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Composed by
JAMES HORNER

Rating
*****

Album running time
48:27

Performed by
UNNAMED ORCHESTRA
conducted by
JAMES HORNER
Saxophone
BRANFORD MARSALIS

Orchestrations
BRAD DECHTER
FRANK BENNETT

Engineered by
SHAWN MURPHY
Music Editor
JIM HENRIKSON
Produced by
J
AMES HORNER

Released by
COLUMBIA
Serial number
CK 53146

Artwork copyright (c) 1992 Universal City Studios, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2003 James Southall

 

SNEAKERS

Outstanding, daringly original drama score

A review by JAMES SOUTHALL

James Horner is such a conundrum: on the one hand, he is the major film composer most guilty of stealing music from others and recycling his own; on the other, when he wants to be, his is as strong and original voice as film music has known.  Sneakers is one of his all-time-best, a wonderful piece of music that contains one surprise after another, wonderful invention, killer melody; what more could you want from a film score album!?

The film was excellent, a kind of heist movie with an all-star cast (headlined by Robert Redford and Sidney Poitier), it's very rare to hear a bad word said about it.  The opening cue for the main title is a masterpiece, sadly diluted by Horner having put similar things (well, almost identical things) in subsequent movies, but if you take it for what it is and remember it was the first of its type then it is impossible to fault.  Piano, female voices and saxophone combine to give a mesmerising, powerful piece.  "Too Many Secrets" contains another of Horner's wonderful inventions, the crashing pianos that appeared in his action music throughout the 1990s (most notably in Apollo 13) - again, this is probably where they were born, and again the effect is outstanding.  "The Sneakers Theme" is more wonderful stuff, a piece of light jazz but wonderfully original.  Indeed, so much of this music is so original and unlike anything that had gone before that it is difficult to describe; the effect (though certainly not the style) is similar to Thomas Newman's quirky scores.

"Cosmo... Old Friend" is a subtle, mysterious piece with a few chords that sound like they would be more at home in a biblical epic; it just envelops the listener, creates as much tension as one can handle.  "The Hand-Off" is another action piece, with more of those crashing pianos and some percussion which evokes the ticking of a clock.  "Planning the Sneak" is pretty much a reprise of "The Sneakers Theme", the kind of cue that makes you tell instantly that you're watching a heist movie.  "Playtronics Break-In" is sensational.  Horner has always tried to write very long pieces of music for his films which paint on a broad canvas, taking a step back from the action rather than directly commentating on it, and this piece (which clocks in at 10:39) is no exception.  Encompassing the pianos, the female vocals and some really first-rate action and suspense music, it's certainly a highlight and shows just how well Horner can structure a piece of music.  "The Escape / Whistler's Rescue" offers something different, with an uplifting new theme for strings and tambourine opening the cue in an almost celebratory fashion.  "Goodbye" is a wistful piece full of longing, a nostalgic and restrained and moving cue.  Things end with "...and the Blind Shall See", an outstanding finale piece, begins with another presentation of the main theme before a reprise of the colourful music heard in "The Escape".

This is one of Horner's most outstanding scores and he's arguably not written anything since to match it.  Most impressive is how well-structured all the pieces are; everything has movement from one place to another, a proper beginning, middle and end that is rare in film music.  It also has some great themes (in fact, there are four or five different scores' worth of themes in this one), truly original ideas and a whole heap of personality.  Not to be missed.

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Tracks

  1. Main Title (2:59)
  2. Too Many Secrets (6:17)
  3. The Sneakers Theme (3:34)
  4. Cosmo... Old Friend (7:09)
  5. The Hand-Off (3:07)
  6. Planning the Sneak (3:22)
  7. Playtronics Break-In (10:39)
  8. The Escape / Whistler's Rescue (3:24)
  9. Goodbye (3:24)
  10. ...and the Blind Shall See (4:29)