CD Review: December Soundtrack Picks

By • December 22, 2010

‘Tron Legacy‘ One Of The Top Soundtracks To Own For December, 2010

Also worth picking up: Batman Returns, The Bounty, Clash Of The Titans, Dead Rising 2, Family Plot, The Film And TV Music Of Christopher Gunning, Happy Now, The Illusionist, North Dallas Forty And True Grit

To purchase the soundtracks from this list, click on the CD cover

1) BATMAN RETURNS: LIMITED EDITION (3500 edition)


Price: $29.98

What is it?: Few composers have more fun unleashing their devilishly twisted side like Danny Elfman, especially when longtime collaborator Tim Burton truly lets his creativity go bats**t. But if one film takes that cake in their always-eccentric pairings, then it would be the shining piece of comic book coal called BATMAN RETURNS. Sure their first BATMAN was dark, but no one expected the moral bestiality that would result from the pairing of The Bat, The Cat and The Penguin, a ménage a trois complete with whip-wielding S & M, intended child homicide and a very bloody nose- all prancing about to the jollily sinister heroics of Elfman’s Christmas-carnival-from-hell score.

Why should you buy it?: Though there’s little of the sound of Elfman’s Oingo Boingo songs in BATMAN RETURNS, the oompa-loompa calliope vibe that fueled the band is very much present in the pipe organs, taunting chorus, and rollicking xylophones that embody The Penguin’s Circus of Crime. And that’s not the only tuneful representation of characters here, as Elfman uses his string section to meow, hiss and slink about as it becomes the enticing claws of the Catwoman. Throw these completely oddball approaches in with the familiar, theme-heavy brooding of Batman, and you’ve got a delightfully unbalanced soundtrack that plays like Wagner trying to bash his way out of a Christmas parade from hell. It’s just one of the many merry prankster elements that multiplex audiences in 1992 didn’t begin to get about this cleverly seditious sequel.

Extra Special: La La Land Records follows up their complete Elfman BATMAN album by revealing just how complex Elfman’s seeming madness was. With this double album’s score clocking in at nearly 90 minutes, this bells and whistles presentation adds even more hell-bent-for leather romance to the Catwoman confrontations, an eerie underbelly to the Penguin’s zoo hideout and more thunderous charging that sends Batman to the villains’ lair. Put on numerous alternates and original album versions, plus a cocktail band version of Rick James’ “Superfreak,” and this new, expansive BATMAN RETURNS reveals itself as what could be considered Elfman’s ultimate mock superhero opera.

2) CLASH OF THE TITANS (3,000 edition)


Price: $29.99

What is it?: With no offense to Ramin Djawadi’s rock-fueled percussion that accompanied the more-than-manly, 3-D CGI revamp of this year’s CLASH, it’s likely that Laurence Rosenthal’s symphonically lush, hero-making music of the gods was the stuff that played in Perseus’ ears as he slew Medusa and turned the Kraken to stone. It’s an old school style that will also forever identify CLASH for a certain geek generation, for whom no amount of cool computer effects will ever replace Ray Harryhausen’s home-made brand of stop-motion wonder, for whom Rosenthal’s score provided a more than worthy send-off. Now Intrada pays tribute to the alter of the O.G. CLASH with a stupendous release that collects all of Rosenthal’s classic soundtrack onto two CD’s, revealing the true scope of a score that embodied the mythological sense of wonder that made up so much of Harryhausen’s career.

Why should you buy it?: It’s not as if Laurence Rosenthal wasn’t a master of more “sophisticated” fare like BECKET and THE MIRACLE WORKER before CLASH came his way in 1981. Sure Harryhausen was lucky enough to get the likes of Bernard Herrmann, Laurie Johnson and Miklos Rozsa to give weight, let alone towering size to his inch-high monsters. Now with newfangled effects techniques guaranteeing that CLASH would be the last of its kind (while also ringing in a new wave of epic fantasies like DRAGONSLAYER and KRULL), Rosenthal mustered a true, sweet innocence with this sweeping score, trumpeting music that drew on the kind of timeless grandeur that legends themselves were made of, a rich thematic tradition that embodied fluttering mechanical owls, an angry sea monster and the harpsichord of a snake-haired she-demon, as pitted against the clean-shaven valor of a hero with a good attitude, and romance in his noble heart.

