The Rock of Ages soundtrack let this listener down fairly hard.  The tracks are not identical to the songs as heard in the film, with all of the crowd noise, overlapping dialogue, and crucial sound effects omitted, and even different vocals in some cases.  The idea may have been that, by taking out all the charismatic matter that would have meant paying extra royalties to actors, writers, and sound effects editors, the perpetrators could satisfy the musical’s fans with an overly smooth, stripped-bare presentation – and, judging by the reviews at Amazon, they have.

Unfortunately, the Rock of Ages soundtrack sounds more like the experience of listening to a stereo album with one speaker disabled: the backbone, the energy of the film, is gone, and it’s left feeling thin and devoid of substance in too many instances.  A few songs, such as “Nothing But a Good Time” and Julianne Hough’s softer numbers, come out sounding okay, but others are damaged beyond enjoyment in isolation from the film.

For instance, the stomping in unison of several strippers’ high heels that serves as a rousing, slightly menacing percussion to “Any Way You Want It” has apparently been deemed a mere sound effect and not an integral part of the song, and so left off the soundtrack album.  Even some of Mary J. Blige’s spoken lines, which are part of the narrative in addition to spicing the song rather than simply being separate, superfluous dialogue, have been shorn from the soundtrack album.  Similarly, one of Malin Akerman’s lines in “I Want to Know What Love Is”, somewhat muffled as delivered in the film while she’s undoing Tom Cruise’s pants with her teeth, is disappointingly given a straight, non-comic rendition on the soundtrack.

The actors, and particularly those among the cast who are not professional singers by trade, are to be commended for their vocal performances, but all are best appreciated in the busy and colorful context of the film experience.

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