- Composed by Mark Isham
- Milan Records / 2015 / 52m
Adapted from the novel by Nicholas Sparks, The Longest Ride tells the intertwined love stories of a young couple today, and old man they meet and his own love story from the 1940s. It’s actually the tenth adaptation of a Sparks novel (he isn’t even fifty yet) to reach the big screen and it’s fair to say audiences weren’t in for a big surprise if they had seen any of the other nine. Mark Isham has been a prolific film composer for a long time now and I remember how much I enjoyed hearing his new works come along every couple of months ten years or so ago; now the films keep on coming but seem to be getting increasingly lower profile, often with no score albums forthcoming, and it’s fair to say that his music isn’t as appealing in general these days compared with back in his prime. Just after writing one of the finest electronic scores I’ve ever heard (2005’s Crash) and one of his finest orchestral ones (2006’s The Black Dahlia) he seemed to lose the distinctive spark that set his work apart from the pack and his music has generally left little of an impression on me since then, with only a couple of exceptions.
The Longest Ride certainly seemed like the type of project that had the potential to change that – romance, the great outdoors, cows – and it’s certainly sweet and twinkly; but it’s not October Sky or The Education of Little Tree or Fly Away Home (or the others), those great slices of Americana he wrote back in the day. On paper it’s great, with piano-led romance, frequent violin solos providing colour, some action and suspense interludes; but somehow there just doesn’t seem to be any life in it. One of Isham’s great strengths used to be how distinctive his music was – it just didn’t sound like anyone else’s; and that seems to have been lost. The album lasts 52 minutes but there’s barely anything to say about it because nothing sticks – patches come together OK and there are some lovely warm moments and I suspect a much shorter album would have served the music far more satisfyingly. It’s hard really to say why it just doesn’t work considering in theory it should; but sadly, it doesn’t. People move on, I know, but I’d love to have the Mark Isham of say 1991-2006 back. The Longest Ride has many pleasant moments in it – nobody is going to come away from it saying it’s bad music; but good luck remembering any of it.