- Composed by Mark McKenzie
- Varèse Sarabande / 2013 / 45m
A follow-up to 2006’s The Ultimate Gift, The Ultimate Life sees a young billionaire grappling with his family over his fortune and reliving his late grandfather’s rags-to-riches tale through his journal. Like the earlier film, it is intended to showcase the force of doing good things. Also like the earlier film, the music is provided by the extremely talented Mark McKenzie, a real fan favourite whose generally rich and melodic music is often a great showcase for the kind of life-affirming spirit this film is intended to reinforce. Again his music plays as a mixture of orchestral scoring and lower-key bluegrass featuring a small ensemble; again it’s very attractive and rewarding. The opening cue, “As Long As You Are Alive, I Will Be Too: The Gift Of Family” (many cues have such spiritual titles) takes a surprising turn – the expected warmth from the orchestra surrounds a darker, much more contemporary passage of music.
After that, the music stays in generally charming territory. Many cues feature the smaller ensemble (guitars, banjo, fiddle) and here McKenzie provides warm, attractive melodies. There’s nothing showy in them, no Hollywood melodrama – it’s relatively simple music, nicely-played, always a pleasure. The orchestral segments are typical McKenzie – soaring melody, often the homely sound of the piano carrying a solo. At times this material is gorgeous: the brief “A Leader Of Men: The Gift Of Learning” in particular is exceptional. The preponderance of more low-key music – while it’s all very pleasant – means I can’t put this on the level of the best work by the composer (like the last score of his to see a score release, 2011’s unbelievably good The Greatest Miracle); but a new Mark McKenzie score is always welcome and this warm-hearted album is very enjoyable.