The Rugrats Movie
Music From the Motion Picture (Interscope 90181)
There's a reason "Rugrats" is one of the most popular shows on cable. Not only is its writing and animation sharp enough to hold the attention of adult viewers, but its characters are drawn without the condescension that often colors kidvid.
In short, it's an equal-opportunity entertainer, one that doesn't discriminate on the basis of age or sophistication. So it shouldn't come as any surprise that "The Rugrats Movie: Music from the Motion Picture" is equally eclectic in its approach.
On the one hand, it makes no bones about appealing to the grammar school kids in the audience, stuffing the soundtrack with rap and funk and drawing from such MTViewable stars as Mya, Ma$e, Blackstreet and Busta Rhymes.
At the same time, the album also shows some pity for the parents. So there are also more than a few nods to Mom and Dad's music, from "I Throw My Toys Around," a sweet, new- wave-ish collaboration between No Doubt and Elvis Costello, to a story-oriented rewrite of Blondie's "One Way or Another." There's even Devo doing a remake of the David Seville oldie "Witch Doctor."
This isn't the sort of soundtrack that stands simply on the merits of its music. Most of the songs refer to action or characters in the movie; some are even performed by the characters themselves (most notably on "Dil-a-Bye" and "Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Yum"). Unless you're tuned into the 'Rats world (or have seen the movie), much of the album will be mystifying.
Even if you are a "Rugrats" initiate, some aspects of the album will seem less than obvious. What, for example, is the point of the blink-and-you-miss-them celebrity cameos on "The World Is Something New to Me"? Is there really some thread connecting Lou Rawls and Laurie Anderson, Beck and the B-52's, Iggy Pop and rapper B-Real? If so, could someone explain it to me?
Such flaws, though, are few and far between. More to the point, they're almost completely overshadowed by such unexpected pleasures as Lisa Loeb's sweetly petulant "All Day," or Busta Rhymes' fast-and-furious "On Your Marks, Get Set, Ready, Go!" All told, "The Rug-rats Movie" soundtrack is a good time waiting to be had by all. ***
Blues on the Bayou (MCA 11879)
Because B.B. King has been focusing so much on projects in recent years - doing duets, playing with pop stars, joining all-star jams - it has been some time since he settled into an album of straight-up blues. Fortunately, "Blues on the Bayou" more than makes up for the wait. In his liner notes, King describes the album as going "back to basics," and that pretty much sums up the album's thrust. Although "Shake It Up and Go," which finds King on acoustic, is something of a novelty, most tunes sound as if they could have come from almost any stage of King's career, from the funky, horn-spiked "Bad Case of Love" to the growling "Blues in 'G." ***1/2
Vol. 2 ... Hard Knock Life (Rockafella/Def Jam 314 558 902)
Some rappers owe their reps to having good flow; others owe their fame to the brutal power of their wordplay. Jay-Z is strong on both fronts, but what puts his second album, "Vol. 2 ... Hard Knock Life," over the top is his way with a hook. Sure, some of the credit belongs with his producers, who take familiar samples (Isaac Hayes' "Theme From 'Shaft,' " Talking Heads' "Once In a Lifetime") and shape them into fresh new grooves (on "Reservoir Dogs" and "It's Alright," respectively). But the strongest hooks are purely verbal, from the call-and-response chorus of "Can I Get A ..." to the punchy refrain of "Money, Cash, Hoes." Add in an impressive array of guest stars, from Jermaine Dupri to Foxy Brown, and there's little to knock about "Hard Knock Life." ***
No Security (Virgin 7243 8 46740)
Over the last decade, the Rolling Stones have fallen into a fairly predictable work schedule. First, they cut a new studio album; next, they tour for two years to promote the album; then they release a live album, to keep their name in the public eye until they get around to repeating the process. "No Security" represents the live-album phase of their current cycle, and as such, is unlikely to cause much of a stir. A pity, because the band's stage sound is stronger than it has been in decades, igniting "Gimme Shelter" and lending added impact to "Waiting on a Friend." There are also a few cameo appearances, including Dave Matthews (!) on "Memory Motel," but on the whole, the Stones are the stars of this show. ***
Redneck Wonderland (Columbia 69682)
Some things about Midnight Oil never change. Scan the lyric sheet to "Redneck Wonderland," and it's obvious that the Australian quintet remains focused on the same social and environmental issues that fueled earlier efforts like 1988's "Diesel and Dust." Slip the disc into the CD player, though, and it becomes immediately apparent that the band's sound has shifted dramatically. Between the frantic drum 'n' bass pulse underpinning the title tune and the semi-industrial crunch of the guitars on "Comfortable Place on the Couch," Midnight Oil has significantly updated its instrumental approach. Better yet, it works, bringing additional drama to "Safety Chain Blues" and pulling extra passion from singer Peter Garrett on the surging, anthemic "White Skin Black Heart." ***
The Wizard of Oz
The Story & Songs of The Wizard of Oz: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Special Edition (Rhino/Turner Movie Classics 75516)
With the re-release of "The Wizard of Oz," more merchandising of this classic film was inevitable. Bring it on, if it means such delights as "The Story & Songs of The Wizard of Oz," a "special edition" of the original soundtrack. It's not as comprehensive as the two-disc "deluxe" edition released a few years ago, but this one has dialogue as well as music and is drawn directly from the movie's new stereophonic soundtrack. It also expands the original 39-minute MGM record into 78 minutes, with Judy Garland's songs melting like lemon drops in your ears, as well as such delicious lines as "Some people without brains do an awful lot of talking" and "Who could've thought a good little girl like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness?" ****
Pub Date: 11/12/98