This review of the CD entitled "Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil" was written by Marle Becker and appeared in Volume I, Issue 4 (February, 1998) of Applause! Applause! published by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens.
"Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil" - Various Artists
Music From And Inspired By The Motion Picture
(Malpaso/Warner Bros. Records - 9 46829-2)
Moviegoers who pay careful attention to detail will be among the first to extol the virtues of a powerful soundtrack and the everlasting impact it has on the finished product. Right up there for substantial quality with "Sleepless In Seattle" and Clint Eastwood's "The Bridges Of Madison County" a few years back, and more recently, "Titanic" (the movie!) and "L.A. Confidential" (reviewed in Applause! Applause! Volume I, Issue 2), is Eastwood's outstanding compilation for the movie version of John Berendt's best-selling book, "Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil". This time around Mr. Eastwood has put together a ripsnorting greeting card of distinct musical couriers who bring new life to the always surprising songs of Johnny Mercer, and the fruit of his labor turns out to be one of the most tantalizing and optimistic compilations you'll ever slip in to your CD player.
You can search far and wide, but when it comes to ability and know-how, you won't find a more accomplished collective anywhere: a warm blanket of unforgettable standards ("Autumn Leaves", "Skylark"), with remarkable performers (Rosemary Clooney, Cassandra Wilson), and exemplary musicians (pianists Alan Broadbent and Brad Mehldau, bassist Christian McBride, and guitarist Kevin Eubanks); all capable of shining individually, absolutely intoxicating interacting with each other! Could one or two be singled out as favorites? Well, there's Clooney's awesome "Fools Rush In" or, better yet, Kevin Mahogany's haunting "Laura", with outstanding support from Michael Brecker on tenor sax. Or k.d. Lang's meticulous "Skylark" (even though her phrasing sounds an awful lot like Bette Midler's in the '70's!), or how about Wilson's absorbing "Days Of Wine And Roses", both assisted and underscored dramatically by the saxophone of Joshua Redman. And then there's.....oh, hell, it just goes on and on! Add Paula Cole, Alison Kraus, Joe Williams, Tony Bennett, Diana Krall, etc., etc.. Get the picture? Even a delightful and perfectly charming cover of Mercer's "Old Black Magic" by the non-singing star of the movie, Kevin Spacey, works like a charm. This soundtrack is so good, one can almost - just barely, mind you - forgive Eastwood's stab at "Accentuate The Positive" or Alison Eastwood's "Come Rain Or Come Shine"; daughter, however, comes across much better than daddy.
The transition of "Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil" to the silver screen just misses and, what might have been a great movie, merely passes for mediocre. You might simply want to skip the movie, purchase the book (now in it's 185th astounding week on the N.Y. Times Best Seller list!) and the soundtrack, and enjoy them simultaneously in the privacy of your own little garden. With sterling performances almost all the way around, and the creme de la creme of the jazz world on one amazing CD, the soundtrack to "Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil" is the perfect valentine for that extra special someone in your life, besides it's not fattening and you won't have to toss it out in two weeks because it died! Simply put, soundtracks literally don't get any better than this. If you've set some strict standards this year for spending money wisely on only the best, here's your chance to indulge yourself in a big way. And, hey, Clint, don't sing anymore - just continue to put out these great CD's!