It’s an enviable job to select the music that gets used in blockbuster movies, but it takes a lot of knowledge to seamlessly pair sections of catchy tracks to scenes in order to create the right ambience...
Black Mass, director Scott Cooper gets it spot on in the story of FBI Agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) and Irish hoodlum James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) joining forces in 1970's Boston to defeat a common enemy - the Italian Mob.
Aside from acting master classes from Depp and Edgerton, the pitch-perfect script is complemented by a brilliant score and a line-up of classic, cool tracks that still don’t sound old and lesser known ditties that perfectly set the scene.So here's our top 5 in no particular order.
1) War Child - Blondie.
Despite dripping with electropop glamour, beneath the sheen lies a serious message about war. Over the crackle and pop of the high-voltage synth intro, the bray of trumpets, and a catchy guitar riff, Blondie tells us:
"I need city lights
Defence and weaponry
No way of knowing
My life expectancy"
This, too, is the credo of Whitey Bulger. Make no mistake, here is a ruthless man at war with the Mafia and he will stop at nothing to bring them down. Blondie sings that she is a war child, which of course she is, having been born in 1945. There is a sense in which Bulger and his ilk, are war children, too, born into a life of crime.
2) The Two Lonely People - Bill Evans
Bill Evans was a titan of the jazz piano, every bit as influential of Miles Davies, Coltrane and Herbie Hancock. Born in New Jersey in 1929, he was a trained classical pianist and it shows in this wistful piece. Quintessentially American and achingly melancholy, it serves to remind us that “Whitey” Bulger and John Conolly are two lonely, people too.
Evidently, the director of Black Mass, Scott Cooper, has eclectic tastes when it comes to music. Take this sizzling salsa confection from Willie Colón, one of the leading lights of New York’s Nueva Salsa scene in the 1970’s. Colón is a ‘Nuyorican’ (a Puerto Rican born in New York) and here his trombone is on top form. On the album cover Colón cast himself in the role of gangster, standing over the corpse of one of his victims, which has echoes of Bulger. Coincidence?
4) The Christmas Song – Dexter Gordon
Since Christmas is almost upon us, we couldn’t resist this classic from virtuoso tenor saxophonist, “Long Tall” Dexter Gordon. Milking every drop of sentiment from the 1946 carol, his sax is as warm as an open fire in December. The piece gives the director ample opportunity for irony: Bulger is a heartless kingpin who wouldn’t think twice at shooting you dead, but at the same time, he’s a family man, a devout Catholic and according to Johnny Depp not without honour: “First and foremost, Jimmy Bulger is—in his own mind and his own heart—a man of honor. “
Finally, comes ‘Slave’ from the Rolling Stones’ 1981 album “Tattoo You.” “Don't wanna be your slave” Screams Jagger, in his inimitable falsetto. Many saw and see Bulger as a rock-star of crime. But was he? You decide.
These are just 5 of the 16 tunes on the soundtrack, each outstanding in their own way. Let us know which one is your favourite and why!