Latest reviews of new albums:
The Trial of the Chicago 7
  • Composed by Daniel Pemberton
  • Varèse Sarabande / 54m

Aaron Sorkin wrote The Trial of the Chicago 7 a number of years ago and it was intended to be a film directed by Steven Spielberg, but that never panned out and so the screenwriter has ended up making it himself. As ever his dialogue sparkles and there are equally sparkling performances from a great ensemble cast, particularly Sacha Baron Cohen as activist Abbie Hoffman and Frank Langella as his namesake Judge Julius Hoffman, who takes a rather less than favourable approach to the defendants in front of him charged with conspiracy and inciting riots at the 1968 Democratic Party Convention.

As with his previous film Molly’s Game, Sorkin turned to the versatile Daniel Pemberton to provide the score. Pemberton is that rare modern film composer where you genuinely have no idea what his music will sound like before you experience it – he seems to bring fresh energy to each new project and The Trial of the Chicago 7 is no different.

Daniel Pemberton

Indeed, even from track to track this one is full of surprises. There are three completely different styles used in turn in the opening three cues. First, in “Hear My Dream”, comes a soulful vocal performance by Celeste (in this initial form, wordless) which is full of spirit, a certain Americana – strained emotions, a genuine spirit – it’s very impressive.

Next is the jazzy, breezy, Woodstock-era “We’re Going to Chicago”, used for the excellent montage sequence that opens the film. You can almost imagine Nina Simone singing over the top of it. It is full of youthful vigour and verve, full of life really, and leaves quite the impression. Finally in “The Trial” there is fairly restrained orchestral dramatic underscore with the agitated beats of a jazz drum kit providing an edge – it’s urgent-sounding, a tension ever-present.

That third element is what makes up the bulk of the score that follows – while it can be riveting, it’s frequently very subtle. “Meet the Police” is not subtle, and neither were the police in question – here the tension ratchets up even further through the enlarged percussion component. The score’s (and film’s) centrepiece is “Take the Hill (Hear My Screams)” where the infamous clash between the protestors and police took place. The agitation inherent in the (modern) music is palpable; and there is amazing power in the last couple of minutes of the track where the strings swell up behind all the drumming and guitars – it’s incredibly potent, effective music. Later, the similarly-lengthy “Blood on the Streets” attains similar power.

Aside from those cues, there are two other great highlights in the score, which occur as it reaches its finale. First is the wonderfully emotional, rousing “Stand Up (The Chicago 7)” – piano and ever-more-swollen strings star as Pemberton lets everything go. Its a catharsis which is very much earned. Then comes that opening theme again, this time with lyrics for Celeste to sing in “Hear My Voice”, and hear it we very much do – a passionate, stirring performance of a great song.

There are some great tracks on this album, which at its peak is one of the strongest film scores of the year. There are also some periods where Pemberton exercises a lot of restraint, with subtle music highly respectful of the unfolding drama within the film that leaves less of an impression away from it. Undoubtedly though the highlights make it an easy album to recommend, another feather in the bow of this rapidly-rising composer.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

Tags: , ,

  1. It‘s quiet in here! Why not leave a response?