Latest reviews of new albums:
Black Sails
  • Composed by Bear McCreary
  • Sparks and Shadows / 2014 / 79m

A new tv show set in what the publicity material calls the “golden age of piracy” (one day perhaps there’ll be a series set in the “golden age of murder”), Black Sails focuses on a pirate crew in the Caribbean in the early 18th century and is intended to serve as a prequel of sorts to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.  The music is by the prolific Bear McCreary.  It would be easy to think, in the post-Jack Sparrow era, that a tv show about pirates would get a Zimmer / Pirates of the Caribbean type score.  Think again.  McCreary’s music sounds just perfect – he puts it far better than I could by describing it as “raw – filthy – salty” – the sort of music you could imagine a pirate crew improvising on whatever instruments they have lying around.  The main theme is magnificent – dynamic and catchy but deliciously dirty, it’s destined to become a McCreary classic I’m sure.

Everything stems from the unorthodox ensemble – string quartet, guitar trio, hurdy-gurdy, accordion, mandolin, other assorted pipes, winds, guitars, percussion.  McCreary encouraged an unusual amount of improvisation, also took much inspiration from actual folk music of the time (like the terrific love-theme-of-sorts, “Wondrous Love”).  The results are terrific – lending not just an authentic-enough sound, but (perhaps harder) at the same time achieving dramatic momentum.  It treads darker, choppier waters sometimes, always with great energy; there is a constant sense of motion – the 79-minute album positively flies by.  This is distinctive music of real character, another triumph by a composer who seems to relish stretching himself and finding individual solutions to problems rather than following the crowd.  Great stuff.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. Jens (Reply) on Sunday 26 January, 2014 at 19:26

    I’ve only seen the pilot episode so far, but its score is unlike any I’ve ever heard. In this age of temp tracks and cookie cutter bombast, this kind of unusual, innovative scoring is truly something to treasure.

    Can’t wait to get my order in with La La Land on Tuesday!

  2. Jason Fancher (Reply) on Monday 27 January, 2014 at 00:01

    I read the review, but I really didn’t need to. It’s Bear so I’ll buy it. I don’t even really care about the TV show, but I’ll be there to snatch up the album as soon as possible.

  3. Josh (Reply) on Friday 31 January, 2014 at 00:30

    It sounds a LOT like his work on BSG to me (especially the earlier seasons, with the emphasis on percussion). Not really to my taste but I appreciate it conceptually. It’s certainly well thought out.

  4. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Saturday 1 February, 2014 at 19:54

    It’s fascinating to see that McCreary has not only avoided the new pirate cliche of sounding like Pirates of the Carribbean, but also avoided the old one of sounding like The Sea Hawk. I’m even more amazed that a series with Michael Bay as a producer managed such an interesting score!