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Pirate music is like David Arnold with something missing

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Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Moviescore Media; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall

According to IMDB, Treasured Island is the forty-sixth screen adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic novel.  This Belgian version adds various modern twists, including doses of comedy, but I assume the underlying story remains.  I'm sure the only exposure to it that anyone reading this will ever get is through the soundtrack album, available from Moviescore Media as a digital download (the physical CDs have all sold out) - the composer is Nicholas Dodd, known to film music fans primarily as an orchestrator (particularly for David Arnold), for whom it is his second film as composer, following Renaissance.

Loud whispers have gone around ever since Arnold's first score that Dodd's role as orchestrator was far more substantial than is usual, with even Arnold himself once revealing in an interview that he simply wrote tunes and passed them with "ideas" for orchestration over to Dodd; and it would be easy to summarise Treasured Island as being like David Arnold, only without Arnold himself.  The style of music is very familiar from Arnold's more expansive work, with the florid touches and bold, bright feeling - what is missing is the sense of drama, which is perhaps what Arnold brings to that relationship.

On its own terms, there's nothing much wrong here.  The score is built around a reasonable (if somewhat unmemorable) main theme, a heroic anthem for Long John Silver, which is in the Cutthroat Island vein, but at a more John Barry-like tempo, and it never reaches that score's heights.  Dodd gets quite a lot of mileage from it, but you almost wish he could have found something a little more energetic.  Anyhow, these days no score for a film set in the sixteenth century would be complete without some drum loops, and so it happens, and those passages are easily the score's weakest, though there is never quite the Pirates of the Caribbean sense of anachronism.  Apart from that aspect, the action music is pretty good - standard modern-day action brassy action music, but it gets the job done.

Perhaps the highlight is the love theme, first heard in "The Baroness", a frustratingly tantalising glimpse at the beautiful piece, which is firmly in the Arnold-channeling-Barry mode and could easily come from one of the modern Bond films.  Presumably because of the demands of the film Dodd is never able to get much from it, which is a real pity because it's a beauty.  The score as a whole is all professionally-done and slick, but never really finds that elusive sense of magic which would distinguish a score like this.  I imagine it's very similar to what Alan Silvestri might have written for Pirates of the Caribbean had he been allowed to stay with the film - and despite the lukewarm words of praise above, there is certainly quality here.  I'm sure David Arnold fans in particular will enjoy it.

  1. Main Title (2:09)
  2. The Treasure and Jim's Heart (2:29)
  3. Jim Lad (1:18)
  4. Confession and Chase (1:53)
  5. The Baroness (:45)
  6. The Ship (1:25)
  7. The Map (2:45)
  8. Fight, Recognition and Spaniards (2:15)
  9. The Baroness's Nightmare (1:50)
  10. Hypnotising Jim (2:26)
  11. Duel and Escape (2:44)
  12. Landing on the Island (2:26)
  13. The Sailor Gets It (2:49)
  14. The Chase and Ben Gunn (1:36)
  15. Pirates Cave (2:06)
  16. Spanish Fight (3:17)
  17. Finding the Treasure (1:58)
  18. Final Fight and Explosion (1:17)
  19. Save the Gold (1:56)
  20. Finale (4:08)