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Film Score Divas -- Past, Present and Future

By Cary Wong

Recently, three female vocalists have released new albums that should interest film score fans who like to branch out into the pop world. Maureen McGovern, who could be heard on such Oscar-winning songs as "The Morning After," from The Poseidon Adventure and "We May Never Love Like This Again" from The Towering Inferno, has re-released her 1997 tribute CD to frequent film song contributor Alan and Marilyn Bergman, The Music Never Ends (Fynsworth Alley 302 062 176 2) with three new tracks. Then there's Celine Dion. For most of the '90s, we couldn't buy a soundtrack without finding her singing along with the composer's main themes (the title song from Beauty and the Beast and "My Heart Will Go On" from Titanic being her most high profile hits). Now Celine has a new CD, One Heart (Sony), which is more a promotion of her new Vegas act than any movie songs. And now, there's Mary Fahl. The former singer for the Celtic-flavored group, The October Project, who was featured on songs for two prestigious Spring 2003 movies, The Guys and Gods and Generals, has released her first solo CD, The Other Side of Time (Odyssey SK 89892).

Maureen McGovern has settled nicely from diva vocalist to cabaret cooing, and her choice of songwriters to highlight on this CD fits her perfectly. Lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman wrote some of the most recognizable songs of the '70s, and have had a lasting relationship with Barbra Streisand. They have been nominated for 16 Academy Awards, winning three. They have collaborated with some of the best film composers including John Williams, Michel Legrand, Marvin Hamlisch and Maurice Jarre. McGovern has always had a strong relationship with film songs, not only singing on the Oscar songs mentioned above, but also providing vocals for David Shire's film compilation CD with wonderful renditions of his Oscar nominated songs from Norma Rae and The Promise. McGovern has re-recorded the later song, "I'll Never Say Goodbye" for her Bergman CD, and it's equally beautiful. Along with the Bergman hits, "The Windmills of Your Mind" and "The Way We Were," there also songs I am unfamiliar with, like the haunting and dissonant bonus track "I Was Born in Love with You" from Wuthering Heights, with Legrand, and the melancholy "What Matters Most" from The Champ, with Dave Grusin. McGovern's performance is impeccable, focusing on a jazzy and languid agenda, and less indulgent than most CDs of this genre.

I'm not going to spend too much time on Celine Dion. Her new CD is total pop, which is not a bad thing, but should hold no interest with film score fans. No film songs here, although I am almost positive that one or more of the light-FM songs will show up in romantic comedies for years to come. I sort of like her rendition of the Roy Orbison song "I Drove All Night," but those car commercials which used that song drove me crazy.

Mary Fahl's solo debut CD is impressive for its diversity, although it mostly stays close to her Celtic roots. She's a brasher, more exciting version of Enya and Sissel, whose new age sounds inspire many of today's filmmakers and composers. Both of her film songs are here, including a more radio-friendly version of the traditional Irish tune, "Dawning of the Day," from The Guys. She wrote the lyrics to "Day," as she does for most of the songs on the CD. There are collaborations with Oscar winning composer Stephen Schwartz on the title song, and Oscar-nominated songwriter Ramsey McLean on another. She even tackles the classical arena with Donizetti's aria "Una Furtiva Lagrima" as well as a traditional jarcha, erotic poetry (!) written by Moorish women around the 12th Century, called "Ben Aindi Habibi." Mary Fahl, thankfully, is not your typical pop singer. Somewhat unwieldy, but always interesting. More filmmakers should pay attention to the vocal talent on display in this CD.

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