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Artwork copyright (c) 2003 Paramount Pictures; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall



Young digs deep


When Intrada announced its Signature Edition Series, with the first title being Christopher Young's The Tower, many fans were delighted at the chance to get their hands on a virtually-unknown work by the composer; little did they know that Young himself had a surprise in store for his genuine fans as well.  With most purchases of The Tower, Intrada threw in a double-CD promotional copy of Young's unreleased score for The Core - paid for by the composer himself.  An unprecedented act of generosity from a man known for his kindness and warmth towards his fans.

Jon Amiel's movie, about a bunch of heroes needing to burrow down deep beneath the Earth's surface to rescue the planet from certain destruction, was pretty much as dumb as it sounds, but did feature a good cast (this does not seem like natural territory for the likes of Hilary Swank and Stanely Tucci, and they add a touch of class) and Young's first-rate score.  Probably his most massive and outrageously over-the-top music to date, it is riotously good fun from start to finish, featuring an enormous orchestra and choir.  It's probably the biggest score for one of these summer blockbusters since David Arnold's Independence Day, and probably the best one since then as well.  As soon as the choir screeches out, in typical Young style, at the start of the opening cue, you just know you're going to be in for a treat.

The thing that pushes this type of score above the norm is the attention to detail, and as ever Young does not disappoint.  There is a depth of colour and detail to the orchestration in the action music which is particularly impressive - these days, with composers piling on the drum loops and synth brass at every opportunity, it's a rare treat to hear such well-composed action music for a proper orchestra.  "Origami Lava" is a particular highlight (and also highlights the track titles, which are as wonderfully humorous as Young's almost always are).  Needless to say, it's not (quite) action all the way, and the gentler moments are also impressive.  The emotive high-register string writing of the second half of the cue wouldn't sound out of place in an Alfred Newman biblical epic score, and it is an outstanding piece.  (The action immediately returns with the almost insanely over-the-top "A Terror Toccata", with Young throwing in everything but the kitchen sink; and then "In Drucke Ick Moet Sterven" only adds further fire to the apocalyptic flames.)  

The action cues come thick and fast, but Young impressively manages to keep everything fresh by continually introducing new ideas.  "Tactile Shifts" has some wonderful brass writing which seems something new for the composer.  "Project Destiny" is even crazier, perhaps like something Elliot Goldenthal might come up with, but multiplied by a factor of a hundred.  It's an absolute hoot!  There's an air of vintage, 1970s-era Goldsmith in "Mantle Passage", complete with xylophone.  The first disc then ends with the ominous-sounding "Cor Cordium", a piece that threatens bad things to come - but ends with a kind of rallying call for the troops.

Of course, no score like this is complete without some kind of uber-heroic piece underscoring the valiant efforts of mankind's finest (Aaron Eckhart) in saving the planet, and disc two opens with the inspirational "Liberté".  It's then straight back into the action with "Diamonds are Forever", another colossal piece.  Relentless action music can often get a bit too much to take, but fortunately Young strikes just the right balance with the few softer cues sprinkled through the album as the action takes a back seat.  "Moved to the Core" is a lovely, romantic piece which showcases another side to the composer, one which is rarely heard.  "Interred Servants" goes back into the thick of things with some impressive layered writing for strings, brass, percussion and choir.  It's everything-but-the-kitchen-sink music, completely unsubtle, but extremely entertaining.  More highlights to come?  You bet!  "Saknusemm" (whatever that means) is the longest cue, and one of the best - it sees the score taking on a considerably darker tone, compared with the rather brighter music that has preceded it, a tone which continues in the desperate-sounding "Mundus Subterraneous".  If Jerry Goldsmith had written "Unobtanium" it would probably go down as one of his finest, most cleverly-developed pieces of action/suspense music; and if one were to listen to the piece without knowing the composer, Goldsmith would probably spring to mind.  Another terrific piece.  It also highlights one of the score's key assets, the subtle addition of electronics to actually add something to the orchestral palette rather than to replace it - the synth percussion is mixed low and merely adds to the exciting atmosphere - it never detracts from the great orchestral music.  "Stellar Phrenology" brings the score to it's rousing (almost) conclusion, with yet more musical magic, Young pulling out every stop for the thrilling climax.  The actual conclusion is "The Terranaut March", another rousing piece which makes a nice end to the album.

With the quality of scores for popcorn blockbusters now reaching an all-time-low (there are, of course, exceptions - only last year, Don Davis's two Matrix sequel scores were highly-impressive), it's great to hear one as good as this.  Even better is that, while most modern scores struggle to hold the listener's interest even for thirty minutes, Young manages to do it - with quite a lot to spare - at almost ninety.  Bravo.  This is terrific music, far better than the film deserved, and shows one of the finest film composers having an absolute riot.  Not to be missed.

Disc One

  1. The Core (4:37)
  2. Resurrection in Descent (6:03)
  3. Origami Lava (7:06)
  4. A Terror Toccata (3:21)
  5. In Drucke Ick Moet Sterven (4:29)
  6. Tactile Shifts (5:52)
  7. Project Destiny (5:50)
  8. Mantle Passage (4:31)
  9. Cor Cordium (4:49)


Disc Two

  1. Liberté (3:32)
  2. Diamonds are Forever (3:14)
  3. Moved to the Core (3:12)
  4. Interred Servants (4:23)
  5. Saknusemm (7:12)
  6. Mundus Subterraneous (2:45)
  7. Ubobtanium (6:24)
  8. Stellar Phrenology (3:50)
  9. The Terranaut March (5:41)