Review Summary: Wait a second. The voice, the bad puns, the hard rock...
Last Action Hero (the movie) was, in most people's opinion, awful. It was one of the biggest blockbuster flops of the '90s and perhaps rightly so. Maybe the now-governator-then-terminator didn't have the best comedic timing in the world, but I personally love the movie, and still watch it whenever it's on cable. It constitutes a pretty great childhood memory for me and is great escapism, even if it wasn't worth it's astronomical budget. But, to each their own I guess. Which is a pretty good description of the soundtrack as it turns out.
A word of caution: For all intents and purposes, this is a hard rock album. What else can you expect from a soundtrack containing AC/DC, Def Leppard, Megadeth, Anthrax, Alice in Chains and Buckethead for good measure? Sure, Cypress Hill and Fishbone make an appearance, but in the grand scheme of things these two songs come off as a little superfluous, and even the Fishbone song draws more from the band's heavy-metal roots than from ska or funk. However, despite the relative lack of sonic diversity on the album, it provides a great snapshot of the early-'90s hard rock music scene. There is also some great, "previously unreleased" music on this album, that makes it much more worthwhile than similar fare. And, while most of the music falls under the hard rock banner, there is enough diversity to keep your attention from wandering.
Also, since this is a compilation album and was never meant to sound like a cohesive whole, I'm going to review each song individually. Some of them deserve it.
1. Big Gun - AC/DC
This is one of those "previously unreleased" songs and is classic AC/DC. The guitar riffs in this song are some of AC/DC's best work and is classic foot-stomping, head-banging, hands in the air stuff.
2. What The Hell Have I - Alice in Chains
I think that it is a testament to how good Alice in Chains was in the early '90s when you consider that this song was an outtake from their "Dirt" album sessions. Probably the best song on this album and another one of those "previously unreleased" gems. Alice in Chains' trademarks are all in place. Swirling and slightly unsettling harmonies, crushing riffs and soaring vocals during the chorus. They add to this mix with the psychedelically sludgy intro and main riff of the song being played simultaneously on guitar and sitar. Awesome stuff, and a shame that it wasn't on the "Dirt" album, perhaps even in place of the title track.
3. Angry Again - Megadeth
This is a fairly mediocre song from the thrash icons. The song is full-on "radio friendly"-Megadeth. The riffs are heavy, but very mid-tempo and hardly technically complex and contains no surprises whatsoever which isn't a plus point for a Megadeth song. Plus, Dave Mustaine also pulls out his talk/sing style.
4. Real World - Queensryche
The song is quite interesting in a theatrically overdramatic way, which I suppose is par for the course for Queensryche. The orchestral woodwind intro and string accompaniment scream "Michael Kamen", which is not surprising in the least for a movie soundtrack composed by him. The song is mostly acoustic guitars with noodling electric and dramatically harmonised vocals before kicking into the instrumental coda, which is distorted guitar riffing with urgent drumming, and reverting to the acoustic sound at the end. All the while the string section is present, helping to set the mood; initially melancholic, then urgent.
5. Two Steps Behind - Def Leppard
Another "previously unreleased" song, and one of Def Leppard's best ballads. The string section, courtesy Michael Kamen I'm fairly sure, is unnecessary and makes an otherwise classy sounding acoustic ballad sound sound a little cheesy, but what else do you expect from Def Leppard? Laid-back with great harmonies and catchy as all hell.
6. Poison My Eyes - Anthrax
Definitely better than Megadeth's contribution to the album. The guitar's killswitch-diddling in the intro makes you think it's going to be a hip-hop-metal song, but then the drums pick up and the riffs catch up and the song turns into heavy metal. Still fairly generic by Anthrax's standards but enjoyable nevertheless.
7. Dream On - Aerosmith
The granddaddy of all power ballads. 'nuff said.
8. A Little Bitter - Alice In Chains
Not nearly as strong as "What The Hell Have I" but it's not terrible either. Processed vocals from Layne Staley with more psychedelic sludginess and crushing heaviness from Jerry Cantrell's guitar. It acts more as preview to the sound they would adopt on their third album.
9. Co*k The Hammer - Cypress Hill
The first, and really the only, change of pace of the album, not counting the ballads. Starts off with a cool, jazzy sounding, standing bass intro and then the drums kick in. It's pretty regular Cypress Hill stuff otherwise, and it prevents the album from getting too monotonous.
10. Swim - Fishbone
The song puts it's lot back in with the metal crowd with it's heavy funk-metal riff but it has a slight hip-hop feel to it provided by the drums and the spoken/shouted lyrics. It's not a particularly memorable track though.
11. Last Action Hero - Tesla
I always thought the Tesla song "Modern Day Cowboy" would have made a good action movie theme song, maybe for a Bond film with it's so-very-Bond-like riff. However, Tesla did record the theme for this movie, but it's not as good. Fairly typical hair-fare with with blues leanings as would be expected from Tesla.
12. Jack and the Ripper - Buckethead & Michael Kamen
This starts off with some atmospheric noise and orchestration before Buckethead starts throwing some gunfight-blues and funk into the mixture. It isn't a boring song, but it does sound rather pointless with the music never really building and climaxing, which is rather disappointing as you would expect it to build to something.
Overall, the album does have some superb songs on it, and it's definitely fun to listen to. Not groundbreaking in any way, but as far as OST's go, one of the better ones out there.