Soundtrack Reviews

May 5, 2011 | By

This one’s a quickie, because I’ve got a pair of Hot Docs reviews coming next.

Just uploaded are five soundtrack reviews that all feature musicians better known for their pioneering work with electronic instruments.

Mark Isham, who made a chilling impression with his all-electronic score for the cult film The Hitcher recently formed his own label (MIM Records), and released two versions of The Mechanic [M] score. I’ve reviewed the 2-disc special edition that gathers both discs, and cite their differences. The music rocks, by the way.

La-La Land has been writing wrongs committed during the foolish days when studio labels were releasing music-from-and-inspired-by nonsense, with one score cut or a tight suite of music in place of a proper score release, of which the worst affected were Hans Zimmer and his protégés.

Zimmer’s Broken Arrow [M] (1996) fared okay, since the composer at that time had sufficient commercial clout to produce 40+ minute CDs, but there were still those offending Rain Man and True Romance CDs with 1 or two score cuts.

Broken Arrow is reflective of Zimmer’s writing style at its zenith: it’s big, loud, and as bombastic as Dimitri Tiomkin writing his emotional reaction after sitting on an inch-long, razor sharp tack, and with a 2-CD edition, it sounds even bigger.

Protégé Mark Mancina got gipped several times, and the original Money Train [M] (1995) CD featured a hasty suite in place of score. Now, I know, it’s Money Train – a big, loud, stupid movie with a brainless script and an early appearance by Jello, but who knew that after hearing La-La Land’s full score CD, the vote is in Mancina’s favour: it’s a damn fun score, and one of his nineties best.

Zimmer’s latest protégé who’s graduated to several solo efforts is Atli Orvarsson, and The Eagle [M] (via Silva Screen) is outstanding. Neither bombastic nor riddled with soundalike themes, it’s a fine work that bridges evocations of Roman occupied ancient Britain with modern scoring conventions. Silva’s CD is also beautifully engineered, and sounds so lovely when piped through a tube amp. All warm and fuzzy.

Vangelis has tackled period films with largely all synth or synth-dominant scores. Chariots of Fire is a landmark (albeit clichéd due to overplay, imitation, and heavy usage in slo-mo parodies), whereas 1492: Conquest of Paradise still holds up well with all those edgy rhythms and that superb title track. Nothing like wailing Spaniards, acoustic guitar, and booming percussion. Alexander is his lone dud because it’s a score as lifeless as Oliver Stone’s film – regardless if it’s the theatrical, the non-gay, or the director’s cut edit.

The Bounty [M] (BSX Records) fares better in spite of being a vintage 1984 score with synths applied to an 18th century ship rebellion against pouty-lipped Captain Bligh (“Mis-tah Chris-tee-ahn!!!).

Read the reviews, as there’ll be another group this weekend.



Mark R. Hasan, Editor

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