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Sound Check

The soundtrack to The Bridges of Madison County isn't nearly so easy to dismiss (though God knows I had a field day with the book), and in fact, it's the only CD of this cursed bunch that warrants a positive rating on the purchasability meter, independent of the film it's compiled to accompany. Bridges director and soundtrack producer Clint Eastwood is well-known for his discerning taste in jazz, and with the Bridges disc, he's taken the opportunity to dust off some lesser-known gems from the jazz and pop catalogs (back in the day when jazz and pop weren't necessarily mutually exclusive terms). The CD is framed with brief lulls called "Doe Eyes (Love Theme from The Bridges of Madison County)" composed by Eastwood himself, but it's the gooey center of the album where the taste is. A more literal, or less assured, producer than Eastwood might have packed this soundtrack with Whitney Houston-esque booty ballads and stayed perfectly true to Bridges author Robert James Waller's saccharine vision. But Eastwood steers into sophistication with ten unhackneyed selections from Dinah Washington ("I'll Close My Eyes," "Blue Gardenia," "Soft Winds"), Johnny Hartman ("Easy Living," "I See Your Face Before Me," "It Was Almost Like a Song," "For All We Know"), Barbara Lewis ("Baby, I'm Yours") and Irene Kral ("It's a Wonderful World," "This Is Always"). There's true, scratchy vinyl romance in these old tunes, and it shines through regardless of the book or movie to which they lend their new-love aura. Call it two thumbs up, since it beats bearable -- and the rest of these maddeningly unnecessary soundtracks -- by a country mile. (****)

-- Brad Tyer

***** Any film with Geena Davis
**** Any film with Meg Ryan
*** Any film with Sandra Bullock
** Any film with Julia Ormond
* Any film with Madonna

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