Songs of Anarchy, Volume 1 and 2

Jacket.aspxRarely do I leave a CD in my player for more than a month straight. It’s been two months now, and aside for taking two weeks off at the holidays, it’s still in there, and I listen to it every day. Songs of Anarchy is the soundtrack to the FX television show Sons of Anarchy.
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You do not need to be a devotee or even know of the television show to adore the soundtrack to the series. Sons of Anarchy is an ultra-violent soap opera following a fictional biker gang in California. You know the characters are despicable, but they are written so well and to such depth that you cannot help but feel sympathy for them – while you call them names for being that stubborn. All that violence is offset by a soundtrack that is both entertaining and breathtakingly poignant. There is no set tone – the albums contain a mix of popular, rock, country, folk, alternative – whatever fits the moment. Many of these are covers of old greats by the series’ incredible house band, The Forest Rangers – a driving version of Gimmee Shelter (in which you can understand the lyrics), an achingly beautiful instrumental version of Fortunate Son, a gorgeous tweaking of House of the Rising Son with lyrics to fit the show. It was the deep blues rhythms of John the Revelator that first caught my attention watching the series (who else works an entire song into a drama series every week, like a prize in a Cracker Jack box?), and it made purchasing the album inevitable. The song wouldn’t leave my head, and I needed to hear it again.
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Katey Sagal, lead actress in the show as Gemma Teller, is also a singer in her own right with albums to her name. Her version of Leonard Cohen’s Bird on a Wire puts the original to shame, and Strange Fruit will give you the shivers.
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Volume 2 of Songs of Anarchy is a must if you listen to the first. There is just too much good vol 2.aspxmusic. Coal War, the season opener to year four, is a foot stomping ballad that crosses the line between country and pop much the way The Eagles did. The Lost Boy is a tragic ballad on its own, but if you know the series, it is played out in its entirety as one of the lead characters makes his sacrifice for his best friend, and it will bring you to tears. No Milk Today was originally a fluffy pop piece done by Herman’s Hermit’s in 1966; slowed down, it takes on a haunting new meaning when you consider it accompanies the kidnapping of a nine-month-old baby by the IRA.
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Kurt Sutter, the creator/producer/writer of the show (he also stars in it as Otto, and he’s married to Katey Sagal), wanted music to be an integral part of the show, setting tones, carrying themes, underscoring the action. What he managed is beyond brilliance, touching the stories and the viewers/listeners alike and playing with their emotions. Because of the varied styles of music, you might not like every track on the albums (the version of Slip Kid is too metal for me), but these albums are certain to please almost everyone.

 

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