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  • Composed by James Horner
  • Hip-O Records / 2003 / 72m (score 26m)

Mike Tollin’s Radio starred Cuba Gooding, Jr. as a man with learning disabilities who is taken under the wing of the local high school’s football coach (Ed Harris) in South Carolina and ends up inspiring a town.  Based on a true story, it is the sort of expression of happiness and positivity that is more often found in tv movies; critics were not kind, almost all saying it was far too soppy and sentimental, though audiences seemed to react with much more enthusiasm.

James Horner’s music was singled out by many movie critics as one of the things that was far too sentimental and joyful for their liking, and it is indeed a rather syrupy gloop so if you’re the sort of person for whom that is a bad thing then stay well clear.  If you can suspend cynicism for half an hour and just take it for what it is – which appears to be a sincere expression of happiness through music and is blessed with gorgeous melodies – then I’m sure you’ll enjoy it.

James Horner

James Horner

Songs feature prominently in the film and indeed on the soundtrack album, which is dominated by classic R&B by the likes of Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes and Stevie Wonder.  Horner makes no attempt to make his score blend into that style (and perhaps that jarring contrast is something that – subconsciously at least – informed some of the critical opinion), not even in the original song he contributes, “Eyes of the Heart” performed by the strangely-punctuated India.Arie (which I assumed was a typo when I first got the album, but apparently not).  It’s a really lovely ballad based on the composer’s main theme, given n impassioned vocal performance.

The short score (under half an hour) begins with “Radio’s Day”, probably the best track.  Arie provides vocals again – a kind of soulful humming, wordless now – the splendid theme at first intimate when heard from her voice before Horner unleashes first the strings and then the horns on it, sweeping and beautiful and vintage Horner.  Schmaltzy, yes; who cares?  It’s laden with emotion and spirit and deserves to be so much more well known.  “Gift of the Ball” is delightfully playful, a rousing tune that serves as the second theme, strings dancing with stirring piano and percussion accompanying; when the theme is briefly reprised later on the album it sounds much like Bill Conti’s theme from The Thomas Crown Affair remake, which probably means it’s from a classical piece that I’m not familiar with and both film composers took it from there.

“Learning the Ropes” and “Being Left Behind” both offer further variations of the main theme before “Resignation” takes the music off into much darker territory, sounding like it might come from The Perfect Storm or something at one point, but that leads into a stunning passage of beautiful Americana.  The first part of “Never So Alone” is tinged with great sadness as its name suggests before the lengthy cue gathers more optimism as it progresses, featuring more beautiful vocals from Arie.  The finale “Night Game” is a bit odd, briefly featuring guitars and drums somewhat at odds with the rest of Horner’s music.

This is such warm music and the main theme is so delightful I’m surprised the score hasn’t picked up more fans.  It has that inspirational feel often associated with scores for sports movies, though Horner is using it for the main character rather than the sport.  It’s just lovely, lovely music that any James Horner fan is sure to enjoy.  There isn’t much of it but that isn’t a problem (a large chunk of it is based on a single theme so half an hour feels plenty); it certainly deserves to be much better-known.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

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  1. Brendon Kelly (Reply) on Monday 20 July, 2015 at 22:20

    Perfect review. This is a lovely score. What a theme…he knew how to right a cracking theme!

  2. Nick (Reply) on Tuesday 21 July, 2015 at 08:56

    The full score is a much more well-rounded presentation, but it’s not available officially of course.