Extra Special: While CLASH’s score was well-represented on its PEG release, the breadth of Rosenthal’s accomplishment is truly stupendous in its entirety here, its highlights revealing even more Wagnerian woe to the villainous Caliban, giving its two-headed monster dog a snarling orchestral attack, and bringing on the siren chorus of Mount Olympus. With its truly magical sound that made a generation gawk in wide-eyed wonder before kids became too sophisticated, the entirety of the true CLASH score leaves little reason to ask why this will be the opus that Laurence Rosenthal is remembered for, and perhaps Harryhausen himself.

3) DEAD RISING 2


Price: $16.98

What is it?: When it seems that just about every last note has been used to dismember, decapitate and blow the brains out of the endless zombie hordes who are attacking via film, TV and videogames, along comes some dudes named Oleksa Lozowchuk, The Humble Brothers, Jeremy Soule and Klayton to show there are infinitely more variations to this dance of death, which turns into a thoroughly fun slamdance of styles for this game sequel that brings on the flesh eaters in spades.

Why should you buy it?: With the action taking place in “Fortune City,” the new RISING satirically starts out with hellbilly rock and Diva-pop strutting of the zombie-bashing game show “Terror Is Reality” before the rules naturally are off with an undead invasion. It allows the music to venture from the more than capable electric guitar rhythm kill stuff into far more interesting territory with distorted country strumming, the last gasps from the accordion of Chef Antoine and the lonely pianos of post-apocalypse desolation.

Extra Special: While the first CD of RISING 2 is effectively chilling, it’s really the second disc that has the unexpected good as it rampages through various chain stores in Fortune City, venues that include a Peep Show, Cheesecake Mania and Speedy Expresso. While our tour deceptively starts off like a languid journey through the eighth level of shopping mall Muzak hell, the scorers are soon employing ranchero music, spaghetti westerns, Django Reindhart jazz, cartoon slapstick, 80’s hairband ramp-ups and a Bratwurst Polka on the stylistic turn of a dime- switches that are deliberately dizzying for this crazy “source” music that’s just as clever as the real undead-pummeling stuff. As the zombie holocaust increasingly takes over mass media, there’s truly nothing better than music that decides to play it with DEAD RISING 2’s humorous bite.

4) FAMILY PLOT (5,000 edition)


Price: $19.98

What is it?: In his 50-year plus career, Alfred Hitchcock had his macabre way with every top composer from Miklos Rozsa to Dmitri Tiomkin (not to mention Bernard Herrmann). So it seemed fitting that he’d go out with a bang by using John Williams, whose suspenseful career was on the fast track with the just-released JAWS. But instead of turning to the knife-slashing suspense one would expect Hitch to sum up his repertoire with, the director went for far more light-hearted fare about a sleazy psychic and her pursuers, taking Williams down a deliciously twisted road of dark comedy that would serve as a warm-up to the musical black magic of his scores to THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK and various HARRY POTTER’s.

Why Should you buy it?: Where he’d latter pay full-on tribute to Bernard Herrmann’s Hitch work in THE FURY, 1976’s FAMILY PLOT is all tell-tale Williams, from its typically memorable main theme to lush symphonic stylings. The composer makes sure all the musical accoutrements of a walk-in psychic shop are on hand, with a ghostly female chorus, Baroque harpsichords, dark pianos and some delicious 70’s era synth eeriness to point out its daffy clairvoyant. Yet for all of its faux supernatural fun, FAMILY PLOT has an equal amount of truly sinister juice as the stakes ratchet up for dangerous action and long runs of ever-building menace. PLOT is a bravura example of tonal shifting that gives the auteur’s pleasant, if lightweight career finale a somewhat dangerous veneer.

Extra Special: The Varese Club goes finishes the year with a bang by releasing one of Williams’ remaining grails with a sonic polish that makes this PLOT sound like it was hatched yesterday. But then, the final musical twists are two bonus tracks that firmly put Williams’ in a record era where a disco-ish main title and a six-minute jazz jam session were expected- all capped off with Williams authority, and score restorer Michael Matessino doing another great job of elucidating on Williams’ music with PLOT’s meeting of two masters of suspense.

5) TRON LEGACY


Price: $11.88

What is it?: It’s a cold, dark and mesmerizing world 28 years later on the game grid, so don’t expect any of the playfully lush themes that Wendy Carlos gave you geeks the first time out- unless you’re counting Jeff Bridges’ brief A Capella improv at the start of LEGACY. What you will get from electronica superstars-turned-masked composers Daft Punk is an icily epic sound that brilliantly matches the new, austerely Kubrickian imagery on thrilling display, while also delivering on the whiz-bang action pitched towards a young audience whose listening tastes have significantly evolved since the days of 8-bit Atari music- not that Punk isn’t going to remind them of those glory days.

