Released on the cusp of the new millennium, where boy bands, TRL and bubblegum pop had become the pop culture mainstays to end the era, Cameron Crowe’s “Almost Famous” rebuked the trends, gave the middle finger to O-Town and re-established the importance of music from the 60s and 70s. “Almost Famous” is the semi-autobiographical tale of writer-director Cameron Crowe, who was hired as a teenager by Rolling Stone magazine; set to write a cover story on the fictitious up and coming rock band Stillwater, “Almost Famous” is the coming-of-age story of William Miller as he discovers love, life and the rock ‘n roll way of life that he so desperately loved.
More so than any other filmmaker of his generation, Crowe is meticulously aware of the importance of his films song selections, which is highlighted by his use of music in “Almost Famous.” Though the film itself featured over 50 songs, which takes the listener on a musical journey, the soundtrack highlights only seventeen of the film’s tracks. And while the selections may seem random to the un-trained, the music ebbs and flows in the context of the film. While Crowe could have selected seventeen tracks that were popular, he instead takes the listener on an experience of music that blends the renowned and the obscure. Well-known tracks such as Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man” are situated next to lesser-known tracks like The Who’s “Sparks.” Tracks that are often forgotten, though just as important, as the songs that receive recognition from the era are given an opportunity to be showcased; rather than just be brushed aside for the Led Zeppelin’s and Joni Mitchell’s of the time, David Bowie’s cover of “Waiting for the Man” and “One Way Out” by The Allman Brothers are highlighted.
While the soundtrack is still enjoyable for the average CD shopper who has never seen the film, it is particularly powerful for fans of the movie or classic rock; many of tracks work brilliantly in the film—particularly Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer,” which eerily predates the journey of up-and-coming rock ‘n rollers. With the exception of the Tears for Fears cover of “Mad World” in “Donnie Darko,” a single song has never been so masterfully used in a motion picture. Given Crowe’s phenomenal song choices, it’s a shame that nearly six years after its release a second volume of music has yet to be released.
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