The Sopranos — Music From the HBO Original Series isn’t just the best soundtrack ever for a TV series. (Scant competition there.) It’s one of the great song-based soundtracks, period. We had good reason to write off ”music supervision” as an art form years ago, but that was before getting a load of David Chase’s canny choices for his New Jersey Mafia drama, which goes mostly music-free before climaxing with a different, wildly suitable theme song each week. If the show hired Nick Lowe or Elvis Costello to write anthems for its Mob family, they couldn’t come up with anything as dead-on as Lowe’s ”The Beast in Me” or Costello’s ”Complicated Shadows,” among the tunes that seem to directly editorialize on the milieu’s moral vacuum.

Though most TV soundtracks boast new tunes that may or may not appear on future episodes, there’s only one such lame original here (Wyclef Jean’s ”Blood Is Thicker Than Water,” with its tawdry Tony Soprano name-dropping). Otherwise it’s a blissfully neoclassic mix, as Sinatra’s autumnal ”It Was a Very Good Year” segues to the funky damnation of Dylan’s ”Gotta Serve Somebody,” and the violent self-doubt of Springsteen’s ”State Trooper” gives way to the unfettered machismo of Bo Diddley’s ”I’m a Man.” Martin Scorsese, eat your rock-appropriatin’ heart out. A

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James Gandolfini

The Sopranos

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