Why should you buy it?: In a retro synth score year that includes the likes of THE SOCIAL NETWORK and SCOTT PILGRIM, LEGACY’s mosh pit of tastily familiar samples will undoubtedly return TRON-generation fans to the happy days of Vangelis and Tangerine Dream, not to mention progressive bands like Yes. Buoyed by an imposing motiff that might make listeners feel like they’re back in INCEPTION’s dreamscape, Punk’s score has numerous sonic terrains to offer, a mix tape of dance-dance revolution chases, glo-stick club tunes (which Daft is seen spinning), neo-Fascist marches and surreal, hardcore sci-fi atmospheres. Yet while they’re state of the musical art, Daft’s coolest trick is realizing that they can’t stint on the kind of emotional themework that only an orchestra can deliver to a movie score, backing up their stunning rhythms with hard-edged human players. Just as Carlos’ original score heralded the 80’s synth revolution, Punk’s work will undoubtedly serve as our musical millennium’s LEGACY as to how hip film scoring keeps evolving into an electro-symphonic hybrid that’s as much about technological innovation as it is about making us feel the awesomeness of the kind of imagery that both TRONs have in spades.

Extra Special: Of course when you’ve got a group of Daft’s popularity, gotta have-it-all Punk addicts are sure to be sent racing across the album grids to get what’s as close as possible to a complete LEGACY soundtrack- a multiple version venture that will lead them to two bonus tracks on iTunes, a bonus track on Amazon and a special English two-CD U.K. version. Even the MCP wouldn’t be this cruel.

ALSO FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION:

THE BOUNTY

The idea of having someone else try to re-create the inimitable sound of Vangelis is enough to induce a Vietnam flashback to the infamous New American Orchestra’s “adaptation” of 1982’s BLADE RUNNER, done at the time of the film’s release to cash in on fans’ desperate desire for an official soundtrack that would be twenty-five years in coming. While admirers of his similarly excellent 1984 score to the BOUNTY are still waiting to hear its original tracks release beyond two cuts on Vangelis’ “Themes” CD, Buysoundtrax’ “new” BOUNTY album definitely won’t make the composer’s crew seasick, especially with Dominik Hauser at the helm. An accomplished Hollywood keyboardist and orchestrator who’s contributed to such soundtracks as AEON FLUX and THE PERFECT GETAWAY, Hauser does an impressive job of recreating Vangelis’ mesmerizing wash of synths, managing to make his BOUNTY sound circa 1984, while also putting his own, unobtrusive modern touch on the material in a way that will intrigue, instead of offend most Vangelis purists. Hauser’s BOUNTY performance shows the timeless electronic approach that is Vangelis’ trademarked poetry, his wave of hauntingly beautiful melodies here enough to captivate any crew to mutiny in favor of a tropical paradise. If anything, these BOUNTY cuts are enough to make you wish Hauser had gone for the whole kaboodle, though other selections from Vangelis’ scores to BITTER MOON and FRANCESCO fill in nicely. Also on board for the more traditional source cues are singer Katie Campbell and violinist Elizabeth Hedman, whose sea shantyings are equally spot-on.

BRUC

You can likely put the number of Napoleon-ea action scores on a short list, a unique quality that makes the genre open musical territory for Spanish-born (and American-trained) composer Xavier Capellas, who’s handled the scoring chores on such Spanish-funded horror pictures as BEYOND RE-ANIMATOR and FAUST. BRUC carries as similarly unhinged quality as a Catalonian goes Rambo on the Emperor’s assassins who pursue him through the mountainous wilds of Monteressat, giving Capellas the opportunity to unleash heroic hell in one of the more weirdly off-kilter period scores since Joe Lo Duca’s BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF. Here more symphonically traditional adventure stylings mix it up with modernistic fogs of metallic overload, hushed voices and trembling strings, a tense mist that breaks for the pounding sounds of vengeance and the regional sounds of the duduk and a bouzouki. However, Capellas also allows a spiritual lyricism to paint its dew on the bloody peaks for BRUC’s bits of romance before our noble warrior gets back to the hard-hitting musical business at hand in this engaging score that never once feels dated.

