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Album Review: Boardwalk Empire Volume 2 (Soundtrack)

3 min read

Period dramas are a bit of a taboo subject really aren’t they? One the one hand you’ve got the hilariously soapy and slightly cringeworthy British dramas like Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs. On the other hand you have those gripping and often thrilling dramas that have a bit more grit to them such as Mad Men and of course the more recent multi-Emmy winning Boardwalk Empire, a drama deserving unending credit just for the incredible detail the makers have gone to to give the programme an authentic 1920’s feel. In this case its music-supervisor Randall Poster who has bought an array of fantastic performers to sing period accurate hot jazz for Volume 2 of the Boardwalk Empire Soundtrack.

Boardwalk Empire Vol. 2All songs performed with the fantastic Jazz ensemble Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, Volume 2 invites an outstanding and fascinating array of classic and modern singers to supply their vocal talents to the dancey ragtime you’ll hear behind the drama. Its not just traditional jazz artists either, its a surprisingly diverse array of singers hailing from US indie bands to glam rock legends. Opening track Strut Miss Lizzie see’s the androgynous New York Dolls frontman David Johansen provide his signature growl that without seeing his face resembles so many black American jazz singers of the early 20th Century like the legendary Louis Armstrong. The choice of singer fits the song perfectly as does Elvis Costello’s contribution It Had To Be You which has the Pub Rock icon delivering a sultry croon that deserves great credit.

Elsewhere baroque pop singer Rufus Wainwright also proves a wise choice as his smooth and saucy vocal provides a wonderfully theatrical version of hillbilly artist Shorty Godwin’s Jimbo Jambo whilst musical actress star Liza Minnelli takes the stage for a cheeky and well acted rendition of You’ve Got to See Mamma Ev’ry Night (Or You Can’t See Mamma at All). Of course, its songs sung by the cast members that also make for wonderfully acted pieces. Theatrical actor Stephen DeRosa who stars in the drama as real life 1920’s comedian Eddie Cantor proves to be hoot on the jivey number Old King Tut and the hilariously written You’d Be Surprised which details an otherwise hapless boy who pleasantly surprises girls in the bedroom. Margot Bingham, who plays Daughter Maitland in the series also provides stellar performances on tracks Somebody Loves Me and I’m Going South.

Further guest appearances come in all shapes and sizes with the Godmother of Punk Patti Smith taking the microphone for a surprisingly fitting smokey performance of I Ain’t Got Nobody in which she pleas “won’t some sweet daddy take a chance with me?”. Even stranger, lead singer of The National Matt Berninger lends his deep croaky croon to closing track I‘ll See You In My Dreams that works incredibly well. Of course you can mention and commend all the singers a million times but the musicianship of Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks is what really shines on the album. Every song on the album (which includes two instrumentals) is a revelation in how great modern orchestras and ensembles really can be in recreating a style of music that gives you the feeling of going back in time. A wonderful album all for a truly fantastic show, Boardwalk Empire couldn’t be doing it any better.

Buy ‘Boardwalk Empire Vol. 2 – OST’ from Amazon