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Affecting romantic drama score, but a little repetitive
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1993 Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall
It's not hard to imagine what attracted John Barry to My Life, a romantic tragedy about a man dying of cancer who decides to record the final weeks of his life as something to pass on to his son, who won't be born until after his death. Nor is it hard to imagine what attracted the filmmakers to Barry - following the passing of Georges Delerue, Barry was easily the king of the bittersweet romance - and at that time, 1993, was still one of the most in-demand film composers there was.
There are a few major themes here, but the one that really sticks in the memory is the main theme (not least because Barry presents it so many times during the course of this short album). It's an absolute belter - so full of sadness, so full of beauty - classic Barry, and were it from a more famous film then I'm sure it would be ranked right up there with his very best. What stops the score as a whole from achieving a similar accolade is that Barry doesn't do a great deal with his theme aside from just repeat it - it's strong enough that it doesn't quite outstay its welcome, but a little more variety would have helped. When he does do something a little different with it (such as taking the chord progressions but not quite the melody to form the basis of "Moments", or the large-scale version for "The Roller Coaster") it's most welcome.
As I said though, it's not an entirely monothematic score, despite the dominance of that main melody. A lovely childlike synth figure is first heard in "A Childhood Wish" (and later developed in "Child's Play"), and there's a darker, more dramatic piece (though still flushed through with tragedy) in "I'm Still in the Game". The best of the secondary themes is introduced in "I Used to Hide in There" - it's almost like a lullaby, with typical Barry strings-high winds-piano orchestration, and is just gorgeous. Finally, there's another lovely little childlike piece - "The Circus" - which shows a lighter side not heard often from Barry during his later scores.
My Life has so many good things going for it - including that stunning main theme - and is so much better than anyone else would have written, I guess the only slight drawback is that by Barry's own very high standards there isn't quite as much here as perhaps there could have been - you could chop half of the 35-minute album away without really losing anything. Having said that, any fan of Barry's romantic side will be in raptures - and is there anyone, deep down, who isn't a fan of John Barry's romantic side?