as it could be on the rest of the CD, subsequent cues such as ‘Fame and Fortune’, the slightly more urgent ‘The Golden Gate’ and the superb ‘End Credits’ adopt a similar style, and are undoubtedly the best tracks on the album as a result.

Instead, the majority of Snow’s original music has a folksy, homespun quality, filled with soft, inviting country orchestrations for fiddle, harmonica and guitar that convey a sense of welcoming innocence and rustic charm. Written to illustrate Griffith’s character’s upbringing in the deep south, cues such as ‘Mellow Ride’, ‘Movin’ On’, ‘Nehemiah’s March’ and the warm and inviting conclusion in ‘Freedom (Pee Joe’s Waltz)’ further add to Snow’s growing reputation as a composer of note by eliciting a real old-world appeal and sense of warmth. Other cues (‘Faces and Hats’, ‘Headspin’) embrace a much more light-hearted tone, combining jazz and blues motifs with some unusually offbeat orchestrations to great effect, including something that sounds like someone twanging a rubber band a la Seinfeld!

Nancy Sinatra’s ode to kinky footwear ‘These Boots Are Made For Walking’, Little Richards’ rock and roll classic ‘Lucille’, a couple of glamorous 50s swing efforts from Carole King and Burt Dache and the premiere performance of the City of Prague Big Band playing the theme from Bewitched pad out the remainder of the album but, although their songs are all enjoyable enough, it is the score which steals the show. This is an example of Mark Snow at the very top of his game. A world away from The X-Files and all those other alien entity scores, Crazy In Alabama shows him to be a composer with a real sensitivity, a light and delicate touch, and a knack for truly lovely melodies.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Pool of Freedom – Theme from Crazy In Alabama (2:42)
  • These Boots Are Made For Walking (written by Lee Hazlewood, performed by Nancy Sinatra) (2:41)
  • Mellow Ride (1:53)
  • Movin’ On (1:03)
  • Faces and Hats (0:56)
  • Like Little Children (written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, performed by Carole King) (3:11)
  • Pool Fantasy/The Death of Taylor (4:18)
  • Little Miss Happiness (written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King, performed by Burt Dache) (1:38)
  • Nehemiah’s March (3:22)
  • Cell Seduction (1:12)
  • Lucille (written by Albert Collins and Richard Penniman, performed by Little Richard) (2:26)
  • Fame and Fortune (2:07)
  • One Mint Julep (written by Rudolph Toombs, performed by Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra) (3:05)
  • Headspin (1:55)
  • Theme from Bewitched (written by Jack Keller and Howard Greenfield, performed by The City of Prague Big Band) (0:40)
  • The Golden Gate (2:50)
  • Freedom (1:41)
  • Crazy In Alabama – End Titles (5:21)
  • Bonus Track: We Shall Overcome (written by Zilphia Horton, Guy Carawan, Frank Hamilton and Pete Seeger, performed by Sybil) (3:59)

Running Time: 47 minutes 27 seconds

Silva Screen FILMCD-322 (1999)

Music composed and conducted by Mark Snow. Orchestrations by Jonathan Sacks and Debbie Lurie. Recorded and mixed by Larold Rebhun. Edited by Jeff Charbonneau. Album produced by Mark Snow and James Fitzpatrick.

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