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David A STEWART Cookies Fortune   OST     BMG/RCA 74321 661102  [42.12]




Cookies Fortune, is one of this year's major films, receiving acclaim with its all star cast, and original, mood-setting film score written by Dave Stewart. Directed and produced by the prolific Robert Altman who is credited with making more than thirty films, all of which share wide-ranging casts and musical undertows; in the case of Cookie's Fortune, the Blues.

Patricia Neal plays 'Cookie' an eccentric old widow, who flouting convention, shares her home (and games of one-upmanship!) with Wills (Charles D Sutton), a middle aged black man. Wills has a penchant for bourbon and Theo's Bar, a blues owned by Theo (Rufus Thomas), but dominated by the voluptuous Josie. Other central characters in the film are Cookie's estranged nieces, Glen Close, as 'Camille' and Julianne Moore as 'Cora'. Cookie's one cherished relative is Cora's restless daughter Emma, played by Liv Tyler, who shares Wills' fondness for bourbon and Cookie! Emma is the local object of desire for both Manny (Lyle Lovette) a local catfish supplier and Jason the deputy sheriff, played by Chris O'Donell.

Altman called upon the talents of the iconic Dave Stewart to create the 'Cookies Fortune' soundtrack that would reflect the feel of the film, which is set in Holly Springs in the Deep South of America. Himself a passionate devotee of the blues, Stewart produced the award winning documentary 'Deep Blues' - the history of Delta blues. To fulfil the needs of the film for musicians, who could play the roles of Theo and Josie, Altman scoured Memphis, Tennessee where in Beale Street he came across Rufus Thomas and Ruby Wilson.

The soundtrack opens with the instrumental "Cookie" which introduces the album's main theme. Some evocative electric bottleneck guitar carries a typical blues riff over a percussion and synthesiser track. The saxophone takes over the theme, then the two duet, taking a line each. The scene is set. This is the Deep South; hard living, sultry and with a hint of danger.

"Camilla's Prayer" features steamy bottleneck blues with a dance track laid underneath and a spoken vocal. Throughout, the guitar playing (most of it by Dave Stewart himself) and the excellent sax solos (by Candy Dulfer) seem to juxtapose the hard-working honesty of days in the country with the darker forces of bar-based nightlife and tangled relationships.

"A Good Man", like many of the tracks on this album, picks up on the main theme, but then moves on to a vocal rendition featuring some screaming blues by none other than Bono!

The film's featured composition is "I'm Coming Home", sung by Ruby Wilson, who plays the part of Josie. Humming along with the main theme, her vocal develops into a blistering blues anthem, with harmonium backing giving a gospel feel to the whole song.

The album is built around these three tracks: Cookie/Wild Women Don't Get The Blues/Helios/Camilla's Prayer/The Cookie Jar/Hey Josie/All I'm Saying Is This/A Good Man/Did Good Didn't I?/A Golden Boat/I'm Coming Home/Willis Is Innocent/Patrol Car Blues/Emma/.Humming Home.

The rest of the tracks are of a "fill-in" nature, and help to move the story along. They give the album as a whole a shimmering, heatwave quality with synthesiser-produced "wave" effects, persistent drumming and a good deal of sampling taken from lines spoken by the film's actors.

My personal favourite is "Patrol Car Blues", a pulsing instrumental with a shuffle feel and an electric guitar with a tremolo setting employed. The whole piece builds up menacingly, simulating the approach of some unseen danger, and explodes with a train whistle/scream from the guitar, complete with a percussion line echoing the sound of the wheels on the track. This one features the guitar playing of The Edge and is for me the high point of the album.

"Cookies Fortune" contains no desperately original melodies, themes or lyrics, but then that's not the point. The familiarity of the sounds and the Deep Blues clichés are what is needed to evoke the heat and passion of the American Deep South, and this CD certainly does that.


Katherine Fear


Katherine Fear

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