FLESH + BLOOD (2,000 edition)

Basil Poledouris was at the height of his macho musical glory in 1985 with the likes of CONAN and RED DAWN, so it was no wonder that violence and sex-loving Dutch director Paul Verhoeven sought him out to score his first English language outing. But where this visceral medieval epic about lusty marauders, not-so nobles, and the slutty princess they all desire might have seemed dark age on the surface, the sheer lunacy of Verhoeven’s excesses allowed Poledouris to deliver a surprisingly high-spirited epic score, one based in jaunty medieval plainsong as much as it was knightly melodies. More in the exotic period spirit of Miklos Rozsa’s EL CID than the Prokofiev chorals that fueled the ALEXANDER NEVSKY-like fury of CONAN, Poledouris atmospheric score is more about the joys of pillaging than its price, a fun, even tender lyricism that served as an ironic counterpoint to Verhoeven’s onscreen shock value. FLESH would also offer two of Poledouris’ best battle cues with the rollicking “Arnolfini Assault” and the triumphant castle-bashing of “The Box,” a cue whose clanging metal would presage Poledouris’ approach for his far next, and far more commercially successful teaming with Verhoeven on 1987’s ROBOCOP. Yet FLESH + BLOOD has always been a cult item as a film and score, entailing two previous issues by Varese and Prometheus. Now Intrada allows Poledouris’ heroic sweep to rampage like never before by offering the soundtrack’s complete cues and album versions, as pulled from the original masters. As rousingly performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, BLOOD’s high-spirited swordplay cements the sorely-missed Poledouris as one of the great, modern musical epic-makers to grace the costume genre, especially when said warrior he was scoring was splattered in blood and holding a naked vixen.

THE FILM & TV MUSIC OF CHRISTOPHER GUNNING

In his four-decade and counting career, Christopher Gunning has been a stalwart of the English scoring scene with a wide variety of television and film work, his music evoking a lush symphonic sound that will nicely remind listeners on these shores of John Barry. Now with the success of what might be his most moving, and heartfelt score for the Edith Piaf biopic LA VIE EN ROSE, Chandos has taken the opportunity to record a treasure trove of Gunning’s greatest hits with the BBC Philharmonic, selections that are no small revelation of the composer’s classically-trained talents, especially now that he’s been given the opportunity to revise them as lengthy concert suites. Inspector Poirot gets playful saxophone jazz with his “Variants,” “The Rosemary and Thyme Caprice” evokes the bucolic sound of “Greensleeves,” a violin swoons with the period attraction of “Firelight, “Cold Lazarus” pounds in bombastic action, “Pollyanna” has a playful, pigtail sense of flute and string adventure, while the ability to elaborate on “La Vie En Rose” turns Piaf’s turbulent life into a near-mad French waltz. But among the thematically lyrical delights on hand, “When the Whales Came’ impresses the most with its haunting female voice, slowed-down whale songs and surreal string effects, both of which evoke the animals’ awesome beauty, as heard echoing from the depths of the Debussy sea. Gunning’s FILM & TV MUSIC is an impressive revelation of his talent that will hopefully keep netting bigger fish. In the meantime, I can only hope a second compilation might include Gunning’s HANDS OF THE RIPPER and DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS in the bunch.

THE 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T

There were some pretty bizarre kids’ movies back in the day like SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS. But no now grown-up cult item still has the tuneful catchiness of 1953’s 5,000 FINGERS OF DR. T, which stands as the only insane collaboration between uber-serious producer Stanley Kramer, phantasmagorical children’s author Dr. Seuss, and Friedrich Hollaender, a German cabaret composer whose political whimsy would see him sent packing from Nazi land to a Hollywood career. This colorful fantasy about a piano-hating kid’s ultimate bad dream would see Hollaender put Seuss’ wonderful gibberish to melody, resulting in a number of tongue-twisting delights like “Freckle On A Pygmy,” “Get Together Weather,” and “The Dressing Song,” the best lyrics of which slip from the high-pitched tones of Dr. Terwilliker (as embodied by the FRACTURED FAIRY TALES-familiar voice of Hans Conried). DR. T is the musical equivalent of reading “The Cat and the Hat,” a mix of satire and nursery rhyme whimsy that has the fun of a smarty-pants kid razzing a highfalutin concert. Hollaender and Seuss get great kicks at the expense of classical music’s pomp and circumstance with “The Massage Opera” and “Butterfly Ballet,” while the “Dungeon Shim Shlam” employs tinkertoy-jazz percussion as performed by human instruments. But the one T song that takes the cake is “The Dungeon Elevator,” whose operator lists off various tortures as if he was descending down the levels of Dante’s department store. Better yet for T’s legion of fans, every note, and finger of its soundtrack is handsomely collected onto three CD’s for Film Score Monthly’s obvious labor of fanboy love.

