Album: Ali: Original Soundtrack

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Album:

Ali: Original Soundtrack

Artist: Lisa Gerrard, Pieter Bourke
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Label: Interscope Records

Most soundtracks for movie blockbusters are a mixed bag, and this one is no exception. The Ali soundtrack is heavily weighted toward R&B, and on that front the album is a success, despite R. Kelly’s two horrendously saccharine power ballads. There’s no denying the greatness of classic tracks like Aretha Franklin’s supremely melancholy “Ain’t No Way” and Al Green’s live rendition of “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and David Elliot continues the old-school theme, with a warm and bluesy remake of “Bring It On Home to Me.” Alicia Keyes’s “Fight” channels the ‘70s…

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Most soundtracks for movie blockbusters are a mixed bag, and this one is no exception. The Ali soundtrack is heavily weighted toward R&B, and on that front the album is a success, despite R. Kelly’s two horrendously saccharine power ballads. There’s no denying the greatness of classic tracks like Aretha Franklin’s supremely melancholy “Ain’t No Way” and Al Green’s live rendition of “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and David Elliot continues the old-school theme, with a warm and bluesy remake of “Bring It On Home to Me.” Alicia Keyes’s “Fight” channels the ‘70s vibe of James Brown’s Funky People, and the fabulous Angie Stone breaks it down and keeps it moving with “20 Dollars.” Things go awry when it comes to the rock & roll selections. Everlast’s blues-rock posturing on “The Greatest” is irksome, and the Watchtower Four’s remake of the classic Bob Dylan song “All Along the Watchtower” (done best by Jimi Hendrix) is a travesty. Topnotch contributions by cello virtuoso Martin Tillman, former Dead Can Dance vocalist Lisa Gerrard, and Afropop superstar Salif Keita help balance things out. —Rebecca Levine

Michael Mann’s warts ‘n’ all biopic of three-time heavyweight boxing champ Muhammad Ali spans the most triumphant and turbulent decade of the legend’s career. But like many a film marketing plan, its first soundtrack release seemed more concerned with selling CDs to those less familiar with Ali—and oddly, Mann’s powerful film itself—than with accurately documenting the film’s true musical soul. This second volume corrects that misstep, collecting much of Lisa Gerrard’s and previous collaborator and former Dead Can Dance sideman Pieter Bourke’s atmospheric, largely electronic underscore as well as an eclectic, less obviously pop-conscious slate of songs and music by Chicago bluseman Mighty Joe Young, nouveau R&B drum/bass/vocal merchants Dungeon East and Whild Peach, trans-genre cellist Martin Tillman, and Malian vocal legend Salif Keita. It’s a release that variously seems better attuned to the director’s own adventurous tastes in film scoring, more emblematic of Ali’s own complex character and international legacy—and, more importantly, an ambience-rich document of the film’s true musical and artistic spirit. —Jerry McCulley

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Film:Ali (2001)

Ali

Michael Mann

Ali is a rush of charm, violence, and well-crafted mythmaking sure to enthrall. From the unforgettable surge of the opening—a 10-minute montage of sheer brilliance where formative scenes from the early life of Cassius Clay float along on the rapture of a live performance by Sam Cooke in a Harlem nightclub—through to Muhammad Ali’s departure for Zaire to fight George Foreman, Michael Mann’s homage is mostly crisp and fleet-footed. As Clay/Ali, Will Smith acquits himself marvelously due in large part to his uncanny re-creation of Ali’s most famous weapon,…

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