Latest reviews of new albums:
Film Music 2011
  • Silva Screen / 2011 / 47:00

Silva Screen’s now-traditional yearbook album has arrived, with re-recorded tracks from twelve of the year’s biggest box office successes collected together.  I’m sure it’s aimed more at the casual film music fan than the diehards who probably have most (if not all) of the scores represented in their collection, but it’s still a nice idea.  Five tracks are performed by the label’s “house band”, the City of Prague Philharmonic, with the balance coming from the high-quality electronics of London Music Works.  As with any collection of this nature, based on box office receipts more than musical worth (only one of my own five favourite scores from 2011 is represented), it is a highly mixed bag.

It opens with Patrick Doyle’s “Thor Kills the Destroyer”, which sounds even more Zimmerish here than on its original recording, but also somehow more dynamic and actually better.  Alexandre Desplat’s “Lily’s Theme” from the final Potter is distinctly unmemorable (which sadly went for the rest of the score, too) but things pick up nicely with the superb “The Reunion” from John Williams’s War Horse, which begins a sequence of three tracks which are probably the album’s pick, also including “I Drive” from Cliff Martinez’s terrific Drive and the outstanding suite from Michael Giacchino’s Super 8 (which is the sole representative from my top five of 2011, if you were wondering – and you probably weren’t).

“Love Death Birth” from Carter Burwell’s latest Twilight score goes on a bit, but is a pretty strong piece.  A bit more John Williams (a synthetic but well-done version of the opening from Tintin) should wake up anyone who may have nodded off, then Alan Silvestri’s stirring march from Captain America (despite a slightly suspect performance) will finish the job.  To be honest, falling asleep might be the best option at this point.  “Mermaids” was the only moment of quality in the utterly dire latest musical entry in the Pirates of the Caribbean series, but even that has well and truly outstayed its welcome after eight minutes.  Then, the less said about the tracks from the latest Transformers and X-Men scores, the better.  The album ends with the end title piece from Trevor Morris’s The Immortals, which isn’t quite so objectionable, but it would take a brave man to extend a more favourable description than “not quite so objectionable.”  The triumphs and the turds come in fairly equal measure, but there should be enough here to satisfy most people (and most of the target audience will probably prefer what I call the turds anyway).  ***

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  1. Chris Avis (Reply) on Saturday 31 December, 2011 at 22:30

    I’m a little surprised that War Horse isn’t in your top 5. For my money it’s easily the best thing Williams has written in a good many years and is a phenomenal score. Out of curiosity, what are your other 4 top titles?


  2. James Southall (Reply) on Sunday 1 January, 2012 at 10:51

    I thought War Horse was very good, but not quite top-grade Williams for me. My top five were Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, The Greatest Miracle, Hugo, Priest and Super 8.

  3. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Sunday 1 January, 2012 at 12:11

    Surprised to see that you share my opinion of Desplat’s HP7-2 (especially given that you gave the first one nearly five stars)! How soon before we get to read your opinion at length?

  4. James Southall (Reply) on Sunday 1 January, 2012 at 13:03

    I’ll get round to it some time! I do have a few major 2011 scores I want to review, of which that is one.

  5. Kevin (Reply) on Monday 2 January, 2012 at 03:11

    No Thomas Newman at all? Pass…

  6. Rick Clark (Reply) on Tuesday 3 January, 2012 at 12:21

    Hi James, “bit more John Williams (a synthetic but well-done version of the opening from Tintin)” – this is performed by some of the top London Sessions players, it was hard work for all concerned so I’m a little concerned it sounds synthetic 🙁

    Thanks for the review though! Cheers, Rick

  7. James Southall (Reply) on Tuesday 3 January, 2012 at 18:49

    I thought it sounded suspiciously good for samples! What an idiot I am. (I have no real idea why I thought London Music Works was electronic-only.)

  8. Rick Clark (Reply) on Tuesday 3 January, 2012 at 22:55

    Ha! not to worry mate, the name is unreasonably vague and covers a whole load of recording scenarios. In this case, its a load of very good players I recorded in London, its a team of people I’ve used a fair bit and I’d say they are some of the best musicans working today. But even they gasped at some of Williams’ writting on that track. It would be a sad day when samples can play with style like that, but it’ll probably come sooner rather than later.

    Amazingly, Thor is completly recorded with samples…but quite honestly unless you’re told its very, very hard to hear. Its all about the chap whos doing the programming and how you mix it, and we spent a long time on that track to make it sound orgainic.

  9. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Thursday 5 January, 2012 at 12:11

    Small nitpick – I don’t think “Thor Kills the Destroyer” sounded Zimmerish at all. If anything, it was the most pure Doyle-ish cue on that whole album (which did, admittedly, have Zimmerish cues such as “Earth to Asgard”). Reminded me of Eragon’s opening track more than anything.

    Also, you’re probably the first person I’ve heard who prefers Desplat’s first Deathly Hallows to the second. Interesting. I thought they were both flawed, but the second definitely had less dull underscore than the first to my ears. Looking forward to seeing a review from you, if one is forthcoming…

  10. Thomas L. Kiefner (Reply) on Saturday 28 January, 2012 at 04:41
  11. David (Reply) on Friday 22 February, 2013 at 03:51

    How’s Lily’s theme unmemorable? It was the perfect theme to end the franchise, just like Hedwig’s theme was the one which it started it. It was played perfectly in specific places where it stands out (the opening, Dragon Flight, The Resurrection Stone, and Voldemort’s theme), and Desplat’s wrote it so It could be a melody that anybody could hum.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Friday 22 February, 2013 at 21:11

      Well, I can’t remember it, so it falls within my definition of unmemorable!

  12. David (Reply) on Tuesday 5 March, 2013 at 22:20

    Becuase you can’t remember it if you only played it once, it doesn’t mean that it’s unmemorable. The theme was played in several concerts, including one that Desplat did in Brazil. And he wrote it as a theme that everybody can hum. Ask any HP fan or anybody who watched Deathly Hallows part 2, and he’ll mention it.

  13. David (Reply) on Tuesday 5 March, 2013 at 22:23

    Also, the way that the theme is practically used through the film, and if you we’re a fan of the book or the film, it’s impossible to unnotice it.