Latest reviews of new albums:
Saving Mr Banks
  • Composed by Thomas Newman
  • Walt Disney Records / 2013 / 46m

It seems a bit of a strange idea for a big movie, but audiences have responded very well to Saving Mr Banks, which charts the inspiration for Mary Poppins from its author P.L. Travers’s childhood, and Walt Disney’s relentless attempt to buy the movie rights from her.  Thomas Newman had a hard job with his score, competing for attention with the classic, wonderful songs from Mary Poppins by the Sherman brothers.  Well, he managed.  His delightful music is vintage Newman, gorgeous orchestral melodies with those trademark quirky touches inhabiting his unmistakable sound world, surely the most distinctive of any major film composer.  The main theme – with a driving piano solo not unlike the composer’s theme from The Newsroom – appears in the first score track, “Travers Goff”.  A succession of delightful vignettes follows: the melancholy “Walking Bus”, the beautiful “Uncle Albert”, the delightfully colourful percussion of “Jollification” which is where the composer comes closest to his seminal American Beauty.

“Leisurely Stroll” sounds like a dream – a heartmelting clarinet solo, chimes and bells, that incredibly warm undercurrent of strings he does so well – shades of his masterpiece, Angels in America.  The bouncy “Mr Disney” is another treat, brief flutters of harmonica joining the sprightly brass figures and string runs.  “To My Mother” is like an extravagant fantasy, a burst of orchestral fireworks before a more sombre close.  Does Newman break any new ground here?  No, he doesn’t.  Is the majority of the score closely related to earlier ones?  Yes, it is.  Does that stop it being brilliant?  No, it doesn’t.  There are some people who – much though they admire and appreciate the quirkier scores he does most often – long to hear another vintage orchestral Newman score like he wrote so often in the 1990s.  Well, here it is.  I’m not convinced the album works with the song snippets, dialogue snippets etc interspersed with the score – exceptional though the Sherman songs are, it’s better to edit it down just to the Newman – and you get something that may be “standard” in terms of Thomas Newman – but is still completely delightful.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. Evan Bartos (Reply) on Thursday 30 January, 2014 at 23:43

    No, it’s not a masterpiece, but I think you’ve got to try pretty hard to not enjoy Saving Mr. Banks.