Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Soundtrack Songs: If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out

Cat Stevens: If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out


Most movie buffs know that the dark, existential cult comedy favorite Harold and Maude, which revolves around a relationship between a suicidal young man and a giddy woman old enough to be his grandmother, was critically ignored when it was first released in 1971, though it would go on to make several of the American Film Institute's top 100 lists in and around the turn of the century. But less people know that, despite the relative popularity of Cat Stevens' other output, the two songs which he composed specifically for the movie did not appear in any audio format until their release on a 1984 compilation.

In fact, though a nominal soundtrack containing a different set of tunes was released in the late nineties, the real Harold and Maude soundtrack, which featured a particular set of relatively delicate Cat Stevens tunes carefully cultivated by Stevens to match the movie in pace and premise, was not released until 2007, and then only in a limited edition of 2500 (though links such as the one above still net you import compilations which serve as functionally complete soundtrack disks, as cobbled from other sources).

But whether you have to do it piecemeal of are willing to pay the big bucks for the collectors editions, these songs are worth having, and hearing, both in and of themselves and as the set that Stevens and film director Hal Ashby intended. In the film, and in sequence, the songs lend a sense of youthful vigor and absurdity to the interplay between the emotionally stunted and severely suicidal Harold and his spry septuagenarian fascination. And just as the extant pieces Stevens borrowed for the soundtrack led full lives of their own before the movie, the two songs he wrote for the film -- If You Want To Sing Out, Sing Out and Don't Be Shy -- stand on their own as well, retaining the poignancy of their setting, though they seem a touch lighter without the sense of irony and context which sprung so effectively from the dissonance between the bounciness of Stevens' echoing voice and acoustic strum style and the death fascination of its subjects.

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