No 20 year retrospective series would be complete without taking a moment to remember some of the biggest movies and greatest soundtracks from 1994. While soundtrack albums have always been a part of the music industry landscape, soundtracks released during the height of the CD era had a stronger impact than those released in almost any other decade. Chances are, you’ve got at least a few of these albums in your collection, and you just might be inspired to dig them out and give them a spin (or even dig out your old VHS of the movie itself)!
This satire of early ’90s hard rock bands and the struggle to break into the business features a star-packed cast list, but its soundtrack album is just as impressive with quasi-memorable singles from Motorhead (f/Ice-T and Whitfield Crane), DGeneration, and 4 Non Blondes checking in with a cover of Van Halen’s “I’m the One.” Original music by White Zombie, Primus, Anthrax, Candlebox, Dig, and Prong make this a great sampler platter from the summer of ’94, and it never hurts to close a compilation with anything by Ramones, ever.
The soundtrack album that accompanies Kevin Smith’s indie debut came together after the film was initially released when it was selected for a wider distribution. Some tracks, like Alice In Chains’ classic, “Got Me Wrong,” were previously released or recorded leftovers from the selected artists, but Kevin Smith’s participation in the compilation led to long-term working relationships with members of Soul Asylum as well as early-industrial/modern rock groups like Stabbing Westward and Girls Against Boys. Excellent tracks by the likes of The Jesus Lizard, Bad Religion, Seaweed, and Corrosion of Conformity keep things rocking between hilarious audio clips from the movie and hidden treasures like Supernova’s “Chewbacca,” which is a must-have for any Star Wars freak.
Arguably, the all-around best modern rock soundtrack of 1994, this compilation features songs that vary in style but all maintain a dark tone very similar to the mood of the film itself. Stone Temple Pilots released “Big Empty” off of this LP thought it was also included on their second album, released shortly thereafter. Nine Inch Nails and Rollins Band turn in tributes to Joy Division and Suicide, respectively, and excellent tracks by The Cure, Rage Against The Machine, Violent Femmes, Helmet, Pantera, and The Jesus and Mary Chain that are each exclusive to this album make it a must-have for ’90s rock fans and die-hard collectors alike.
The best ’94 soundtrack collection of previously-released material is this nearly perfect companion to this acclaimed, timeless film. Like the movie, this double disc album tells the story of American history from about 1950 through 1980, but the album focuses on a chronological presentation of the music in that story rather than the innovative historical footage and events depicted visually in the movie. Beginning with Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog,” and featuring classics by Wilson Pickett, CCR, The Four Tops, Aretha Franklin, Bob Dylan, The Beach Boys, The Mamas & The Papas, Buffalo Springfield, The Doors, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Willie Nelson, and Bob Seger, just to list the artists behind the most famous songs included, makes this a compressed American music history lesson. Compilations such as this truly have something for pretty much everyone.
The Lion King
Propelled by the massively-successful singles, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight?” and “The Circle of Life,” by Elton John, this soundtrack to the beloved, animated feature from Disney was one of the biggest selling soundtracks of 1994.
Natural Born Killers
Certainly one of the most musically-diverse of the notable ’94 soundtracks, this collection was assembled by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, who features three of his own excellent songs, but he also includes a little bit of many genre and many musical eras. Leonard Cohen bookends the album which also features Cowboy Junkies’ excellent cover of Lou Reed’s, “Sweet Jane,” Patsy Cline’s immortal classic, “Back in Baby’s Arms,” a vocal performance from one of the movie’s stars, Juliette Lewis, and two Death Row Records contributions, both produced by Dr. Dre during the height of that record label’s success. The fragmented and somewhat obscure inclusions of various world music tracks and mash-ups between songs and artist who probably would not have otherwise collaborated, such as Jane’s Addiction and Diamanda Galas, reflect the twisted chaos of the movie and its main characters. Songs by L7, Patti Smith, Bob Dylan, Duane Eddy, and Peter Gabriel are also included. With a lengthy run time and such a variety of interesting music, this particular soundtrack is a great value.
While this particular soundtrack is not widely available, nor was it a notably big seller, two key portions of the movie revolve around excellent music from George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic, which is already enough to make it worth checking out, and Starland Vocal Band’s, “Afternoon Delight,” which would go on to be included in a number of movies over the succeeding 20 years. This film is a fun way to spend 79 minutes, if you’ve not had the pleasure.
Quentin Tarrantino produces a soundtrack almost as well as he produces a film, and this excellent compilation is no exception. Most known for Urge Overkill’s cover of Neil Diamond’s “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” Tarrantino packs this album with a fantastic blend of ’60s surf rock and ’70s radio classics including instantly-recognizable tunes by Dick Dale, Kool & The Gang, Al Green, Dusty Springfield, and Ricky Nelson, to name a few. Dialogue clips from the movie are included to keep it all connected, and listening while driving can make one feel as though they are in a movie of their own, which is another Tarrantino soundtrack tradition that continues to this day.
This treasured, Gen-X film spawned a hit soundtrack that produced hit singles for Lisa Loeb, with her #1 pop hit, “Stay (I Missed You),” and reggae outfit, Big Mountain, with their cover of Peter Frampton’s, “Baby, I Love Your Way.” The rest of the album balances old favorites like The Knack’s “My Sharona” and songs by U2 and Squeeze with work from newer artists like Juliana Hatfield, The Posies, Lenny Kravitz, and Dinosaur Jr. While it certainly has a musical grab-bag feel, many of the individual tracks are quite enjoyable, and hearing them all next to one another certainly represents the feeling of the time and place.