Break out your dancing shoes – Boardwalk Empire‘s second album will get you up and moving! “Boardwalk Empire Volume 2: Music form the HBO Original Series” debuted September 3rd, just days ahead of the season 4 premiere Sunday, September 8th. While some music out these days is questionably good, this soundtrack isn’t. It’s fantastic and spans several genres while maintaining a strong jazz feel. And believe me, it is well worth the money.
Boardwalk Empire‘s first soundtrack, debuting in 2011, was award-winning, earning the 2012 Grammy for Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media and topping the Billboard charts at #8. Vol. 2 picks up right where Vol. 1 left off: the beginning of season 3 and spanning the end of season 4, meaning there are lots of songs we haven’t heard on the show yet. Spoilers? Maybe. Awesome music that makes you want to get up and dance? Absolutely! It’s hard not to find yourself humming along or at least tapping your feet to the music. The melodies pleasantly stay in your head, and several are quite funny. Other songs are perfect for a sad day or mellow mood. As usual, and as with everything, Boardwalk Empire presents another amazing round of music.
While Boardwalk Empire‘s first volume focused heavily on instrumental pieces, Vol. 2 is mostly vocal. There are three songs by Stephen DeRosa, a.k.a. Eddie Cantor, all of which are hilarious and wonderfully sung, and one song by Kathy Brier, who plays Sophie Turner of Babette’s. Vincent Giordano & The Nighthawks provide all of the music, as they did with Vol. 1. Also appearing on the album are Liza Minelli, Elvis Costello, Matt Berninger of The National (you may remember them performing “The Rains of Castamere” at the end of the Game of Thrones episode “Blackwater”), Neko Case, St. Vincent, and many more. Aside from DeRosa, Brier, and Vincent Giordano & The Nighthawks, Loudon Wainwright III appears in both Vol. 1 and Vol. 2; if you don’t remember Wainwright, he sang “Carrickfergus” at the end of Boardwalk Empire’s fourth episode, “Nights in Ballygran.”
One surprise on the soundtrack is the vocal absence of Meg Chambers Steedle (Lillian “Billie” Kent from season 3). She sang several songs – albeit short ones – in season, 3 yet is not featured. Any song she was part of, such as “Old King Tut,” is now performed only by DeRosa. Even without Steedle, the entire 20 song soundtrack is pretty awesome. I’ve had it for almost a week and listen to it constantly because it’s consistently enjoyable. Whether the music is in full ragtime mode, waxing sentimental with a blues piece, or just straight up jazz, all of the songs are fun and wonderfully performed. Liza Minelli’s song, “You’ve Got to See Mama Ev’ry Night (Or You Can’t See Mama At All)” is a perfect blues-style piece, while Rufus Wainwright’s “Jimbo Jambo” will make you start swaying with the lyrical rhyming and quick tempo. Interestingly, two of the songs – “I’ll See You in My Dreams” by Matt Berninger and “It Had to Be You” by Elvis Costello – are found today as romantic standards but are reworked into the 1920s era, which is when those songs originally debuted. Several of the instrumental tracks are reminiscent of early jazz, and “Sugarfoot Stomp” even has a big band/Glenn Miller “Pennsylvania 6-5000” feel.
There are several songs I really enjoy on the soundtrack, but one of my very favorite has to be Rufus Wainwright’s “Jimbo Jambo.” It’s peppy and upbeat, with some nice horn work. The rhyming is simple yet melodic. Plus, with a lyric like, “When this bimbo starts to dance the movement she goes through/ would make the jellyfish jump up and kiss a kangaroo,” what’s not to like? The levity of the piece makes it nothing short of fun. Of course, as soon as I say that “Jimbo Jambo” is my favorite piece, Liza Minelli’s “You Gotta See Your Mama Ev’ry Night (Or You Can’t See Your Mama At All)” starts to play. The song with the best introduction is “Lovesick Blues” by Pokey LaFarge; I’m really hoping we see this performed at the Onyx Club. I’m a huge fan of The National, so how can I say that the rework of “I’ll See You in My Dreams” isn’t fantastic? I’ll say this – Boardwalk Empire certainly capitalized on the remakes of old songs by both fresh, young artists and classically loved ones. In short, it’s a dream album to listen to and whets numerous musical appetites.
Perhaps the very best part of the soundtrack is how seamlessly it flows with the action on the show. The 1920s Prohibition and Jazz Age are a perfect setting for television and the entire Boardwalk Empire team does a great job of taking advantage of that era. The show’s music supervisor Randall Poster, in a recent Spin.com article, said, “Boardwalk Empire provides an incredible back drop for music. It’s been a steady treat to mark the passing of time in song over the course of four seasons… Terry Winters, Martin Scorsese and the entire Boardwalk Empire team inspire the sound of the episodes as we move from the streets and alleys of Atlantic City to the smoky rooms of Al Capone’s Chicago and on down into the tropics of Florida. This compilation celebrates the mastery of all the artists involved.” And Mr. Poster is absolutely right. If the music wasn’t so expertly interwoven into the show, the episodes and characters wouldn’t have the same lasting impact that they do. It comes down to the tiniest details for a show to be a true masterpiece, and, with their wonderful music, acting, plots, costumes, and nearly everything else, Boardwalk Empire has all the makings to go down as an HBO – and television – landmark.
“Boardwalk Empire: Volume 2, Music from the HBO Series” is now available for purchase from Amazon for $9.99, or $11.99 on iTunes for immediate download.
The full list of songs:
1. David Johansen – “Strut Miss Lizzie”
2. Stephen DeRosa – “Old King Tut”
3. Elvis Costello – “It Had To Be You”
4. Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks – “Everybody Loves My Baby”
5. Liza Minnelli – “You’ve Got To See Mama Ev’ry Night (Or You Can’t See Mama At All)”
6. Leon Redbone – “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home”
7. St. Vincent – “Make Believe”
8. Pokey LaFarge – “Lovesick Blues”
9. Neko Case – “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”
10. Karen Elson – “Who’s Sorry Now”
11. Stephen DeRosa – “You’d Be Surprised”
12. Margot Bingham – “I’m Going South”
13. Vince Giordano & the Nighthawks – “Sugarfoot Stomp”
14. Rufus Wainwright – “Jimbo Jambo”
15. Kathy Brier – “There’ll Be Some Changes Made”
16. Margot Bingham – “Somebody Loves Me”
17. Chaim Tannenbaum – “All Alone”
18. Loudon Wainwright III – “The Prisoner’s Song”
19. Patti Smith – “I Ain’t Got Nobody”
20. Matt Berninger – “I’ll See You In My Dreams”