Latest reviews of new albums:
  • Composed by James Horner
  • Varèse Sarabande CD Club / 2013 / 37m

Curiously positioned as a rom-com version of Indiana Jones, Vibes featured the unusual screen pairing of Jeff Goldblum, playing a psychic museum collector, and Cyndi Lauper, playing a psychic hairdresser.  They are sent to Ecuador by Peter Falk.  Everything about it sounds amazing.  The score was by James Horner, who had already made a name for himself at the time (1988).  It’s fair to say that the odd subcategory of Horner scores in the 1980s – “mostly synthesised, improvised to picture” – is not frequently listed amongst his finest achievements.  Vibes is far from his finest achievements.  This new album’s liner notes include extracts from an archive interview with Horner talking about how wonderful synthesisers are, “I find it more and more difficult to return to the same palette of oboes, clarinets, bassoon and French horns” and other statements that would probably make the 2014 version of him cringe almost as much as listening to the Vibes soundtrack would make the 2014 version of just about anyone cringe.

It’s not all synthesised – there are real, live pan pipes too!  And who doesn’t love improvised synth noodling when it has pan pipes to go with it?  Oh, everyone.  There’s a certain endearing charm to the quaintness of some of it – “Mountain Trek”, with its chimes and its cheerful pipes; there’s a lovely feel to the bouncy “Andes Arrival”.  But all the things that attract me to Horner’s work even when others are blowing raspberries at him – the exquisite melodies, the untouchable compositional technique allied with keen dramatic (“musical storytelling”) sense – well, none of that’s here.  You can hear the faintest traces of the wonderful organic “forest sound” he would explore with such success in exceptional scores that came much later – in particular The New World and parts of Avatar – but within this score it does nothing for me at all and this is one of the few albums from his long career that leave even this freakishly pliant Horner fan absolutely cold.  To reuse a joke I used once before – in the (presumably reasonably unlikely) event that you were listening to this album at the same time as masturbating, and heard a family member approaching, I’m really not sure which of the two activities you would be more keen to cover up first.

Rating: * | |

Tags: , ,

  1. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Thursday 30 January, 2014 at 21:05

    I think the only reason anyone has ever been interested in this is because of the old album’s extreme rarity. Only 1000 copies to go around for Horner bottlecappers, and only available for a brief time long before most of us had discovered him. Now that there are 3000 copies out there, more than enough for the Horner bottlecappers of the world, it’s just a footnote–just like the movie itself!

    Incidentally, I find that this is a little more tolerable than, say, 48 Hrs. or Commando if only because it’s not as relentlessly aggressive. But Horner’s “mostly synthesised, improvised to picture” scores have always been at the bottom of the barrel for me in terms of his output.

  2. Jens (Reply) on Friday 31 January, 2014 at 18:50

    I’m no bottlecapper when it comes to Horner, but both this film and score are big guilty pleasures for me. I was happy to finally have a chance to purchase this.

  3. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Saturday 1 February, 2014 at 19:50

    Good on you for enjoying it on its own merits! It’s certainly far outside the stereotypical “James Horner sound” that people gravitate to or react against, to be sure.

    And as a confirmed Horner bottlecapper myself, I was finally happy to have a chance to purchase it too!