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I was a victim of the Fame/Kids From Fame mania in the early eighties (thanks to the influence of my much older sisters!) and even after the hype died down I have remained a fan. The original movie introduced us to a bunch of singing, dancing drama and music students whose lives were filled with chaos and creativity. The movie then spawned a mega successful television show spin off which was a little more child-friendly for audiences. I still have a massive collection of cassette tapes and vinyl records from the 'Fame' franchise. Most of the songs never made it to CD but because Fame:The Movie was so popular and groundbreaking as a film, it did eventually make it to a CD release in 2003. The CD features songs performed by the characters from the 1980 movie. The movie, despite being a musical drama, was quite gritty and raw in places and the music reflects this, so expect it to be a little more hardhitting than the 'Hi-fidelity' numbers you might know from the spin off television show!
The booklet that accompanies this album explains how the cast were chosen from relatively unknown actors as the director wanted a bit of realism. Irene Cara was probably the most experienced actress and singer. The album opens with her classic hit 'Fame' - and I bet you all can sing the next line of the chorus? The song is an apt theme tune for representing the ambition of all the students hoping to make it in the entertainment world. It's a rousing, upbeat, positive pop song that demands to be danced along to and is also good for karaoke! The album actually features a bonus instrumental version of this track so if you feel the urge to sing, go ahead!
The second track is also performed by Irene Cara. As someone who used to be involved in local performance groups I have heard this song sung a million times by young girls hoping to make it big in the business! It's a sad, slow song that sums up Cara's character 'Coco' and what she is going through in the movie. The barebones piano and vocal melody makes this a heartrending rendition and it's drama and emotion never fades no matter how many times I hear it! There is also a bonus instrumental version of this which stands alone as a beautiful piano melody but which is great for karaoke lovers too!
'Hot Lunch Jam' is a track that plays during the movie when the students are messing around and having fun during a lunch break. The movie itself was originally titled 'Hot Lunch' so this track is a kind of alternative theme tune and has all the razzmatazz and sassiness that you'd expect from a gritty, sexy teen movie soundrack leader. It's a fun song with some silly lyrics but great for dancing!
Paul McCrane sings 'Dogs In the Yard' and 'Is it Ok to Call You Mine' as well as an added bonus track called 'Miles From Here'. You may know McCrane as Doctor Romano from hospital drama ER, the moody guy whose arm got chopped off by a helicopter. You might find it surprising that the guy can actually hold a tune. The first two songs mentioned here are slow and sappy numbers. 'Dogs' is the bravest of the songs with lyrics like "I wanna be bad and not even care, I wanna go out of my head somewhere...". The voice that sings this however, is sort of innocent and naive and this makes you think that these sentiments are simply the frustrations of a dreamer who can't get where he wants to be. 'Is it Okay...' is an accoustic guitar number and is full of romance and tenderness. It's a beautiful lovesong that is only let down by the fact that McCrane's voice is just too soft and sweet and can't convey the passion and need that the lyrics mention. Although there are some apt lyrics which capture the truisms of teen angst the bonus track sounds just a little dated and perhaps there was good reason for it being omitted first time around.
'Red Light' is a funky pop song that feels heavily influence by a 1970's kind of disco vibe. As such it seems a little dated but is reasonably exciting to listen to and it has a catchy chorus.
'Never Alone' is performed by the Contemporary Gospel Chorus and The High School of Music and Art who are credited as the inspiration for the story and sounds in 'Fame'. It is a marvellous mix of stunning soulful voices, percussion and pianos. There is a real sense of joy and celebration in this song and listening to it always boosts my mood. fun, joyous and fantastic!
'Ralph and Monty' is an instrumental piece performed on piano. It is a very serious, sad and mature melody and to me it represents the more serious issues which were represented in the movie. It is a beautiful melody but has a mournful atmosphere.
'I Sing The Body Electric' is a wonderful track performed by the cast of Fame: Laura Dean, Irene Cara, Paul McCrane, Traci Parnell and Eric Brockingon. The lyrics are very clever and represent the birth of the successful 'stars' from the chrysalis' of the students. Lines like "I celebrate the me yet to come..." and "when I become one with the sun..." help to reveal the massive yearning, positive drive and ambition that motivates these students to make a success of their lives. The singers take seperate lines as well as singing together and this allows them all to shine as individuals as well as to represent the unity and reliance on one another which is so important in their motivation. The latter part of the song speeds up and the drama sky-rockets. It's a fabulous ending and one that speaks volumes about the nature of the entertainment business and the type of characters who chose this life.
Overall this is a great album and is particularly great for helping to improve my mood. The pop numbers are fun and stimulating whilst the slower songs soothe and comfort me. If you love musical movies like 'Footloose' or 'Chicago' I'd definately reccommend getting this! It' the best Fame soundtrack out there! Get your legwarmers and leotards at the ready!
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Out Here On My Own
3 Hot Lunch Jam
4 Dogs In The Yard
5 Red Light
6 Is It OK If I Call You Mine
7 Never Alone
8 Ralph And Monty (Dressing Room Piano)
9 I Sing The Body Electric
10 Miles From Here
11 Out Here On My Own