The Sopranos: Peppers & Eggs
Sure, the acting is unerringly authentic and the stories absorbing. But some of the most sublime moments on ”The Sopranos” occur in its closing scenes, when an often little known but fitting piece of music chimes in. Consider the use of the Kinks’ ”Living on a Thin Line” — with its air of dissipation and fading empires — during the strip club finale in a recent episode involving the gruesome murder of a dancer. Or the overwhelming pathos evoked by Ben E. King’s ”I Who Have Nothing,” those sad strings hanging over Tony and Carmela as they sat in their kitchen, momentarily at peace with each other. Or Elvis Costello’s ”High Fidelity” blaring sardonically as the camera zoomed in on an FBI bugged lamp, or Nils Lofgren’s haunted lullaby ”Black Books” accompanying Carmela’s blanket wrapped depression.
The experience is marred only by the fact that the recordings aren’t listed in the credits; I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve asked me ”You know the name of that last song?” the day after a new episode has aired. For that reason alone, The Sopranos: Music From the HBO Original Series/ Peppers & Eggs, the second compilation drawn from the show, serves a valuable public service, allowing us to attach names and titles to fairly obscure songs from the second and third seasons. That it’s the savviest TV companion album ever made almost goes without saying: Anyone remember, much less still play, those ”Friends” or ”X-Files” discs? So let’s up the praise a notch. Just as ”The Sopranos” is better written, acted, and shot than the majority of cineplex options, ”Peppers & Eggs” also puts most movie soundtracks to shame.
On paper, the juxtaposition of cuts must seem jarring, a mix tape gone psycho. But ”Peppers & Eggs” feels deeper and more expansive than the first, 1999 ”Sopranos” album, and not simply because it’s one disc longer. The wild eyed eclecticism allows you to sample a subgenre like sacred steel: gospel meets honky tonk, heard on the rousing ”I’ve Got a Feeling” by the Campbell Brothers and Katie Jackson.
Series creator David Chase is generally given credit for selecting the tunes, and his choices are, as Paulie Walnuts might say, dead on. Chase clearly has a Stones jones (the Lost Boys’ ”Affection” is pure knockoff), but give him a big plate of ziti for not opting for the obvious. I’d forgotten entirely about ”Thru and Thru,” a ravaged, slow crawling Keith Richards ballad from ”Voodoo Lounge,” and it was a delight to rediscover it. One of the only unfortunate MIAs is a lovely, acoustic Daniel Lanois instrumental used in a recent finale, which would have been preferable to the gimmicky intertwining of the Police’s ”Every Breath You Take” and Henry Mancini’s ”Theme From Peter Gunn.”
Not surprisingly, a few of the songs lose their force when heard without the accompanying scenes. Yet it doesn’t take a Dr. Melfi to see the effortless way in which ”Peppers & Eggs” transcends its grab bag quality. By expressing the innermost thoughts of characters who aren’t particularly expressive, the songs are revealing little thought balloons — balloons that, like many other things on ”The Sopranos,” are quickly shot down when reality knocks once again.