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Composed by
JAMES NEWTON HOWARD

Rating
***

Album running time
45:29

Tracks
1: Main Titles (1:45)
2: First Crop Circles (3:17)
3: Roof Intruder (2:19)
4: Brazilian Video (2:00)
5: In the Cornfield (5:40)
6: Baby Monitor (1:12)
7: Recruiting Office (2:07)
8: Throwing a Stone (5:35)
9: Boarding Up the House (3:05)
10: Into the Basement (5:19)
11: Asthma Attack (3:57)
12: The Hand of Fate - Part I (5:34)
13: The Hand of Fate - Part II (3:37)

Performed by
THE HOLLYWOOD STUDIO SYMPHONY
led by
ENDRE GRANAT
conducted by
PETE ANTHONY
Flutes
JAMES WALKER
GERALDINE ROTELLA
DAVID SHOSTAC
LOUISE DITULLIO
Oboes
THOMAS BOYD
BARBARA NORTHCUTT
Clarinets
JAMES KANTER
GARY BOWYER
Pianos
RANDY KERBER
MICHAEL LANG
Harps
GAYLE LEVANT
KATIE KIRKPATRICK

Orchestrations
JEFF ATMAJIAN
BRAD DECHTER
PETE ANTHONY

Engineered by
SHAWN MURPHY
Produced by
JAMES NEWTON HOWARD

Released by
HOLLYWOOD RECORDS
Serial number
2061-62368-2

Artwork copyright (c) 2002 Touchstone Pictures; review copyright (c) 2002 James Southall


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SIGNS

Routine thriller score with a few great moments
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL

Signs opens with a main title cue of stunning quality, part-way Bernard Herrmann, with unnerving violin runs alternating with thrilling, trilling brass, that leaves one with the impression that one could be about to hear one of the scores of the year. An ominous-sounding, tension-building cue (complete with impressive, shimmering flute solos, based on the same motif as the violins of the opening cue) follows; then another; then another; then another. And one quickly realises that for all its undoubted qualities as dramatic underscore, the listening experience is not turning out to be as one had hoped.

The problem with the music is that, for all its qualities, it becomes repetitive to the point of redundancy. Aside from the aforementioned opening track, the first two-thirds of the album see essentially the same idea (if not exactly the same music) repeated time after time and it does grow wearing, especially the gently twinkling piano that accompanies so much. Few moments really stand out, but the lovely chord progression in the short "Baby Monitor" does stick in the mind. The music certainly isn't directionless or impotent - Howard's intentions are clear from the outset - but I wonder whether he could have found a slightly more varied orchestral palette with which to paint.

After fluttering (if not stuttering) along for half an hour, things drop into place in the gorgeous "Boarding Up the House", in which the tension seems to be resolving itself in a positive way - of course, with a few tracks still remaining, it isn't, and the cue ends on a slightly more dour note. Things explode in "Asthma Attack" (and continue for the remaining 15 minutes or so) with exciting action music alternating with (finally) some more interesting straight dramatic stuff.

Ultimately Signs is far less satisfying than Howard's other two scores for director M. Night Shyamalan, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, which are among his best work. I'm left wondering how much better the album might be if its sequence was "Main Titles", "Baby Monitor", "Boarding Up the House", "Into the Basement", "Asthma Attack" and "The Hand of Fate" parts I and II, with the other cues excised. I still don't think it would be entirely satisfying, but it would probably be a considerably more solid and consistent listen.

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