CD: Mechanic, The (2011)

May 3, 2011 | By

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Rating: Excellent

Label: MIM Records/ Released: January 26, 2011

Tracks & Album Length:

CD 1: 6 tracks / (51:13)
CD 2: 29 tracks / (71:51)

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Special Notes: Limited signed edition available from MIM Records directly or as a digital album via iTunes and Amazon.com (as Mechanic Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Complete).

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Composer: Mark Isham

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Review:

Composers releasing their own soundtrack albums through personal boutique labels is nothing new, but it’s quite rare that a score is given two separate interpretations. (Re-recorded albums arranged and conducted by the same composer are rather different animals.)

Back in 1957, you had Elmer Bernstein’s score and song arrangements from The Sweet Smell of Success + Chico Hamilton’s own theme and jazz suite release, and as late as 1992, Terence Blanchard offered up two striking versions of his Malcolm X themes: the original score, and a modernistic jazz interpretation.

It’s doubtful the decision to release two conceptual soundtrack albums for one film is unique to jazz composers, but there is that innate trait of reinterpreting themes in a different guise, particularly with composers who enjoy drifting and adopting elements from various idioms, and more so than the aforementioned composers, Mark Isham has experience in jazz, electronica, orchestral, and a fusion of all three.

Way back when he recorded the audio commentary to Blade (1998), Isham spoke of a series of singles he was composing for dance venues, but that project never materialized, and the two-album release of The Mechanic (2011) seems to follow that unrealized concept of offering different interpretations for different tastes, although the actual albums here are actually more traditional in scope: the complete film score in 29 tracks, and re-recorded suites of expanded themes and motifs in 6 tracks.

Both share the same material, but the listening experiences are quite different. The score CD (billed as The Complete Collector’s Edition) features cues edited and mixed for the needs of scenes and the overall film, and while running 20 mins. longer than the suite CD, it’s a familiar mix of impressionistic, fragmented, and full theme statements, whereas the suite album (branded The Assassin’s Edition) allowed Isham to let his favourite material flow organically. It’s still dominated by the simple 4-note electric guitar theme, but it’s fair to view the suites as psychological portraits of being a hard-nosed hired gun, trusting no one, and always being wary of one’s surroundings in case of a sudden assault – a sense best expressed in the CD’s longest suite “I Wanna Know What You Know.”

Besides the overt theme restatement, there are plenty of suspended chords, sudden orchestral assaults with frenetic strings, and a pulsing bass groove with rapping ethnic percussion and an off-beat electronic tone pulse. A combative segment offers up counterpointing percussion and fuzzy electric guitars, and during the roughly 21 minute cue, Isham returns to his core theme and offers brief rest periods of synth strings or a steady bass beat, the latter creating a travelling motifs as the character makes his way between deadly encounters.

Both CDs (silk-screened CDRs) are available separately, or as a limited Double Barrel Edition, which comes with a signed booklet and signed score sheet. Whether The Mechanic was conceived to receive a split conceptual run or the endeavor began as an afterthought, it’s a rare treat to have two versions of an Isham score, and once again sample a mature composer whose grasp on fusing multiple elements remain as firm as ever.

Highly recommended.

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© 2011 Mark R. Hasan

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External References:

IMDB — Soundtrack Album — Composer Filmography.


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