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Artwork copyright (c) 2003 Hallmark Entertainment; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall



Mixed bag of an album combines wildly differing styles


Stephen Warbeck hasn't really gone onto bigger and better things since winning the Oscar for Shakespeare in Love (which was all over the picture like a gloopy syrup); indeed, he's probably gone onto smaller and worse ones, and so he finds himself working on the latest Hallmark tv movie Dreamkeeper.  There was a time when these projects seemed to have a real gravitas, but nowadays that seems to have gone for whatever reason.  Anyway, it's about an American Indian and his grandson making a journey across the country, with the latter regaling fantastic stories of his youth (in what seems to have become the latest storytelling fad in Hollywood, from Mark Twain's Roughing It to Secondhand Lions to Big Fish).

Warbeck's challenge was to meld together the mystical "Native American" aspects with more typical western scoring, something he didn't do entirely successfully - there are frequent clashes between the two completely disparate styles of scoring - though some tracks are done very well.  The Indian-style music is quite difficult to like, though it sounds more authentic than Hollywood composers usually manage (it goes well beyond the usual drumming and flutes that seem to be favoured!) - of course, in reality I have no idea what sounds authentic and what doesn't.  Chanting, wailing and singing dominate those tracks and, however authentic they may or may not be, they aren't attractive, unless you're into that sort of thing.

Far more attractive is the music used for transitional scenes set in the modern day.  "The Journey" is a soft country-like tune for acoustic guitar and small orchestra, a nice piece that moves along well, and this material is reprised a few times later on.  The flashback scenes offer a mixture of material.  "The Serpent" is an uncompromisingly dark and unsettling piece, no doubt highly effective when combined with the images, but a turnoff on CD, though it does redeem itself towards the end when a thrilling, heroic theme emerges from nowhere.  The noble and soaring theme of "The Dun Pony" (and, later, "Resurrection of the Dun Pony") is the album's highlight; a wonderful theme, it captures a great spirit of life and joy.  "Killing the Buffalo" is another highlight piece, another big theme, though there seems to be a little distortion in the recording.  "Father's Ghost" is particularly satisfying, a slightly restrained piece of orchestral beauty. 

This is a somewhat eclectic album with numerous fine pieces, several that are inoffensive but do little, and several that are completely unattractive.  Perhaps a little judicious pruning could have produced a stronger album, though it couldn't have eradicated the problem of jumping from one style of music to a completely different one every couple of tracks.  The stronger moments mean that it comes recommended, but with reservations.  (And it is worth noting that sound quality is surprisingly poor for a 2003 recording.) 

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  1. Eagle Boy (3:23)
  2. The Journey (1:42)
  3. Bluebird Woman (:20)
  4. High Horse Captures the Ponies (4:40)
  5. She Crosses the Water (2:24)
  6. Plea for Brother (1:27)
  7. Tehan (1:41)
  8. The Elk (2:16)
  9. The Serpent (3:50)
  10. Riding to the Rainbow (:54)
  11. The Dun Pony (3:51)
  12. Killing the Buffalo (3:07)
  13. Resurrection of the Dun Pony (2:35)
  14. Quillwork Girl's Journey (2:24)
  15. Buffalo to the Stars (:48)
  16. Birth of the Falls (2:01)
  17. Daughter Climbs the Mountain (2:18)
  18. Father's Ghost (1:41)
  19. Three Generations (1:04)
  20. Death of Grandather (2:16)
  21. Shane's Journey (1:58)
  22. Powwow Chant (2:22)
  23. The End of the Story (1:32)
  24. Straight Round Dance Song (1:47)