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The Music of James Horner
  • Composed by James Horner
  • Silva Screen / 2011 / 147:31

A new release from Silva Screen, The Music of James Horner packages up many of their previous Horner recordings and adds a few more recent titles for this packed double-CD set.  Content is very similar to their previous double-CD release of Horner’s music, put out in the wake of Titanic’s success, but tracks from the composer’s most high-profile scores since then have been added (and a couple of others removed to make way).  As with any compilation of this type, it’s not really aimed at film music fanatics since they will already own most of the music on it, more at the casual listener.

Oddly, the music is presented in reverse chronological order, meaning the first disc opens with the composer’s most recent score, The Karate Kid.  It’s a nice suite from an underrated score.  I’m not sure “War” from Avatar is the best “compilation track” really – the musicians do a valiant job but the added synths give it a bit of an odd sound.  There are no particular surprises on the first disc – all the big hits from Legends of the Fall onwards are represented.  Including a vocal version of “My Heart Will Go On” seems a strange thing to do (though the performance is more palatable than the dreaded Celine Dion’s) and the orchestra struggles a bit with The Mask of Zorro but otherwise it’s solid, but perhaps a little unspectacular.  By not mixing things up at all, it does mean that all of the first disc is taken up by the composer’s much smoother modern style and perhaps the casual listener would appreciate the odd exciting piece from earlier in his career to be mixed in alongside that stuff.  The disc’s highlight is a terrific suite from Troy featuring all of its main themes.

James Horner

The second disc opens with the most surprising inclusion on the set, the extremely low key ten-minute end title music from The Man Without a Face.  It’s beautiful music but including it when no place could be found for such Horner masterpieces as diverse as Krull and Sneakers seems odd.  We’re Back probably wouldn’t be on many people’s lists of top Horner scores either, but actually it’s so different from everything else, its inclusion is welcome.  Elsewhere, many old favourites are here, but some of the more boisterous amongst them (including The Rocketeer – arguably Horner’s single finest peice of music – and Willow) get slightly off performances.

The album ends where Horner’s career began – Battle Beyond the Stars – and it’s interesting to reflect how far he’s come.  That bright, enthusiastic, rather cheesy theme is a far cry from anything he might write today – and I know that many of his fans would love him to return to the expansive style of his earlier career.  These days he seems determined to be taken very seriously and doesn’t work on any films which might harm that, which in some ways is a pity, but he is as consistently good as any film composer alive right now.  This set highlights several of his most impressive pieces and would be an ideal sampler for a Horner novice; for his long-term fans, there’s probably less reason to get it.  ***

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  1. Shaun (Reply) on Wednesday 8 June, 2011 at 20:31

    The Man Without A Face is my favorite Horner score right now. I don’t know if it’s because I’m just incredibly depressed or incredibly burned on one side of my body due to my purchase of a cheap iron, but either way, I really wish he wrote melodic stuff like this like he used to.