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Swallows and Amazons
  • Composed by Ilan Eshkeri
  • Globe / 2016 / 44m

Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons was published in 1930 but was still a great joy to the young me, half a century later.  Its tales of adventure and imagination in the English Lake District feels very old-fashioned for the far less innocent times of today and I wonder if this adaptation, reportedly very faithful to the novel, will still be attractive to this generation’s youngsters (I rather hope it is).  Providing the music is Ilan Eshkeri and it is itself a bit of a throwback, this time only to the 1990s and all those “outdoors adventures” scores by people like Joel McNeely and Basil Poledouris, albeit a more Anglicised version than their generally Coplandesque ones.  The 44-minute album is essentially a series of versions of three themes, the first of which dominates the opening, titular cue.  It’s a pleasant, innocent little tune soaring with a child’s love of the open air, though I have to say it is rather twee when divorced from the film and my initial enthusiasm for it rather diminishes over the course of its many appearances on the album.

Perhaps my favourite of the themes is the one that dominates the middle section of the album, in cues like “All Aboard” and “The Next Morning”, which is sweeping and nostalgic and has a bit of Lonesome Dove or Quigley Down Under to it.  Not a great deal happens to it, but this one doesn’t wear out its welcome.  Finally there’s “Amazons”, not introduced until midway through the album but appearing frequently thereafter – this one’s initially a bit darker but then does take on a more jaunty Copland air.  The whole score, every last bit in fact, is very charming and pleasant but for some reason I can’t say I’m as in love with Swallows and Amazons as others have been.  It’s so happy, without any particularly convincing menace to offset it other than in the frantic finale “The Flying Boat”, and despite not being particularly long it still manages to be overly repetitive – I wouldn’t feel I was missing anything of particular note if I just made a playlist of three cues featuring the three themes.  I can’t fault its enthusiasm and that’s enough to carry me along and make sure I don’t lose interest – but it’s not Iron Will or The Adventures of Huck Finn, both of which are scores it rather resembles, so as much as it pains me to say anything negative about something so full of joy, I doubt I’ll be returning to it nearly as often as I do to them.

Rating: *** | |

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