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48 Hrs
  • Composed by James Horner
  • Intrada / 2011 / 46:00

Not just a film that broke ground for many that followed, but Eddie Murphy’s big-screen break, 48 Hrs was (and still is) a well-regarded cop buddy action comedy, memorable for Murphy’s antics and a strong turn from Nick Nolte.  It was also one of James Horner’s breakthrough projects.  While Star Trek II may be the one which really brought him to the attention of film score fans, his ascent to the A-list was probably helped just as much by the strong box office performance of this, released very shortly afterwards.  The scores couldn’t be more different, really – not exactly renowned for his versatility today, it’s easy to forget just what a chameleon Horner could be at the start of his career – and so creative, too.  There’s a large orchestra here, but along with the soprano sax, guitars and drums, the most memorable musical feature is the use of steel drums – scoring big action scenes with steel drums was pretty innovative (and he did it again later in the similar Commando).

Horner ignores the comedy elements completely and his relatively brief score (just under half an hour) focuses almost entirely on the action.  At director Walter Hill’s request, the music is more atmospheric than anything else, but it’s exciting enough and even here one can hear Horner planting seeds that would later be reaped in Aliens and other very popular scores.  The non-orchestral elements certainly dominate, and it’s one of the composer’s funkiest scores (“funky” not being an adjective I find myself using frequently when talking about this wonderful composer’s music).  The album also contains some songs by The BusBoys used in the film, including the popular “The Boys Are Back in Town”, and an instrumental source cue by film composer Ira Newborn.  Liner notes by John Takis are excellent.  This release – the first of any kind for this score – should go down very well with fans of this composer’s early music.  ***

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