Hollywood Hits: 70 Years of Memorable Movie Music
Assembled as a companion piece/pledge item for the 2007 PBS television concert special Movie Songs Live, this boxed collection is divvied into separate discs, each devoted to movie themes, Oscar-winning songs and film musicals. While the vast and rich history of the motion picture music genre cannot possibly be compressed into any three-CD set, the compilers did a remarkable job of covering the touchstones -- although there are only 54 tracks here in all, there is little to quibble about when playing the what's-included-and-what's-left-out? game. These are all original recordings, not remakes by cheesy pops orchestras or Broadway wannabes. Most of the chosen tracks are instantly recognizable, certified classics so ingrained into the collective consciousness that all it takes is a few seconds before you're singing or humming along (so don't be surprised if, after spinning a disc, you find yourself walking around belting out "Maria, I just met a girl named Maria" or whistling the theme from The Bridge on the River Kwai). Great movie music will do more than remind you of the film in which it was originally featured, and many of the tracks here are evocative of entire eras, deeply embedded emotions and, in the larger sense, the art of cinema itself. Gene Kelly's "Singing in the Rain," the insanely addictive (whether you want it to be or not) theme from Rocky and Judy Garland singing "Over the Rainbow" (or, for that matter, "Easter Parade," the latter with Fred Astaire) are more than just Hollywood hits, despite the set's title; they are firmly entrenched in our collective cultural makeup. Although the collection does indeed reach back some seven decades (beginning with the iconic theme from 1939's Gone with the Wind), it weighs heavily toward the middle part of the covered period, the '50s through the '70s, gliding easily from James Bond to 2001, Doris Day to Isaac Hayes, Oklahoma! to Guys and Dolls, "Cheek to Cheek" to "Some Enchanted Evening." If we did want to play the what's-missing game, we might bring up the most glaring omission of The Sound of Music (which spent more than four years on the Billboard LP chart and contributed "Do-Re-Mi," "My Favorite Things" and "Climb Ev'ry Mountain"), as well as Grease, How the West Was Won, Hello Dolly, Peter Pan and even A Hard Day's Night. But who's complaining? Hollywood Hits is a rewarding, smartly curated one-stop-shopping keepsake for anyone who wants to keep -- just like the subtitle says -- some of the most memorable movie music handy.