Sleepless In Seattle Soundtrack (1993) & You've Got Mail Soundtrack (1998); Two Classic Romantic Comedies From Meg Ryan, Tom Hanks & Nora Ephron With Soundtracks Just ReIssued In Special Colored Vinyl Editions


Gems From the Record Room

You might think of Nora Ephron as an author, but she wrote film screenplays so well that when she had the opportunity to direct her own work, the result was a string of romantic comedies such as Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail. These movies were as successful at the box office as they were beloved by film audiences everywhere. In addition to (co-)writing and directing, Ephron was known to help with the song selection for the soundtracks. One of my favorite reissue labels, Real Gone Music, now offers the two LPs in special colored vinyl editions. These two soundtrack albums are perfect examples of Ephron's sensibility. 

Sleepless In Seattle

There are many ways to summarize the plot of this movie, but I will share a bit of the Real Gone press release for the soundtrack album.
Indeed, the film re-introduced a whole new generation to the unique charms of Jimmy Durante with his renditions of “As Time Goes By” and “Make Someone Happy” over the opening and closing credits, respectively, resulting in a boomlet of enthusiasm for the work of the ol’ Schnozzola. The music was so powerful, in fact, and so integrated with the screenplay that it helped gloss over the incredibility of the film’s premise, which, as you might recall, had Meg Ryan falling in love with Tom Hanks, a stranger she had never met, merely from hearing him being interviewed on a radio talk show on Christmas Eve.  
But such fantasies are what movies are made for, especially romantic comedies...

The songs on the soundtrack work whether you've seen the movie or not; the music is so good that it can stand on its own. If, however, you've seen it, the film and the soundtrack amplify each other. 

After the Jimmy Durante opener, Louis Armstrong offers one of the strongest versions of a song from the Great American Songbook that you're likely to hear, "A Kiss to Build a Dream On." Listening to Nat King Cole do "Stardust," the only words that come to mind are pure delight. Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) sounds so natural singing with Rickie Lee Jones that the resulting "Makin' Whoopie" sounds timeless. The soundtrack then takes a turn for the sublime with a letter perfect version of the Sinatra classic "In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning" sung by Carly Simon. Gene Autry takes us "Back in the Saddle Again" to complete a nearly perfect album side.

Side two offers artists of a more recent vintage like Joe Cocker ("Bye Bye Blackbird"), Harry Connick, Jr. ("A Wink and a Smile"), Tammy Wynette ("Stand by Your Man"), and Céline Dion & Clive Griffin ("When I Fall in Love"). There is also an instrumental track "An Affair to Remember." Music on this track is actually film score from the 1957 movie of the same name, which is referenced multiple times during Sleepless In Seattle; sort of a soundtrack within a soundtrack. 

Regarding the aforementioned opening and closing songs by Jimmy Durante, before I heard this album, I thought of Durante more as a personality and comedian. But, in terms of tone and nature for this movie, you could not do better than these two songs. The opener, “As Time Goes By,” is not only a great love song, but Durante does a nice job with it. The original song comes from the movie Cassablanca, considered by some to be one off the greatest movies of all time, and if you haven't seen it you are in for a real treat. Durante similarly shines on the closer “Make Someone Happy.” And don't, I repeat, don't turn it off when the credits start to roll (if you are watching Sleepless in Seattle). 


You've Got Mail

In 1998, You've Got Mail offered Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan as the romantic leads in a movie based on an older movie The Shop Around the Corner (1940), which itself was based on the Hungarian stage play Parfumerie by Miklós László (1937). In The Shop Around the Corner the stage play's parfumerie becomes a leather shop, which turns into a book shop in You've Got Mail. All three stories have the plot device in common that the leads fall in love anonymously through their correspondence. 

The soundtrack album for You've Got Mail is a little quirkier than the one for Sleepless In Seattle, in a good way. There is not the dependence on the real old songs. There are mostly songs from the 1960s and later and they vary between well known hits and some more esoteric selections.

With songs falling into both categories, we have Harry Nilsson representing four songs on this record. We open with "The Puppy Song," a tune that Nilsson wrote and recorded for his album Harry in 1969. "Remember" is another beautiful Nilsson composition and was featured on his Son of Schmilsson album (1972). Nilsson's rendition of "Over the Rainbow" was unique to the OST until it was later collected and released on Nilsson: Sessions 1967-1975, an album of rarities released in 2006.

The fourth song, "I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City," has an interesting story. Nilsson wrote and recorded the song in 1969 for the movie Midnight Cowboy. Ultimately, the song wasn't used and it came out on his album Harry that same year. "I Guess The Lord Must Be In New York City" was also released as a single, which became the second biggest hit in Nilsson's career. Sinéad O'Connor recorded a cover version for You've Got Mail and it appears on the soundtrack album. When they made the movie, they wound up using Nilsson's original version within the movie while the O'Connor version plays during the credits. 

The well known songs work nicely in the scenes in which they appear and sound even better in the full versions included on the soundtrack album. You have The Cranberries sounding really good on "Dreams" along with top hits from the sixties that include Bobby Darin's "Splish Splash" and Bobby Day's "Rockin' Robin." Less well known songs like Louis Armstrong's "Dummy Song," Roy Orbison's "Dream" and Randy Newman's "Lonely at the Top" round out side one.

Everyone knows "Signed Sealed Delivered I'm Yours" the Stevie Wonder classic. Even though I already went over the Harry Nilsson contributions to You've Got Mail, I'll mention that his version of "Over The Rainbow" is not only beautiful, but (and this is no spoiler) when it appears at the climax of the movie, it might just be the second best use of that song in the movies, after The Wizard of Oz. Forming the other half of the final scene, is "Anyone At All" written by Carole King with Carole Bayer Sager for this movie, which ends the story on a perfect note. As the scene ends and the closing credits roll, you hear Billy Williams' "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter" followed by Sinead O'Connor and "You Made Me Love You" by Jimmy Durante. Side two also contains a suite of music from the film score by George Fenton.

Fun fact about You've Got Mail: Although her music does not appear in the movie, Joni Mitchell's lyrics are quoted twice in the movie dialogue. 


Popular posts from this blog

Remembering the Main Point, 1964 - 1981

Willie Nelson: That's Life (2021 Legacy); Willie Tributes the Chairman of the Board With His Second Album of Sinatra Classics, and It's a Beaut

Richard Harris - MacArthur Park (1968); Irish Actor Harris Takes the Song You Loved To Hate To # 2, Inspiring Tons of Cover Versions Including One By Will Lee Who Crushes It Live On Letterman