Although it's been pronounced dead more often than Mark Twain, the life expectancy of rock & roll was surely looking faint at the end of the '60s. Few people realize that it wasn't all bad. As Almost Famous' central character slowly realizes, it's much less important what history may mean to music journalists 30 years from now than what it means to actually experience it right then and there. Maybe it was a hard lesson to learn. Because while the counterculture and its music started to become everything it hated (and too soon before punk came to remind everybody what the revolution was really about) rock's "lurch" still promised much for those that paid attention.
Indeed, it would take a concentrated effort to ignore this soundtrack's refreshing outlook. Simon & Garfunkel and the Who are pitted right against Yes and Elton John. The Beach Boys against Cat Stevens. There's a sense of heady nostalgia here -- but one more deliberately adolescent and tender than the schlock-infested oldies radio station trends of most soundtracks of this ilk. The Seeds are represented by one of their most psychedelic pop gems ("Mr. Farmer") while Thunderclap Newman sounds almost prophetic with their playfully carny-piano mini-marathon ("Something in the Air"). Even the two new fictionalized compositions both manage to evoke the feeling of a waning era with just the right amount of reminiscence.
This is surely not a definitive collection of post-'60s music and it's proud not to be. Like all great soundtracks, the one for Almost Famous works both as an instant reminder of the film's highs as well as a personal, startling perspective into the very "last gasps" of rock & roll. And like all great soundtracks, music journalists will probably hate it.