I may think the Lord Of The Rings to be a better movie, or Pulp Fiction to be better written, but Almost Famous is the film that speaks to me the most as a person. It's not a coincidence that the subject material in Almost Famous resembles my life in a few ways. I write rock reviews, as does William Miller, the main character in the movie. "We" both enjoy the same kind of music, and instead of Lester Bangs, I have Chris or Jason (I'm not about to play favorites, hah!). This is why the soundtrack to Almost Famous means something more to me than the usual album, and always will.
First off, there was a lot of music let off this CD. The movie is chock full of great songs, hits or album tracks. A few notable absences: "Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)," "Mona Lisas And Mad Hatters," "Tangerine," "My Cherie Amour"... the list seems to be endless. However, the songs chosen for the album make up for the missing tunes.
Cameron Crowe was once a writer for Rolling Stone, and so when choosing the music for this movie, was not content to just settle for random tracks from the '70s. Each song was chosen for a purpose, and with the intent of leaving an impact. Even better, one doesn't have to have seen the movie itself; these are classic tunes in their own right. There's "I've Seen All Good People: Your Move" from Yes, "Every Picture Tells A Story" from Rod Stewart. Songs like these may definitely be better known from their original release, but they have received a new lease on life.
Special note also has to be made of the two original songs on the album. The first is "Fever Dog", a song performed in the movie by Stillwater. While recorded in 2000, it could have lifted directly from the 70's, It establishes a retro, hard rock sound that well. I could see Zeppelin having covered this in the day. The second is "Lucky Trumble", written by Nancy Wilson of Heart. This instrumental track is very Beatle-ish, at times reminding me of "Strawberry Fields Forever."
There are a few tracks that stand out though above the rest as seminal moments in the film. Cat Stevens' "The Wind" is played over the image of a lone Kate Hudson, dancing across a gym strewn with red paper, while the band she loves signs over to the corporate entity. Cameron Crowe himself states this as the symbolic moment when rock changed forever, towards the bloated monstrosity it is today. The Beach Boys heavy, psychedelic "Feel Flows" resides over the first true heart to heart conversation between Kate Hudson's character Penny Lane, and William Miller. William's older sister uses "America" by Simon and Garfunkel to explain why she has to leave home.
However, there is one song in particular that means more to me than any of the others; "Tiny Dancer" Elton John happens to be one of my favorite artists period, but I swear this is not a "homer" pick. The scene where this plays features a quiet tension on the bands bus, due to the actions of the lead guitarist Russell Hammond (I won't go any further, that would spoil a few great scenes). The opening chords to "Tiny Dancer" begin, and slowly but surely, one by one the people on the bus start to sing along. The tension disappears, and the rift is closed. This doesn't do the scene justice; you need to watch it for yourselves. It's a showcase of the power of music, without the macho ideals, and "save the world" BS mentality.
I will admit, this review is extremely personal. However, isn't that what music should do to you? Make it personal? This is an outstanding soundtrack in its own right; Cameron Crowe took pictures and married them to music. For that alone, I recommend Almost Famous.