HAPPY NOW

Euro-specialist label Movie Score Media now goes digging into the ghosts of their favored composers’ pasts with their “Discovery Collection”- a cool niche within a niche that reveals what might be a real spook with 2001’s long-buried score to HAPPY NOW. And it’s likely that ATONEMENT Oscar winner Dario Marianelli is similarly smiling due to the light that MSM is shining on his atypically wacky mystery score for an uber-serious composer, one which chronicles a Welsh politician’s amazement that the girl he and his mate most definitely murdered years ago is now back in town. Listening to the soundtrack’s Theremin-like effects, tinkertoy whistling, Spaghetti Western riffs, harmonica playing and symphonic stylings that take equal winks at Bernard Herrmann and the classical waltzes, you’d think that Marianelli would’ve turned into an eccentric comedy composer along the lines of Rolfe Kent, instead of becoming the excellent, and oh-so dramatic composer of V FOR VENDETTA and PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. As is, HAPPY NOW is the closest we’ll get to Marianelli scoring a SCOOBY DOO episode, his delightfully inventive work playing the trappings of cartoon music while also keeping a somewhat straight face. HAPPY NOW is fun enough to make you wish Marianelli would rush to score the next talking animal picture that Hollywood thinks they could never throw at him.

THE ILLUSIONIST

There have been many terrific, epically in-your-face scores for this year’s exceedingly tasty crop of Hollywood CGI toons. So it’s particularly nice to hear the powerful gentility of his beautifully animated French film, one that will likely get a deserved Oscar bone throw as a nod to the quickly vanishing hand-drawn pictures that used to be the category’s, and industry norm. That’s also very much the theme for director-animator-composer Sylvain Chomet’s fable about the waning days of vaudeville, as embodied by a magician who plies his rabbit about Europe in the early 60’s. Where Chomet’s equally wonderful, and far more antic TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE drew on jazz-filled French dance halls for its inspiration, THE ILLUSIONIST’s varying locales allows Chomet to write some inspired Beatles-style songs, play Scottish bagpipes and engage in exotic, India percussion for the stage acts. But what truly shines here is how Chomet uses a wistful, jazz tone to speak for his nearly mute character. The poignancy that adds so much color to ILLUSIONIST just might be he most heartbreaking use of jazz to grace the art form since Vince Guaraldi’s scores for those PEANUTS specials. Here, that kind of tender, spare vibe makes the ILLUSIONIST a beautifully bittersweet listen, particularly in Chomet’s final piano passages that delineate the inevitable end of a charming, seemingly now-prehistoric form of entertainment. If animation had a tune for the tears in rain washing away animation’s paint strokes for computer imagery, this would be it in anyone’s musical language.

NORTH DALLAS FORTY (2,000 edition)

One of the more curious composer-to-picture match-ups in the 70’s was throwing John Scott, a genteel English composer renowned for such classically lush scores as ANTONY AND CLEOPATRA and THE COUSTEAU ODYSSEY, into the very macho game of football- and we aren’t talking the Euro definition of guys kicking around a pigskin. Yet it’s exactly that strongly thematic sense of drama that let NORTH DALLAS FORTY make a memorable touchdown as one of America’s better sports films. Credit Canadian director Ted Kocheff, who’d worked with Scott on the equally unlikely Aussie thriller WAKE IN FRIGHT to let the composer make the musical plays for the North Dallas Bulls (i.e. Cowboys)- a position Scott’s library music had also prepped him for when it was used as a theme for the New York Knicks. FORTY’s carried by a jazzy, ironic melody that draws on Scott’s nightclub days in England. Yet the score is also suffused with military suspense that anticipates when its graying athletes’ bodies will finally break down, a dark tone that might make you think you’ve stumbled upon a spy score, if it weren’t for the brassy grooves that are always running disco-funk manuevers across the field. Scott’s score occupies the emotional point spread of players-will-be-players comedy and the ultimate, bone-crunching trip off the field the characters know is coming- and fear for all of the pop swaggering that Scott knowingly provides.

