- Composed by Maurice Jarre
- Intrada / 2013 / 49m
A little girl finds love and happiness when she discovers a reindeer in the forest near her town and – naturally – assumes it’s Prancer, one of Santa’s. The title character was, the liner notes inform with a straight face, “played by Boo, a professional reindeer” – one wonders what she did in her spare time, while not being a reindeer.
You always take a gamble when you buy a Maurice Jarre score from the 1980s. Are you going to get the orchestral majesty, or the cheap synth naffness? No worries for a magical children’s tale like Prancer, surely – orchestral warmth all the way! And everything goes great for the album’s first three minutes or so, with a lovely piano version of “Silent Night” (you may also know it by its original German title, “Silent Nacht”) and then a pleasant if slight main theme. But 3’14″ ticks over on the clock onto 3’15″ and all of a sudden you need to call an ambulance – Maurice Jarre’s synths arrive and the party’s over.
The synths mix with the orchestra (and the always appealing sounding “electronic wind instrument”) and there are moments of warmth and loveliness in the 46 minutes which follow, but literally all of them are mixed in with the most hideous new age keyboard nonsense you can imagine. I have never understood Jarre’s synth phase – he was so astonishingly good with an orchestra, so astonishingly bad with synths. But some people must have liked it, I guess, else the albums wouldn’t keep coming out. There’s even a plinky-plonky synth version of Verdi’s famous “Va, pensiero” from Nabucco. One thing does stand out here and go a little way to making amends for some of the horrors, and that’s a beautiful theme introduced in “Reindeer Cookies” and heard a few more times as the album plays out; combined with the other main theme in the lengthy end title piece, you get the single piece from the score likely to provide any lasting satisfaction. Given that piece is already available on a Jarre concert album, this album would appear to be for the die hards only. Jarre is a real love-him-or-hate-him kind of composer and I am very often in the former camp; but I’m afraid even when the orchestra is heard as frequently as it is here, the synths take it to a place I just can’t go.
Rating: * 1/2