‘Tuned In’ review: ‘American Hustle’ soundtrack dances around film’s timeline

This film image released by Sony Pictures shows, from left,  Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence in a scene from 'American Hustle.' The film was nominated for a Golden Globe for best motion picture, musical or comedy on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013.  The 71st annual Golden Globes will air on Sunday, Jan. 12. (AP Photo/Sony - Columbia Pictures, Francois Duhamel)

This film image released by Sony Pictures shows, from left, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence in a scene from "American Hustle." The film was nominated for a Golden Globe for best motion picture, musical or comedy on Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013. The 71st annual Golden Globes will air on Sunday, Jan. 12. (AP Photo/Sony - Columbia Pictures, Francois Duhamel)

The 'American Hustle' soundtrack

The "American Hustle" soundtrack

Soundtracks are often a hodgepodge of songs compiled to either connote a place and time relevant to the movie’s plot or to make a mercenary play for sales.

There’s a little of both of that going on with the “American Hustle” soundtrack, though it also seems more personal – like an old mixtape made by a 1970s high schooler.

Maybe there’s a reason for that: Most of the material on the soundtrack was released when 55-year-old “American Hustle” director David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook,” “Three Kings”) was a teenager. Those early 1970s songs fit the timeline for the crime drama set in New Jersey (Russell is from New York), but the collection doesn’t have the feel of songs culled from old charts by someone unfamiliar with the era.

Sure, there are bona fide hits from the time - the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” (1971), America’s “A Horse With No Name” (1972), Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” (1973) and Wings’ “Live and Let Die” (1973). But there’s a quirk in the mix. For instance, Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ version of “Don’t Leave Me This Way” is a less-obvious choice than the No. 1 Thelma Houston rendition of the same song.

Also, there’s a fascination with the Electric Light Orchestra, though not the group’s more familiar songs. The soundtrack includes ELO’s discordant first single, “10538 Overture,” the gritty rarity “Long Black Road” and ELO frontman Jeff Lynne’s previously unreleased “Stream of Stars.”

A few other tracks depart from the era, including Duke Ellington’s sauntering jazz track “Jeep’s Blues” and Tom Jones’ hammy 1968 classic “Delilah.” Plus Donna Summer’s surrealistically sensual disco smash “I Feel Love” is from 1977, the year Russell turned 19. (Perhaps he was clubbing at that point in his life?)

With a cast that includes Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner, “American Hustle” is a sure bet this holiday season. And this soundtrack will strike an additional chord … at least with Baby Boomers.

Rating: 3.5 stars (out of five)

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