CD: Cape, The (2011)

December 16, 2011 | By

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Rating: Excellent

Label: La-La Land Records / Released: September 27, 2011

Tracks & Album Length: CD1: 23 tracks / (79:51) + CD2: 26 tracks / (78:17)


Special Notes: 16-page colour booklet with liner notes by series creator Tom Wheeler, executive producer John Wirth, and composer Bear McCreary / Limited to 2000 copies..


Composer: Bear McCreary




Grounded around a heroic theme somewhat similar to Human Target – tight, compact, and propelled by a swerving motion that infers a quick swoop to safety – Bear McCreary’s music for The Cape is much darker and arguably more epicthan the prior series, as though each episode functioned as a chapter in which the titular hero learns major life lessons while settling into his role as a crime-fighting hero.

A major reasons La-La Land’s 2-CD set is so engrossing lies in the clever editing of cues from multiple episodes, re-stitched into a thematic chronology that avoids repetition. While fans may have preferred formal episodic suites, there’s enough continuity among theme variations and instrumental groupings to create a lengthy journey with strongly defined moods and atmosphere.

There are some obvious stylistic influences within The Cape, and one can easily hear bits of Danny Elfman / Shirley Walker (the ascending triplets reminiscent of The Flash, or swerving action of Batman); Jerry Goldsmith (the brooding sustained chords of ‘The Cloud’ music from Star Trek: The Motion Picture worms its way into cues like “The Death of Vince Faraday” or a fast quote in “Confronting Chess”); swirling string figures of Bill Conti (echoing the launch music from The Right Stuff); and while not quoting John Williams, McCreary evokes the verve of the Superman films which established a gold standard of emotionally engrossing themes for comic book dramas.

McCreary’s own personality comes through in his recognizable combination of fast & smooth transitions within action cues, fat bass hits, and a wonderful use of orchestral colour. The Cape only lasted a season before it met the network hatchet, yet not unlike Human Target, a decision was made by its creator to give the series a large orchestral sound, transferring a major component of big screen comic book adventurism to the small screen.

There is a sense of humour running throughout the score – the Latin rhythms and brass in “The Carnival of Crime” are amusingly paired with concertina before veering into an Eastern European theme variation performed with chamber strings – but there’s also a dark undercurrent, as though the audience must be reminded of the character’s personal wrestling with moral issues, the effects notoriety and secrecy have on his family, and facing conflicts that remain unique to the imperfect hero.

The CDs offer a fluid blend of action, heroism, and combat, but the best bits are often the somber cues where McCreary deals with loss, consequences, and loneliness, particularly in the final third of CD1.

CD2 carries over the introspective mood with a ballad by brother Brendan McCreary, who combines acoustic guitar and chamber string orchestra, but the tender interlude is soon upset by aggressive action cues with brass motifs that evoke a hero who leaps, bounds, and fast-recovers from fights after being worked over like a human volleyball. McCreary also indulges in some clever instrumental combinations, such as harpsichord, grungy strings and growling bass clarinet in the eerie “Ghosts of Palm City,” or weird aleatoric concertina sounds in “Highwire Training” that bleed into exotic gypsy percussion.

The Cape is crisply mastered and features about 2.5 hours of music, flowing through multiple moods and kinetic motifs. It’s a solid narrative and an affecting tribute to another short-lived TV series, and will undoubtedly cause several listeners to investigate the series on video to satisfy their curiosity of whether the show managed to live up to the composer’s rich music.



© 2011 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

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