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Composed by
JAMES HORNER

Rating
* * * *

Album running time
43:15

Performed by
UNNAMED ORCHESTRA
and
HARLEM BOYS' CHOIR
conducted by
JAMES HORNER

Orchestration
GREIG MCRITCHIE

Engineered by
SHAWN MURPHY
Music Editor
JIM HENRIKSON
Produced by
JAMES HORNER
SHAWN MURPHY

Released by
VIRGIN RECORDS
Serial number
CDV-2614-0777-7-86150-2-6

Album cover copyright (c) 1989 Virgin Records; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall

 

GLORY

Intelligent Civil War score from Horner 

A review by JAMES SOUTHALL

Scores for war based films tend these days to fall very much into the quiet, contemplative mould, with whatever action-based histrionics are happening on-screen left unscored, or scored with long-lined, elegiac stuff.  Maybe Platoon is to blame with its Adagio for Strings, but whatever's to blame, the rousing war scores of the days of yore are rarely heard any more.  Edward Zwick's 1989 US Civil War drama Glory enticed James Horner to use that as his starting point, but refreshingly enough not use it as his end point, combining that reflective style with some more aggressive, up-front music as well.  It's one of the most popular of his 1980s scores, and not without reason, combining some of his most stirring action music with one of his most beautiful themes.

Horner makes alleged use of the Harlem Boys' Choir throughout - I say "alleged" because there have been various rumours over the years that it's not really them at all, but their recordings were replaced by a standard Hollywood pick-up choir instead (I've no idea whether that's true or not, before the letters flood in).  Whoever it is, they do a good job, beginning in the lovely "A Call to Arms" which opens the album.  Indeed, much of the early part of the album is taken up with variations on the sweeping main theme, performed sometimes by the strings, sometimes by the choir, sometimes by a solo trumpet.  Its malleable, adaptable nature means that even though it is very much the dominant force, it doesn't really outstay its welcome.  (I must report that disappointingly - though not particularly surprisingly - the third track, "Lonely Christmas", is not the Yuletide classic performed by Mud - now that would be an unexpected entry in a US Civil War drama, at least one that isn't directed by Ridley Scott, whose talent for picking music which is completely detrimental to the images is second to none.)

Things perk up with "Forming the Regiment", which includes a traditional Civil War-style marching piece, and then almost immediately turn sour in "The Whipping", which is about as cheerful as you might expect a track called "The Whipping" to be.  Even though much of the music is indeed beautiful as I reported, Horner manages to build an awful lot of anguish into it, with "Burning the Town of Darien" building to almost Alex North-like scales of emotional, anguished music - it's probably one of the finest pieces Horner's ever written.  Attention should be drawn towards the lengthy, impressive "Preparations for Battle", a very good summary of the score as a whole, with the sweeping melody slowly and slowly building to its rapturous climax; and then this is followed by the loudest battle piece, "Charging Fort Wagner", which is very good in its way, but frankly Horner must have been pretty embarrassed to be standing in front of experienced, professional musicians asking them to play something which is nearly "Carmina Burana" but not quite.  He's not the first film composer to do so and won't be the last, but it's still a shame that directors force composers to do things like that.

Horner pulls a surprise with an end title piece that comes from nowhere, clearly inspired by Philip Glass's Powaqqatsi in its opening, but then building into an impassioned choral performance of the main theme.  Glory is a very enjoyable film score, showing off Horner's best qualities, runs just the right length, and comes very highly recommended from me.

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Tracks

  1. A Call to Arms (3:08)
  2. After Antietam (2:40)
  3. Lonely Christmas (1:55)
  4. Forming the Regiment (5:26)
  5. The Whipping (2:09)
  6. Burning the Town of Darien (2:31)
  7. Brave Words, Braver Deeds (3:09)
  8. The Year of Jubilee (2:25)
  9. Preparations for Battle (7:35)
  10. Charging Fort Wagner (2:52)
  11. An Epitaph For War (2:34)
  12. Closing Credits (6:51)