If you always wanted to own a copy of the musty love song "Rose-Marie," done in a lonesome cowboy yodel by the late, anarchic comedian and actor Andy Kaufman, this is your lucky day.
It's one of two vintage live Kaufman performances included on the soundtrack to the highly anticipated film biography, starring rubber-faced Jim Carrey as the willfully odd chameleon a holy fool who mutated at whim from infantile mimic to faux foreigner, Elvis impersonator, self-styled cross-gender wrestling champ and scabrous lounge singer.
The merits of the movie aside, this album is a major disappointment built around one beautiful song: R.E.M.'s "Man on the Moon." Although there are a few interesting selections such as those legitimate Kaufman mementos, the collection is, on the whole, thin and disjointed.
A dreamy, bittersweet composition that makes poignant reference to Kaufman, "Man on the Moon" was culled, intact, from R.E.M.'s 1992 LP Automatic for the People. Now, it functions as the biopic's title tune, but it sounds better in the context of a proper album by the band.
Since R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe, guitarist Peter Buck and bassist Mike Mills were hired to compose a score for the movie, one would have hoped for more than just two new songs out of the triumvirate. But that's all they produced, other than some incidental music that's represented on the album by six instrumentals, including an orchestral version of "Man in the Moon."
It's R.E.M. in a downbeat, quasi-classical mood with strings and horns. Filler, anybody?
As for anything with voices, "The Great Beyond" (RealAudio excerpt) sounds very much like a retooling of "Man in the Moon" with its elliptical lyrics and delicate, wistful melody. And "This Friendly World," is loping, cheery and dispensable a childlike effort that features a strange, double duet between R.E.M. singer Michael Stipe and Carrey.
For "This Friendly World" (RealAudio
excerpt), Carrey does impressions of Kaufman and Kaufman's obnoxious lounge-lizard alter ego, Tony Clifton, both singing along with Stipe. If that wasn't confusing enough, Carrey-as-Kaufman-as-Clifton butchers the Gloria Gaynor disco anthem "I Will Survive," rendering it almost unlistenable with his horrible nasal quack. That's a buzz-kill, smack in the middle of an album and don't even talk about putting the CD in shuffle mode.
The remainder of the soundtrack consists of detritus such as the theme from the "Mighty Mouse" cartoon, as sung by the Sandpipers (and mimed by Kaufman in his early act); the theme from the TV sitcom "Taxi" (Andy played English-mangling Eastern European mechanic Latka on the show); and, for no apparent reason, the leaden radio hit "Kiss You All Over" by the one-hit wonder pop group Exile.
Even as an audio companion to the movie, it's flimsy listening, garnished with snippets of free-floating dialogue delivered by cast members Carrey, Danny DeVito, Richard Belzer, Courtney Love and Paul Giamatti.
From all evidence, the voice on "Rose-Marie" (RealAudio excerpt) (taken from an early '80s episode of NBC-TV's "Late Night With David Letterman") and on "One More Song for You" is that of Kaufman himself, and not Carrey, who has to approximate Kaufman's multiple personalities and idiosyncrasies in director Milos Forman's feature.
So maybe this album is a good thing for Kaufman fans and R.E.M. completists.
Then again, truth-in-advertising was not a hallmark of Kaufman's career. He was known for his behind-the-scenes pranks and some very public chicanery. Where Carrey sings on the album, he's billed as Andy and Tony. Can we really be sure that it's not Carrey doing the vocals on what is supposedly archival material?
It would be so Andy of him.