Latest reviews of new albums:
Rio 2
  • Composed by John Powell
  • Sony Classical / 2014 / 55m

Rio 2, my research has revealed, is the sequel to Rio, the popular 2011 animation from Blue Sky Studios.  Hopefully that information proves useful.  Back then, in what was not one of my more impressive pieces of writing, I rather dismissed John Powell’s score – he had burned himself out on animation, I thought, and it was time he did something else instead.  The next four films he did after I wrote those words were Kung Fu Panda 2, Happy Feet 2, The Lorax and Ice Age: Continental Drift, so clearly he took my advice to heart.  Then he took a break from film entirely for a couple of years before coming back with Rio 2; and next up is How To Train Your Dragon 2.  The strange thing is, during my extensive preparations for writing this very “review” (all two paragraphs of it), I re-listened to Rio; and found it to be really rather delightful.  I’m not sure what was wrong with me the day I wrote that one – perhaps it was my time of the month – but clearly I am in a much more cheerful frame of mind at the moment.  And the good news is – Rio 2 is even better.  From the moment the album starts, with a magnificent samba arrangement of Alfred Newman’s Fox Fanfare, you just know it’s going to be great fun.

The familiar, sweet main theme from the first film returns, as does the typical Powell orchestral derring-do, as he almost always uses in these animations.  What’s different is that there’s a slightly higher emphasis this time on Brazilian rhythms, the composer employing the services of the native band Uakti, who inject a wonderful sense of fun and a great energy whenever they appear.  There’s a great set of themes here, too, memorable and magical, Powell throwing them around a huge number of variations over the course of the score.  It’s a lovely album – full of charm, wit, terrific orchestral music; a very pleasurable way of spending an hour.  There’s adventure in spades, moments of wit (I just love the woodwind impersonations of bird calls), an occasional bout of 60s-style “light music”; above all, just the most wonderful fun – music with a smile on its face whose infectious spirit quickly passes on to the listener.  The 2014 version of James Southall understands why the 2011 version wanted John Powell to spend more time on more serious films; but damn it, he’s just so good at these and Rio 2 is fabulous.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. mastadge (Reply) on Tuesday 25 March, 2014 at 21:34

    A Powell review, more than a day old, and no sign of Edmund?

    Incidentally, I listened to Rio the other day and found it less fun than I remembered. Still looking forward to this, though.

  2. Solaris (Reply) on Wednesday 26 March, 2014 at 08:15

    @mastadge: I bet that, as long as he hadn’t listened to it, Edmund is going to ignore it exists at all. :b

  3. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Wednesday 26 March, 2014 at 09:50

    I won’t even believe this score exists until I’ve got the album in front of me.

  4. Solaris (Reply) on Wednesday 26 March, 2014 at 10:48

    With that mindset, I bet the probability that this ‘Train your Dragon’-Flick from 2010 could get a Sequel didnt even cross your mind. 😉

  5. J. A. J. (Reply) on Friday 28 March, 2014 at 18:27

    Wait, how exactly were you able to listen to this album? It’s not out in either the U.S. or the U.K. until April.

    By the way, I think you should also check out the song album, since there are several songs on there that Powell co-wrote/orchestrated. Some of them are quite good or even downright essential to the score. (“Poisonous Love,” “Bola Viva”)

  6. ANDRÉ - CAPE TOWN. (Reply) on Saturday 29 March, 2014 at 02:52

    James would have received an advance copy J & J! Companies such as Varese Sarabande, Prometheus, Saimel etc usually provide pre-release CDs to reviewers way before they become available to the public. The same with movies > the critics review the latest films at special screenings with marvellous hospitality facilities at their disposal. Massive budgets are set aside by the Entertainment industry to market their products, via journalists attached to magazines, radio & TV stations, newspapers and other media sites. It’s not a recent phenomenon either – so welcome to our planet!

  7. J. A. J. (Reply) on Saturday 29 March, 2014 at 13:47

    Oh, well I knew that professional journalists and critics usually get advanced screenings/copies of movies, music, and the like, but I didn’t think that Southhall was a “professional” critic in the traditional sense, since he owns an independent blog and isn’t attached to a newspaper or anything. I figured, then, that he would have to buy music CDs when they actually get released to the public.

    But, if what you say is true, Southhall is one lucky S.O.G. (son of a gun).

  8. Ad de Nijs (Reply) on Friday 4 April, 2014 at 15:46

    So, after reading James’s review I can conclude that wisdom do comes with the ages?

  9. Edmund Meinerts (Reply) on Friday 11 April, 2014 at 13:21

    I think this is the first Powell review of yours where I think I like the score less than you!