Yesterday James Gunn finally unwrapped the songs on the much-anticipated Guardians of the Galaxy Awesome Mix, Volume 2. Given the overwhelming success of the first soundtrack (number 1 on the Billboard charts) and it’s contributions to the overall film, I was excited to finally get my “ear-balls” on this collection of 60s and 70s goodness.
Because we live in an age of the wonders of Spotify and iTunes, I was able to assemble it with very little fuss within minutes of the set list popping up on my Facebook feed. Only the last track, “Guardians Inferno,” featuring David Freaking Hasselhoff escaped my searching!
After a couple of listens, I’ve got mixed feelings. Keep in mind, the only thing that really matters is if it contributes to making a good film. I haven’t seen the new movie so I can’t speak to that. My impressions are strictly from a musical point of view.
The original soundtrack contained some bumping tunes that had you nodding and grinning from nearly start to finish. This new mix is a bit more thoughtful and restrained. There’s a thread about family and togetherness that runs through the album, which I’m guessing is not accidental.
There are places the mix busts loose, like as Parliament’s “Flashlight,” “Surrender” by Cheap Trick, and “Fox on the Run” by Sweet, but the inclusion of George Harrison’s masterpiece “My Sweet Lord” and Cat Steven’s “Father and Son” mellow things out considerably. Even Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” is hardly the “balls-to-the-wall” exuberance evident on the first collection.
There are some good tunes here. Songs that I had forgotten I knew and bordering on guilty-pleasure territory. But I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed by the more somber tone. I wanted more energy and funk. I don’t think this is going to be in regular rotation on my (digital) walkman.
As I’ve already said, this is all a moot point so long as it supports the film—that’s all that really matters. But if you want some retro goodness in the vein of the Volume 1 mix that stole our hearts, I’ve assembled my own Alternate Reality Awesome Mix, Volume 2, which (while not featured in the movie), capture more of the bopping joy of the first mix.
The Criteria: tunes had to be from the 60s, 70s or 80s, have that certain funk/rock/pop flair, and make you want to pump up the volume. Extra credit was given if the song dealt with space, speed or fighting. Here’s where I landed:
- Call Me ~ Blondie (1980) – Perfect tone. I can also totally see this blasting right after someone says, “There’s only one group who can save the galaxy now.”
- Showdown ~ Electric Light Orchestra (1973) – ELO, man. Such a great tune for the lead-up to a…well, showdown. And yes, I totally stole this from Kingpin with Bill Murray.
- Don’t Stop Me Now ~ Queen (1987) – In addition to being a glam-rock standard, it’s dripping with space references. “Like a shooting star burning through the sky,” “traveling at the speed of light,” “Gonna make a supersonic man outa you…” Yeah, it’s a little played out, but it’s my mix and it’s going on there.
- Higher Ground ~ Stevie Wonder (1973) – Uplifting, funky, and all about trying to be as good as you can.
- Panama ~ Van Halen (1984) – Probably forever inextricably linked to Superbad. But it’s about speeding around, a retro-fun tune and if they were drafting crazy mortals to join an intergalactic group of outlaws, there’s no way early 80s David Lee Roth doesn’t get the call. Hey, he already owns the spandex.
- Gone Shootin’ ~ AC/DC (1978) – Why should Iron Man be the only Marvel guy who gets to rock out to AC/DC? Regardless, this pick features the Aussie rockers’ original singer, Bon Scott. It’s a bit obscure, less polished than their later offerings, but is packed with groove, danger, and attitude. This tune’s got Rocket Raccoon written all over it.
- Car Wash ~ Rose Royce (1978) – There’s no substance here. It’s just an old-fashioned, guilty-pleasure throwback that’s tons of fun.
- Starman – David Bowie (1972) – This song actually follows “Moonage Daydream” from the first Awesome Mix on Bowie’s all-time classic “The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” Is it on the nose? Definitely. Is it still amazing? Hands down.
- Hate Myself for Loving You ~ Joan Jett & the Blackhearts (1988) – The original featured “Cherry Bomb” by the Runaways, so I’m slipping a Joan Jett song in there. Jett, of course, was the guitar player from the Runaways, and packs raw energy that feels very “Guardian-ish” to me. Great song.
- Payback ~ James Brown (1973) – The Godfather of Funk needs no explanation. He was the freaking man. Payback is more restrained than some of his big hits, but the groove of this song just can’t. be. topped.
- Highway Star ~ Deep Purple (1972) – Umm…it was this or “Space Trucking” off the same Deep Purple album (“Machinehead”). There’s a lot of funk on this album and I wanted to slip some more rock in there to balance it out. Plus it’s about being a star, which is ALMOST like being a living planet.
- You’re the First, the Last, My Everything ~ Barry White (1974) – This is my answer to “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough.” It’s a throwback that you probably haven’t heard in a while, it’s big, rolling, fun, and so far into cheese that it becomes cool again.
- It Came Out of the Sky ~ Creedence Clearwater Revival (1969) – I love me some CCR, and the title was just too good to turn down.
- Outa-Space ~ Billy Preston (1971) – Good title, lots of funky fun. ‘Nuff said.
- Love Removal Machine ~ the Cult (1987) – This is my answer to “Go all the Way” off the first mix. Really good rocker, and one that you don’t hear as much as you probably should.
- Why Did You Do It? ~ Stretch (1975) – You might recognize this track from the film Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels. Guy Richie, Quintin Tarantino, and Martin Scorsese all know how to pack great songs into a movie. It’s a little obscure, but so funky, fun, and dangerous. I love this tune.
- Papa Was a Rolling Stone ~ the Temptations (1972) – Ok, everyone knows this song. But it’s big, funky…and almost too perfect for a film about an absentee father. Right??? Had to do it!
For your listening pleasure, here’s the Spotify playlist. Enjoy!
This list is far from perfect. The 70s are probably over-represented. Look, I can’t help it if that’s when music peaked. Some of the songs are a bit too on the nose (looking at you “Starman” and “Highway Star”), and others have been so prominently featured in movies that it’d be dumb to try to recycle them again (“Payback,” “Panama,” and “Don’t Stop Me Now”).
In the end, though, I’m pretty happy with the selections. Feel free to hit me up in the comments with where I went wrong or any suggestions.