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Music From the Original HBO Series
The consistency in attitude and style among these 14 tracks suggests that you’re listening to someone’s homemade compilation—Sopranos creator David Chase’s, perhaps, taped to send to all the show’s writers with a note reading, “This is the feel we’re looking for with Episode 22.” Like the television series, the disc is all evocation, calling up ghosts and cringing under anxieties that are never baldly articulated. Most of the tunes are either shuffley or jittery, with lots of pishing drums and liberal use of harmonica—Them’s “Mystic Eyes,” which brings together all these things, is a typical example—and almost all are consistently badass. The British band A3 kicks off with the show’s theme song, “Woke Up This Morning,” which has a hauntingly escalating chorus, and that tone of menace and self-doubt refracts elsewhere as though through different surfaces of a prism: in R.L. Burnside’s “It’s Bad You Know,” Bob Dylan’s “Gotta Serve Somebody,” Los Lobos’ “Viking,” Cream’s “I Feel Free,” and “Inside of Me,” by Little Steven, one of the show’s stars. This continuity doesn’t dissipate the collection’s power but builds it into a towering, uneasy thing, peaking with the vivid neurotic struggles of the nonclassic-rock inclusions: Bruce Springsteen’s hooting highway lament “State Trooper,” Elvis Costello’s supremely fretful “Complicated Shadows,” and the Eurythmics’ resigned “I’ve Tried Everything.” Pass over Wyclef Jean’s pandering shout-out to the show’s crossover gangster appeal, and The Sopranos is a perfect distillation of the tough-guy mind in a reflective mood.—Arion Berger