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  • Composed by Mark Isham
  • WaterTower Music / 2013 / 42m

42 tells the story of Jackie Robinson, the first black man to play in the major leagues of baseball, some kind of sport apparently which is favoured by the colonials.  For a filmmaker, the story offers rich possibilities – the traditional “triumph over adversity” of sports films given extra impetus by the struggles Robinson faced due to his colour. Composer Mark Isham is no stranger to sports movies – he scored the ice hockey movie Miracle and the zebra racing film Racing Stripes.  He has shown many times over the years that he’s very capable of writing warm, rich Americana with the best of them, so he seemed a good pick for this film; and warm is certainly the first word that springs to mind when listening to the pleasant 42.

There are three main styles here.  By far the most prevalent is that warm Americana, introduced in the opening “He’s Coming”, with beautiful trumpet solos played by the composer (in later cues the piano also has a role to play).  It’s very nice and inoffensive but at times is, dare I say, slightly bland and unmemorable – it’s a style that’s been done so well so often in film music (including by Isham himself), it has to be quite special to stand out from the crowd.  More distinctive is the darker music which accompanies the more troubling aspects of Robinson’s story – drums and lower strings dominate the sound of these (less frequent) passages.  What will appeal most to many people is the music for the baseball itself – this is surprisingly strident and up-front, bright and bold and brassy and very enjoyable.  The whole album is really very nice, but doesn’t perhaps quite develop its own sense of identity strongly enough to earn an unqualified recommendation.

Rating: *** | |

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