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EK 67354

Artwork copyright (c) 1995 Miramax Film Corp; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall



Generally dour album with a few sprinklings of classic Barry

In 1995, John Barry wrote three film scores; in the eight years since, he has written only four.  Perhaps the septuagenarian has now actually retired.  This would be a pity, because those seven scores between them show how much Barry still has to offer the world of film.  Unfortunately, none of the films was particularly well-liked, but Cry, the Beloved Country was probably the pick of the bunch for most critics.  It's the second screen adaptation of  Alan Paton's classic apartheid novel; the movie had great actors in it, with James Earl Jones and Richard Harris taking the two lead roles as two fathers whose sons have been killed.  It was not as well-received as the earlier version starring Sidney Poitier, but still attracted some good notices.

As you might expect, Barry's score is generally sombre and downbeat.  Much of the album is taken up with such material which, while obviously appropriate to the subject-matter, doesn't really make for the best listening.  Things aren't helped by the fact that Barry bases the material, which probably covers about half an hour of the album, on the bare minimal thematic base, meaning things just get repeated over and over again with very little variation.  The most interesting thing is the sombre, barely-recognisable version of the composer's Zulu theme, which serves not only to remind us of Barry's previous success on the continent, but also to show how much his style and sensibilities have changed since then.  The theme is first heard in "The Train to Johannesburg" and then again - and again - and again - through the rest of the album.

Fortunately there are a few standout individual moments.  First up is "The Letter", an all-time-classic Barry theme that would, I'm sure, be just as familiar as Dances with Wolves and Out of Africa if the film had done better business.  An expansive and loving view of South Africa, full of hope and beauty, it doesn't necessarily fit in with the score's general mood but is truly fantastic.  The secondary main theme, heard in "He Was Our Only Child", is another very beautiful piece, a slight melody (and one that fans of James Horner's later score for Titanic will recognise very quickly) but one that leaves an impression.  It is repeated a couple of times later, but fortunately this time Barry does enough with the piece to keep it fresh.  Finally, a couple of tracks at the end of the album stand out - "The Marriage" is a good standalone piece, an excellent combination of the two styles of the score; and "The Shadow of Death" is by far the most interesting of the downbeat material, a piece full of desperation and anguish, a superb achievement.  Then the album ends with "The Fifteenth Day", a reprise of the terrific main theme.

This is a score of many high achievements but which is, at the same time, dogged by a lot of generally uninteresting music that makes the album quite difficult to listen to from start to finish.  The ill-fitting African source music doesn't help, either, and would have been much better clumped together at the start or end of the album rather than being splattered through it.  Barry fans will swoon over the main theme and I'm sure most other film music fans will do as well; as for the rest of the album, I'm not so sure.

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  1. The Letter (3:36)
  2. The Beginning of the Journey (2:09)
  3. The Train to Johannesburg (2:47)
  4. You've Been Robbed (1:28)
  5. Emaxambeni The Havana Sisters (2:30)
  6. I've Been a Bad Woman! (2:31)
  7. Is It My Son? (2:32)
  8. He Was Our Only Child (1:42)
  9. What Sort of Life Did They Lead (1:24)
  10. Hamba Notsokolo Dorothy Masuka (2:38)
  11. Bastards - Bloody Bastards (1:02)
  12. Did It Seem Heavy? (:47)
  13. Cry, Cry the Beloved Country (1:44)
  14. Christ, Forsake Me Not (3:18)
  15. The Boys' Club (1:36)
  16. We Taught Him Nothing (2:05)
  17. Amazing Grace Ladysmith Black Mambazo (3:35)
  18. Go Well Umfundisi (1:09)
  19. Do Not Spoil My Pleasure (2:38)
  20. It Is My Son That Killed Your Son (3:53)
  21. The Marriage (2:54)
  22. The Shadow of Death (2:52)
  23. The Fifteenth Day (3:17)