November 23, 2005

Film Score Albums

The following are film score albums where I thought every single track just worked, as whole. There are very few such albums – most albums contain a few brilliant tracks accompanied by some meandering or filler tracks. Pretty much all Thomas Newman scores are like that, a few good ones, so good you'll remember them for the rest of your breathing lives, but the rest of the album … meh.

The Bourne Supremacy (John Powell)

My … Starting from the first track, Goa, which introduces a breezy melody accompanied by strong percussions, all the way to the end, the score basically never lets up. Half the tracks here are action tracks, based around seemingly chaotic percussion beats which races forwards and brakes at random, like a car throwing you forward and back, and you can actually feel the inertia of it listening to it. In between, some relatively quieter tracks blend in and then leave, not intruding the pacing at all. It all builds up the climax which begins with the determined-sounding Moscow Build Up and lets out in full blast for 6 minutes in Bim Bam Smash. As I keep saying, if only all action scores are like this …

The Four Feathers (James Horner)

The film deserved a few Oscars, in my opinion, but most of the world has never even heard of it. Could have been the Lawrence of Arabia of this century – I'm not kidding. The score itself … well, not everyone is going to like it, but I love it! An adventure story about a British finding redemption in the Sudan, what the score does is to have Western epic orchestral music play out, then North African wailing music, then when the battle sequences begin, mesh them together, twisting in and out of each other, sometimes competing with each other. It was a brilliant concept (also done in Black Hawk Down) and what really works here is that both aspects were so strong. I love the Qawwali wailings – it's coarse and rough and out-of-tune and, for most of you, irritating. Maybe that's why I like it, I can bear things you guys can't. The Western orchestral bits – wow … Seriously, the romantic parts were so damn heartbreaking and poignant – and Horner achieved that with 6 piano notes, that's it – while the epic bits were so classical and grand. You must hear it to understand what I mean.

Mighty Joe Young (James Horner)

This one sees Horner doing something he normally never touches – African music. What is surprising is that he did it SO well. While it's still recognisably Horner, the African parts of the score, which includes the percussions and the vocals, are so well used and they create really nice melodies. The first track, Sacred Guardian of the Mountain, is Horner's usual way of starting films, where percussion build into a crescendo, gets more chaotic, climaxes, then softens it. Works really well here. The next track, Poachers, starts in mysteriously, and then very unique and never-heard-before percussion builds its way in, and then the music turns sad when you hear two soft voices singing the main theme (actually when the part when the little girl's mother dies slowly in front of her), and then it blasts off into a strong African choir. The rest of the score is either tender music, which are mostly variations of the rather beautiful main theme, or they're the action bits, taking up most of the second half of the album. The action bits contain lots of very interesting inventions of percussion beats and structures which have never been heard and never heard from again. Strange how much effort went into this forgettable film. The final track ends with the Windsong, and the song was just so beautiful I couldn't get it out of my head for MONTHS. I can even sing the song, which may be Swahili but I'm not sure. (Imba wimbo wa-uh peh po … wakati una ju-wana …)

Under The Tuscan Sun (Christophe Beck)

I've talked about this score before. Basically a dramedy score – and I've never heard any other score balance it so well in between. Many of the tracks leave with you a feeling that's half wanting to break into a smile and half poignant in a way that makes you feel like you're not yourself anymore. Don't know what more to say except that you must hear this one.

Gladiator (Hans Zimmer & Lisa Gerrard)

Come to think of it, this one also works in its entirety. Not a single boring track. Obviously the score is one of the best in the last decade.

American Beauty (Thomas Newman)

Okay, so I was wrong about Newman. There was this one where every single track worked. Most people only know the Dead Already track though, thanks to some electronic DJ or something converting the score into a dance track.


- 3 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. I love the Gladiator score. It works so well by itself as a cd, and the music always reminds me of which bit of the film it came from.

    23 Nov 2005, 19:49

  2. I'll have to correct you on Newman…he is the man. Shawshank Redemption, Green Mile, Finding Nemo..need I say more?

    26 Nov 2005, 12:26

  3. Well, Newman's on my top three – but the thing is the album he composes tend to contain like a couple of brilliant tracks or cues – and the rest is not that listenable. Take Finding Nemo – most of them are quite forgettable, but there are some that are really engaging. The Nemo Egg cue was so darn poignant. (I was surprised it was nominated for Best Score, but it totally deserved it.) Or Shawshank – again, a couple of tracks that are mindblowingly good – the rest, they're alright, but not exactly great.

    I thought the best tracks he's done so far are Road To Perdition in said movie, Dead Already (obviously) and Any Other Name, and the final half of In The Bedroom End Credits. This last one slips under most people's radar … there, with only four notes, the guy created an intense sense of poignancy and nostalgia. Good stuff.

    (Overall most people would agree that the best album he's done so far is Angels In America. Heard that one?)

    26 Nov 2005, 12:50


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