STAR TREK V: THE FINAL FRONTIER: LIMITED EDITION (5,000 edition)

La La Land continues to show long-needed love to great soundtracks from undeservedly maligned sequels, in this case the one where William Shatner assumed both the com, and the director’s chair to have the Enterprise find the all-mighty. Though a lot of this EST-centric probing ended up having its share of goofy moments, the film more often than not did a powerful job of returning the series to its metaphoric sci-fi roots. So it only seemed right for Shatner to have composer Jerry Goldsmith come back to the series for the first time since TMP, making this FINAL FRONTIER the second of six TREKs he’d take. While there’s nothing on the organ and blaster beam scale of Vejur here, TREK V’s mind-meld of orchestra and electronics does a similarly majestic job of exploring the headspace of the holy trinity as they travel to a seeming Shangri-la. Though battle percussion and barbaric statements of The Klingon theme are here to be had in spades, Goldsmith spends much of this TREK reflecting on the ultimate with a pensive, soaring motiff, his lush, biblical orchestrations and eerie synths making this a hallmark score from a particular, stylistic period that fans of the composer’s INNERSPACE, LEVIATHAN and TOTAL RECALL scores will appreciate. And be it a person’s insides, a sunken wreck or a Martian air machine, few composers better conveyed the swirling, symphonic majesty of confronting some unknowable force. It works wonders for the film’s unfortunate, under-budgeted special effects, music which makes the final confrontation with a Moses-looking wannabe into some of Goldsmith’s finest genre writing. But as always, it’s our love for the crew that has ensured Classic Trek eternity, an emotional gentleness that FRONTIER’s infinitely versatile theme also does a moving job of conveying. While Goldsmith had ordered the original TREK V album into a punchy listen, what’s included on this special La La Land edition for the first time is his entire score, revealing a true cosmic design to the FINAL FRONTIER that will likely elevate the score, and the film itself several notches in fans’ minds. TREK V’s two-disc set also contains alternate cues, space bar source, and Hiroshima’s new-agey song for Uhura’s fan dance- a particular Katra I’m still trying to get out of my head.

THE TOURIST

Forget Johnny Depp. No man is proving to be a more reliable companion to Angelina Jolie’s mysterious allure like James Newton Howard, who turns in his second terrific score for the actress after this year’s SALT. While there’s a surfeit of that film’s ballsy spy action here, THE TOURIST is mostly plying the same kind of luxurious, old-world waters that Henry Mancini and John Barry did when movies like CHARADE and FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE were the height of escapist fashion- a throwback appeal that THE TOURIST pulls off with panache. Most of this music is the elegant equivalent of beautiful people, well-appointed hotel rooms and a dangerous attraction to the man with a suspect past (or woman in the case of this enjoyable lark, as Depp’s playing Audrey Hepburn opposite Jolie’s Cary Grant). James Newton Howard does a great job of pouring on the swelling glitz from opera-waltz pastiches to the Italiano accordions and classical appeal of Venice, cleverly using a piano to play the characters’ playfully furtive attraction, while wrapping Jolie about in a sometimes-sinister allure that would do Catherine Tramell proud. And when it comes to the action stuff, Howard mixes up the bright, movie-movie orchestrations with techno rhythms just to keep things current, a la his other bouncily percussive Euro-centric score for DUPLICITY. From fun start to finish on our trip down the dangerously romantic byways of Venice, there’s no denying the old-school charm that THE TOURIST’s score has in spades, music that plays the glamorous stuff that stars like Jolie are made of.

TRUE GRIT

It’s been a while since The Coen Brothers made a film as conventionally enjoyable as TRUE GRIT, let alone one that would allow their house composer Carter Burwell to engage in a full-blooded, mainstream score for them in the western genre he last trod upon with the modern cowboys of 1998’s THE HI-LO COUNTRY. But while there will always be a sly subversion to one of the more engaging directors-musician relationships in modern cinema, fans of original GRIT composer Elmer Bernstein will feel home on the range with the brassily vast scope of Burwell’s work, right from the thundering heroism of a gruff hero galloping out to blast the bad guys, all captured with the Americana tone that suffuses Hollywood’s vast, untamed wilderness. But like the film’s trailer that doesn’t begin to sell its welcoming black humor, what many will find most surprising about this listen is the spirituality that suffuses most of Burwell’s score. There’s a nice, psalm like quality to much of his GRIT’s gumption, with a resplendent, thematic tone for orchestra and piano that’s heavily cut from the cloth of the 1855 religious hit “What A Friend We Have In Jesus.” Burwell’s almost soothing tone serves as both an ironic counterpoint to the film’s decidedly unforgiving actions, as well as to put true warmth into the character relationships. TRUE GRIT is the real, yet unexpected western deal, something that can be equally said about the Coens’ film itself.

CLICK on the album covers to make your hardcopy or download purchase, and find the soundtracks at these .com’s: Amazon, Buysoundtrax, Intrada, iTunes. Moviemusic, Moveiscoremedia, Screen Archives and Varese Sarabande

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