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I can't understand it, you know. I don't like musicals. I don't like Madonna. The tracks swing between the dreadful and the good but this CD is one I play regularly. It's a guilty secret and even I don't know why I do it.
It's an original soundtrack recording from the 1996 motion picture, which was based loosely on the life of Maria Eva Duarte de Perón, commonly known as Evita. It's loosely based because the movie and this CD, if you listen to it as a story, will lead you to think sympathetically of Evita, whereas the truth is that she was one of the most hated and powerful women of the age despite having died at the relatively young age of 33.
In its turn the movie grew from the nineteen-seventies stage musical of the same name, with lyrics by Tim Rice and orchestration by Andrew Lloyd Webber. As you might expect it's an altogether grander production than the original musical, with additional orchestration by David Cullen and even a couple of extra songs.
It may sound obvious to say that the trouble with sound tracks is that you can't see what's going on, but the CD opens with "Requiem for Evita" and it's more than four minutes of deadly dirge. If you're watching you see the extravaganza that was Evita's funeral, but the music on its own saps me of the will to live every time I hear it and it's a track I regularly skip. It slides neatly into "Oh what a circus" and we meet Antonio Banderas as Che, the narrator of the story. I was impressed by Banderas' singing voice when I saw the movie, but it lacks something when you can't see facial expression or gestures. He's an actor who can sing, rather than a singer who can act.
The best balance between acting and singing ability rests with Jimmy Nail, who plays Magaldi, the singer who is Eva's ticket from rural poverty to the big city. When I saw the movie I felt that Nail had been miscast. The part really needed someone older, seedier. I was more impressed when I listened to the CD. In "On this night of a thousand stars" and "Eva, beware of the city" the quality of his voice is apparent and he manages to convey emotion, something which wasn't always achieved by other members of the cast.
My niggling doubts about Madonna surfaced in "Eva, beware of the city", but in fairness it's not the type of song where her strength would normally lie. She is far better on the slower songs and in this one, with its regular changes of pace, I felt that she was keeping up with Nail rather than matching him. It also demonstrates that she's a singer with acting ability rather than the other way round. She has the telling lines "My father's other family were middle class and we were kept out of sight, hidden from view, at his funeral" but manages to deliver them with a complete lack of bitterness, despite having just said "Screw the middle classes. I will never accept them."
"Another suitcase in another hall" is a triumph for her. She brings out the vulnerability of the young girl, alone in the city, passed from man to man and unsure of where she's going. The orchestra is quieter, softer, and it sets off her voice to perfection. The song she really had to get right though was the dreadfully saccharine "Don't cry for me Argentina" which she delivers perfectly. She couldn't have afforded to have done otherwise. I've always thought it a great pity that this happened to be playing on the local radio when Argentina invaded the Falklands all those years ago. Had it not been it would probably have died the death it deserves.
Jonathan Pryce, as Perón, doesn't have a lot a lot to sing in the movie, which is a pity as he's well up to conveying the emotion, particularly in "She is a diamond" and the hesitancy in his first meeting with Eva in "I'd be surprisingly good for you". His voice lacks technical brilliance but he more than makes up for it with his acting ability.
I've a personal favourite on this CD: "Perón's latest flame" sung by Antonio Banderas and Madonna. With its lively, foot-trapping backing the upper classes detail their dislike of Evita. They wouldn't mind seeing her in Harrods (they used to have a branch in Buenos Aires) but "behind the jewellery counter, not in front." The lyrics are clever and witty: they leave me with a smile on my face.
Listen to the CD as a story rather than as music, but be aware that it isn't the complete truth. It fails to bring out the evil that she perpetuated in Argentina. You will get slight hints of the way money was diverted for her personal use in "And the money kept rolling in" and of the way she flaunted her glamour and money in front of her "shirtless ones" in "Rainbow High". Don't cry at her funeral though.
The CD is cautiously recommended, but if I had the choice again I'd probably buy the DVD and have the option of watching the movie. It's also available on Amazon for £6.97 - less than the price of the CD.
Audio CD (October 28, 1996)
Number of Discs: 1
Catalogue Number: 9362464322
Price: £10.99 (Amazon)
1. Requiem For Evita
2. Oh What A Circus
3. On This Night Of A Thousand Stars
4. Eva And Magaldi/Eva Beware Of The City
5. Buenos Aires
6. Another Suitcase In Another Hall
7. Goodnight And Thank you
8. I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You
9. Peron's Latest Flame
10. A New Argentina
11. Don't Cry For Me Argentina
12. High Flying, Adored
13. Rainbow High
14. And The Money Kept Rolling In (And Out)
15. She Is A Diamond
16. Waltz For Eve And Che
17. You Must Love Me
18. Eva's Final Broadcast
Playing time 77m 15sec