Sign up for our free newsletter
The things Michelangelo Antonioni likes to portray visually in his filmsthe illusory similarity between fantasy and reality, rambling mystery, existential boredomhe was smart enough to ignore when he captured the sensuous sounds of swinging London in 1966. Blow-Up was one of those films everyone endured in film studies class (I would also add the director’s L’Avventura had I not bolted after withstanding only two hours of its admittedly great-looking crap), but the only elements that stuck with me were: 1.) Foxy mod chicks, 2.) Foxy boys in white, peg-legged pants, 3.) Foxy noises. The foxy folk may have aged (today’s Vanessa Redgrave ain’t all that) but the soundtrack still comes on young and sexy. Herbie Hancock’s original score builds on the soul-jazz he popularized through songs like “Watermelon Man” and “Cantaloupe Island.” But the biggest revelation from this long-out-of-print album is the exhumation of his “Bring Down the Birds” outtake; it features the bass line Deee-Lite lifted wholesale for its 1990 smash, “Groove Is in the Heart.” The Yardbirds lone contribution is a reworked version of “Train Kept A-Rollin’” retitled “Stroll On.” It’s a furious blast of rhythm-and-blues fury, and one of the band’s Jeff Beck/Jimmy Page-era pinnacles. Outtakes from the group the Yardbirds replaced as the film’s token mod-rockers, Tomorrow, as well as Twinkie-pop tracks by Steve Boone and John Sebastian, are fine, but Hancock’s raw, bluesy score is far sweeter. Add Rhino’s usual fine job of liner notation and Blow-Up is the bomb.