Friday, June 27, 2014

The Hell of It

In today's mail, I received a copy of Culture Factory USA's limited edition high-definition CD of Paul Williams' soundtrack for PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE, which I've heard is on the verge of exhausting its 3000 print run. I'm glad I snagged it (from Amazon); the soundtrack album hits the listener differently than the music heard in context, even on the 5.1 Blu-ray discs; as I listened to this CD, I could hear the instrumentation deployed as a means of complementing the lyrics, of couching the lyrics; the placement of a Hammond organ here or an electric guitar there stands out more as an element of composition - as the official statement of this musical idea - than it does when there is a visual element also in play. For these reasons, I found "Upholstery" - in some ways the wittiest of its musical satires if one of the score's less compelling songs - is in some ways the most revelatory cue from a production angle. But listening to this collection of songs again confirmed for me all the more that this is Williams' masterpiece. The libretto cuts deep into matters of life and love and metaphysics, not in the least shying away from the film's satirical basis in FAUST, but also the forces of irony that bring us all to our knees at one time or another. In some ways, it's more than De Palma's film warranted, and the primary key to its greatness.

Here's a song that I think could stand as an epitaph for almost anyone who's been around the block, in the arts, in business, in life or love - which I think gives its vaudevillian/music hall trappings a real sting, one that says that all stories must come to an end because the show must go on.

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