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Score of `Dreamgirls' captures an era's sound

December 15, 2006|Daryl H. Miller

Various Artists

"Dreamgirls" soundtrack (Columbia/Sony BMG)

***

Sure, it'll be known for propelling Jennifer Hudson to stardom, surprising everyone about Eddie Murphy and further glamming Beyonce Knowles' career. But what makes this movie musical -- and the 1981 stage version before it -- such a knockout is its re-creation of the '60s-era black music that has had such surpassing influence on American popular culture.

The goose-bump-generating power of this score by Henry Krieger and the late Tom Eyen (he died in 1991) continues unabated -- especially in "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," sung by Hudson's character after a whopper of a bad day with a Supremes-like girl group. From a hurt, vulnerable hush of a start, Hudson -- whose resonant voice originates from deep, deep inside -- builds to a gospel-soul roar.

In the movie, Knowles' Diana Ross-like character is given a matching power anthem, "Listen," which allows the singer to punch high notes into the stratosphere and growl with intensity.

In his turn as a fading star, Murphy seems to channel James Brown, with a touch of Little Richard thrown in for good measure. Jamie Foxx, as a Berry Gordy Jr.-like record executive, puts a smooth, R&B polish on his big song, "When I First Saw You."

Overall, the sound is hotter and more filled in than on the original Broadway cast album -- no surprise, but the slickness can be emotionally distancing.

A 20-song, single-CD highlights album contains three of the four songs Krieger and new partners wrote for the movie: "Listen"; "Love You I Do," an up-tempo, horn-happy solo for Hudson; and "Patience," a Marvin Gaye-like social-consciousness number led by Murphy. That will satisfy most tastes, but for the can't-get-enough-fan, there's a two-CD set with 36 cuts, including the remaining new song, a Jackson 5 sound-alike called "Perfect World."

Albums are rated on a scale of four stars (excellent), three stars (good), two stars (fair) and one star (poor). Albums reviewed have been released, except as indicated.

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