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  • Composed by Daniel Pemberton
  • BMG / 2017 / 50m

Gold is a modern twist on an old-fashioned adventure movie style starring Matthew McConaughey going off to find fortune by mining for gold in Borneo.  It’s loosely based on a real life scandal involving the Canadian Bre-X company in 1993 (look it up if you’re interested – I can’t say much about it without spoiling the film).  It was originally to be directed by Michael Mann but went through various changes before finally landing in the hands of Syriana director Stephen Gaghan.  It’s received mixed reviews and been a bit of a box office disaster.

There’s nothing disastrous about Daniel Pemberton’s fine score.  Pemberton’s star has been on the rise for a few years now and it was 2015 that turned out to be his real breakthrough year, with his very impressive (and very different) scores for The Man from UNCLE and Steve Jobs.  There’s a bit of the effortless cool of the former heard in Gold but by and large this is another very different affair, a fun action/adventure score that stays refreshingly free of the turgid sounds that tend to dog these things these days.

Daniel Pemberton

The opening cue, “I Dream of Gold”, has a shimmering quality to it (those strings!) that is very appealing and obviously very appropriate.  More typical of the score though is the cool “Economy, Turned” which follows and then especially the first of three cues called “Ring of Fire”, this one subtitled “The Prospector” – the added rhythm section gives these cues a great energy and they are great to listen to.

The jungle sounds of “Minecraft” have a certain dirty quality to them, but then in the subsequent cue “Indo” Pemberton uses pan flutes to inject that energy again and then comes a gorgeous, lilting piece, “Vintage Visa”.  A full-scale John Barry-style romantic sound is briefly introduced in “Dream House” (it returns more fully later on) before the rhythm section is back in “The New York Jungle” (think David Holmes for a reference).

The score’s main theme is heard in various guises through the album – the gentle guitar solo of “Hey, It’s Me” is its most laid-back and in many ways most appealing.  Speaking of appealing, that John Barry-style theme returns in “The Golden Pickaxe” and it really is a beauty, delicate and tender.  Things take a much darker turn in “This is the FBI”, solemn gong sounds accompanying strained strings, then there’s a heist movie-type sound in “It’s Gone”.  It starts to sound a bit like a western of all things in “Taped Questioning”, with nail-biting suspense, before one of the finest cues, “The Disappearance of Michael Acosta” – with swirling strings, a mournful flute and colourful mandolin, it could be from a 70s film like The Tamarind Seed – it’s a bit of a one-off in this score, but a hugely satisfying one.

The last couple of cues are very strong too: “Blue Skies” sees a return to the gentle variant on the main theme, pared down to a guitar and not much more here, before it’s unleashed in all its glory in a rock instrumental arrangement “Keep Digging”.  The Iggy Pop sung version is oddly not included on this album, reserved instead for the song soundtrack.  (The fact that the soundtrack which doesn’t feature a single moment of score is on the Varèse Sarabande label while the score album is on the mainstream BMG label is further proof, if it were needed, that the apocalypse must be nigh.)  Gold is a very entertaining score, a bit like a cross between Medicine Man and Ocean’s Eleven, and while the album isn’t consistently excellent, even in its occasional weaker moment there’s always something good about to come into the sluice box.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

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  1. ANDRÉ, Cape Town. (Reply) on Sunday 19 February, 2017 at 00:20

    After reading this review James, I revisited ELMER BERNSTEIN’S score for the 1970 adventure/ thriller/romance, also titled ‘Gold’. The location, that time round, were the gold mines of Johannesburg, South Africa, emphasized by the African drums accompanying the machissmo vocal of the main title theme. I’d forgotten the gorgeous love theme with that ultra romantic title, ‘Where have you been all my life?’ BERNSTEIN’S album is a joy to listen to…and the songs have the Melodic content that is a rarity today. Your review has certainly whetted my interest for PEMBERTON’S score, especially with its flute & guitar influences.

    • James Southall (Reply) on Sunday 19 February, 2017 at 09:26

      I really do enjoy the Bernstein score. I will listen to it again now…

  2. Jules (Reply) on Sunday 19 February, 2017 at 11:06

    I was a little disappointed by this one, having enjoyed Steve Jobs and Man from U.N.C.L.E.
    I felt it was very similar to Uncle in style, but still enjoyable…just something missing that was present in his other work. Looking forward to his future projects though, I’ll never get tired of the pan flute!