Dirty Dancing – 25th Anniversary Soundtrack (review)

Various Artists – Dirty Dancing – The Deluxe Anniversary Edition (RCA/Legacy) review Nobody puts baby in a corner

As large a pop culture phenomenon as there has ever been, Dirty Dancing dominated the late 1980‘s.  The movie was a colossal hit, spawning not one, but two successful soundtracks.

The inclusion of several vintage songs helped rekindle an interest in oldies music, causing “Do You Love Me” by the Contours, which was in the movie, but not on the original soundtrack, to re-appear on the Billboard charts, peaking at #11.  The 20th anniversary edition of the soundtrack included every song featured in the movie.  Now, for the 25th anniversary, RCA/Legacy have scaled things back for this Deluxe Anniversary Edition.

This time around, they’ve restored the soundtrack to its original, 12-song length.  For millions of people that originally purchased this on LP and cassette, this is the running order they remember.  The real draw is the accompanying booklet, which features interviews with many of the key players in the making of the soundtrack, including Eric Carmen, whose “Hungry Eyes” was one of three top 10 hits from the movie, and Michael Lloyd, who produced several of the tracks on the album.  Also included are six collector postcards featuring scenes from the movie, as well as a shiny silver Dirty Dancing sticker, that looks straight out of 1987.

25 years later, the album doesn’t really hold up as a cohesive listen.  The sequencing, which alternates between new songs (at the time) and oldies, is jarring.  The reliance on heavy keyboards and synth drums date the new material, while the classic songs are all of much lower fidelity.  It might’ve been better to put all the oldies on one side – but doing that would’ve made the newer tracks unlistenable.

All five of the classic songs – “Be My Baby,” “Love is Strange,” “Stay,” “Hey Baby,” and “In the Still of the Night,” have all transcended their original context and become part of our popular culture, due in large part to the success of this movie.  Of the newer material, Ex-Doobie Brother Tom Johnston’s “Where Are You Tonight” has an oddly Carolina-Beach Music feel, and still sounds pretty good.  It’s hard to argue with the chemistry between Ex-Righteous Brother Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes – it may be schmaltzy, but they certainly give their all to “I’ve Had the Time of My Life.”  Strangely, none of the older artists were able to use this soundtrack as a stepping stone for further success.  Eric Carmen failed to produce a new solo album in the wake of “Hungry Eyes” success, and could only manage the single “Make Me Lose Control.”

Dirty Dancing was so huge, it even spawned a hit for actor Patrick Swayze, in “She’s Like the Wind.”

Of course, this Deluxe Anniversary of Dirty Dancing isn’t for neophytes – this is for those who recall the movie fondly from their childhood (or adulthood, for that matter).  If you’re looking for a blast of nostalgia, circa 1987, this one’s for you.  –Tony Peters