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  • Composed by James Newton Howard
  • iTunes exclusive / 2010 / 62:32

Disappointingly, Salt is not a documentary about food seasonings, but a spy thriller.  On the plus side, it’s directed by Phillip Noyce and stars Angelina Jolie, so might actually be worth seeing.  Noyce has tended to change composers from one project to the next throughout his career, and this film marks his first collaboration with the busy, chameleonic James Newton Howard.  For the second time in as many years, Howard takes heavy inspiration from John Powell, fashioning several lengthy action tracks which aren’t far removed from something which might have been in a Bourne score.  The pick of these is “Chase Across DC”, a seven-minute action extravaganza which never lets up – it must be very flattering for Powell to hear this sort of thing from an A-list composer like Howard, but (whisper it quietly) Howard might even have beaten him at his own game with this one.

The action music is undoubtedly the highlight of the score – and while the rest of it doesn’t quite live up to “Chase Across DC”, it’s competently-done.  For some of it, with more overt use of electric guitars, Howard seems to be straying dangerously close to the territory of some of Hans Zimmer’s less auspicious proteges; and these more simplistic passages don’t work so well (but in the hands of this composer are certainly pulled off with more aplomb than in something like Iron Man).  Where the album falls down as a listening experience is really in the parts in between the action sequences – generally bland techno-ambience, which bring everything grinding to a halt.  To be listenable as an album, certainly something is needed to break up the action music; but it could do with being rather more interesting.  Still, this is a decent-enough modern thriller score which should satisfy fans of both Howard and Powell.  For the moment it’s only available from iTunes, but will reportedly get one of Amazon’s CD-R releases in the near future.  Interestingly, it’s the second Howard album in a row which has courted controversy from fans by reportedly leaving the choir out of some sections for budgetary reasons – it’s not obvious to me as a listener who hasn’t seen the film that something is missing from the music, but it’s a somewhat depressing practice which I hope isn’t going to continue (and if the choice is a 30-minute album with choir intact or a 60-minute album with it missing then I hope proper thought is going into the decision as to which of those to choose).  ***


  1. S. Porath (Reply) on Sunday 8 August, 2010 at 00:39

    Yet another dissapointg Howard score. The Powell connection is undeniable, but here I just found it plain boring. The only bit of personality in this score is some of the electronics that reminded me of ‘The Fugitive’, yet not being in any way interesting. Howard did a far better Powell score last year, with ‘Deception’, a terrific album, and 100% Powell (in fact, listening to ‘Knight and Day’, which I enjoyed- I was struck by how it was similar yet not nearly as good as Powell’s work on ‘Deception’…)

  2. Mastadge (Reply) on Sunday 8 August, 2010 at 02:28

    To me, the disappointment was not so much the quieter material as the ending: I felt like this was a very top-heavy score, with most of the best set pieces at the beginning, and the end didn’t feel like it achieved any more intensity — less, in fact — than what came near the beginning, leaving a feeling of the whole thing just petering out, a decent dénouement without a proper climax leading into it.