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SOMETHING THE LORD MADE
Moving, beautiful score for true-life drama
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Home Box Office Inc.; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.
An HBO movie from 2004, Something the Lord Made is about pioneering surgeon Alfred Blalock (Alan Rickman) and his assistant Vivien Thomas (Mos Def), who in the 1930s made extraordinary strides in heart surgery. It got a decent reaction but perhaps the biggest reaction was from film music fans, who generally raved about Christopher Young's music. After four years it is finally available on CD thanks to Buysoundtrax.com, who have released a few well-deserving Young scores in recent times.
No matter his well-deserved reputation for big, exciting music, Christopher Young has delivered a number of terrific smaller scores, from Murder in the First (which this closely resembles) to The Tower and the mysteriously-rejected An Unfinished Life. The album opens with the outstanding main theme, which goes on to dominate - initially heard in a piano arrangement with prominent string accompaniment, it's very beautiful and never oustays its welcome. There's a secondary theme - just as good - introduced in "Dr Vivien Thomas", and some gentle jazz music in a few cues, the style first making an appearance in "Class Three".
Music like this is not particularly innovative, and indeed this approach has been used on numerous occasions, so there has to be something a bit special to separate the wheat from the chaff; here, it's the quality of the melody and the deft orchestration. While the opening cue goes all out in its quest to tug at the heartstrings (and there is nothing wrong with such overt emotional manipulation so long as it's done well - after all, some people argue that the whole point of film music and indeed film in general is emotional manipulation), much of the rest is a lot more subtle and elegant. The jazzy interludes certainly help, with the beautiful but slightly maudlin music having the potential to overwhelm if left unchecked, and this is a 40-minute treat.
I suspect that whatever future success Christopher Young enjoys, I will probably always preface my reviews of his softer scores by talking about his more famous horror and thriller scores, but this is only because of the general perception of him - he has shown time after time that he can handle more serious drama with great skill, and the moving music in Something the Lord Made is some of his most beautiful. Only 1,000 copies were pressed but this one is very impressive and well worth seeking out.