CD Review: The A-Team – Original Soundtrack

By • June 28, 2010

Composer: Alan Silvestri
Label: Varese Sarabande
Suggested Retail Price: $13.99
Grade: A


When it comes to producing testosterone, few composers would be better suited to kicking musical ass in an extreme patriotic cage match than Alan Silvestri. Beginning with the military brawn that he provided for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1987 bout with the PREDATOR, Silvestri has been sweating out reams of military percussion, swaggering themes and exhilarating action bombast in such scores as RICOCET, JUDGE DREDD, ERASER, VAN HELSING, BEOWULF and G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA. His latest exercise in wonderfully over-the-top adrenalin is THE A-TEAM, a score much in the same comic book vein as G.I. JOE, music that at once gives a big fat salute to military men of action while exhilarating in their destructive heroics.

There’s nothing really new to these demolition derbies since Silvestri started scoring them, other than their level of pure dumb fun (of which THE A-TEAM’s ranks well). Yet before he even entered this gladiatorial arena where only the musical big boys can play, Silvestri was wearing disco polyester instead of Kevlar when he made his first Hollywood breakthrough as the primary composer of NBC’s CHiPS. Who would’ve thunk that a guy who fueled motorcycle cop’s engines with great dance floor beats would be musically manning up just a few years later? But then, the fact that Silvestri is scoring an icon of cult TV-turned big screen blockbuster is no small measure of the talent he had in the first place- something that’s allowed him to keep standing when so many “old school” comrades of the 1980’s have taken the you’re-not-hip-enough bullet. Though full of youth sounds, Silvestri never comes across as a fuddy duddy trying to be one of the cool kids. He’s still as hip as he ever was. And while he continues to serve up more than enough rock n’ roll freshness to THE A-TEAM to appeal to the kids, Silvestri’s command of his symphonic troops always satisfies us old soundtrack fogies who are accustomed to passé things like themes and melody. And in a world of increasingly frenetic action pictures, THE A-TEAM is certainly one of the more insane ones Silvestri’s had to keep up with. You can almost feel the sweat flying off of his orchestra’s hands and mouths. But yet again, the results are pleasant instead of just being plain exhausting.

Where most TV-to-film adaptations try to go the highbrow route in an effort to make themselves “better” than their low-art origins, part of THE A-TEAM’s charm is that it’s completely comfortable in its silly, spiffed-up shoes, starting right off the bat as Silvestri jumps between his own notable themes as Mike Post’s inimitable motif, which blasts out as each rebooted character is introduced. And damn when he jams into the big Mike Post salute at the end, a rollicking gesture that will prove deeply satisfying to the people who watched that other NBC show, now given symphonic resources that Post never dreamed of. Yet, its spirit is very much on display with Silvestri.

Director and co-writer Joe Carnahan’s neat way of further amping up the big screen fun is to stage much of its action sequences within flashbacks as its schemes come together- leaving Silvestri with the no easy task of at once playing the car chases and fisticuffs for a few minutes here and there before cutting back to a dialogue scene with Liam Neeson playing Irving the Explainer. Yet this composer’s always been a master of angular writing, where music hits a peak, then swings away into another emotion without missing a beat- often dozens of times during a cue. And he certainly gets his chance here with “The Plan,” “Retrieving the Plates” and “Frankfurt,” There percussion varies between Middle Eastern rhythms (for what’s humorously described as the last days of America’s withdrawal from Iraq), spy beats that would be right at home in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE (the classic show from which this TEAM’s roots hail), hard ass techno, and swinging brass that play like CHiPS grooves for the 21st century.

But no matter if someone’s climbing under a truck and swinging down a building, Silvestri’s always sure to get his A themes in for the rescue, terrific compositional construction that never lets the score sink into the realm of “busy” action music where lots of orchestral-rock guns are going off, while in fact signifying nothing. The six-minute “Flying A Tank” stands as what might be the most absurd action scene Silvestri’s yet scored, with the composer’s bombastic approach reaching new heights amid the swirling, screaming strings and relentless military percussion- all of which truly get across the overblown giddiness of it all. Even when the action is at its height in the 13 minutes that constitute “The Docks” (out of the album’s generous 72 minutes), Silvestri’s also sure to get a clever new lick in here and there, in this case playing heroism with surf guitar rock.

For all of its unceasing escapades, there are a few nice quiet moments of suspense and emotion on deck. “Court Martial” seethes with dark outrage, while “Safehouse” powerfully has its betrayal turn into underplayed valor that truly cements its band of kick-ass brothers. Even B.A.’s need to let his inner killer out gets a sympathetic reading for “Shell Game.” But then, a score like A-TEAM is all about the big guns. And as always, Silvestri doesn’t disappoint with another barrage where the orchestra is once again the squad leader. His exhausting, exhilarating A-TEAM is musical popcorn at its best, dunked in butter and popped to thematic perfection. Once again in Silvestri’s hands, the music of dumb fun becomes something very smart indeed.

I love it when a Silvestri score comes together here

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