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Artwork copyright (c) 2004 Racing Stripes Productions, LLC; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Isham races ahead


A children's film about a zebra who fancies himself as a racehorse, Racing Stripes features numerous talking animals, although their real-life voices have been replaced by famous actors including Dustin Hoffman.  Its reviews have been less than admiring, but it's probably a decent afternoon out for the younger kids (though I daresay they're all too busy playing computer games or eating junk food to go outside their house).  An unusual - though inspired - choice to  provide the music is Mark Isham.  Of course, he's worked on family films before, most notably Fly Away Home, for which he wrote his finest score, and one of the most wonderful of the 1990s - and, sadly, one which remains unreleased to this day.

The music for Racing Stripes is excellent.  One of Isham's great strengths is his ability to write moving, uplifting music which never becomes too sentimental, a quality which has served him well in his numerous top-notch dramatic, orchestral scores.  One of his other ones is his propensity for writing in a lovely, warm, glowing Americana style.  Both of these techniques are fully in evidence throughout this score.  It is full of beautiful themes, excitement, charm and above all some inspirational music.  

The album actually begins with an original Isham song, "Taking the Inside Rail", sung by Sting.  The theme from the song does crop up a couple of times in the score and it's a nice one - slightly downbeat but very attractive, and well sung.  It's a nice song.  Then the score begins and reveals Isham writing at his most descriptive and colourful.  As mentioned before, Isham's avoidance of sentiment is admirable, particularly in a film like this, but despite it he manages to inject the film's more (shall we say) "magical" moments with wonderfully driving, passionate music.  Perhaps the best example is "The Big Race", featuring some wonderful, thrilling orchestral music, the kind James Horner used to write around the time of The Rocketeer.  It really is magical stuff.  While the music is rarely this big elsewhere on the album, it certainly has more than its share of such inspiring sections ("If You Build It, They Will Come" being chief among them).  

When the score isn't going down that exciting route, Isham provides more restrained music of great beauty, such as the warmly nostalgic, beautifully attractive "Glory Days"; some "country bumpkin" bluegrass music in cues like "At Home on the Walsh Farm"; subtle African stylings courtesy of percussion and a distant male vocal solo in "Out of Africa" and elsewhere; and just a hint of a more suspenseful, tense atmosphere in "Ambushed!"  In truth the album would be worth it for the seven-minute "The Big Race" alone, but there is such a wealth of great material elsewhere, it certainly makes a great start for 2005 film music.  Highly recommended.

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  1. Taking the Inside Rail Sting (4:16)
  2. It was a Dark and Stormy Night (4:05)
  3. At Home on Walsh Falm (5:01)
  4. I'm a Racehorse! (2:51)
  5. The Blue Moon Races (3:39)
  6. A Pelican Named Goose (1:19)
  7. Tucker Lays it Out! (2:25)
  8. Goose Makes a Hit on the Iron Horse (2:10)
  9. Run Like the Wind (2:04)
  10. Twilight Run (2:27)
  11. Upstaged by a Zebra (2:46)
  12. A Brace Decision (1:48)
  13. Glory Days (3:18)
  14. If You Build It, They Will Come (2:21)
  15. Out of Africa (1:06)
  16. Spring Training (2:31)
  17. Ambushed! (4:48)
  18. Filly in Distress (1:05)
  19. Race Day (1:03)
  20. They're All In! (1:12)
  21. The Big Race (7:19)
  22. In the Winner's Circle (1:54)
  23. It Ain't Over Yet Bryan Adams (3:18)