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Monday, December 05, 2005

CD REVIEW - Wallace & Gromit plus music for A Christmas Caper

Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit
Music by Julian Nott, Rupert Gregson-Williams, James Michael Dooley, Lorne Balfe & Alistair King - Produced by Hans Zimmer
Varese Sarabande VSD-6686 (EU)
19 Tracks 48:21 mins

Sometimes it's a case of too many cooks spoil the broth and I therefore approached this CD with some trepidation, having read the credits and seen all the many names above involved in creating the score for this American-backed big screen adventure of the much-loved and very English characters. But I must say that, like the film itself, the score remains very much grounded in the traditions Julian Nott established for the three short adventures that have gone before, with the famous, bouncy and very Northern main theme very much in evidence throughout the score and a number of supporting themes that one can be fairly certain originated from the same composer.
Of course it's a very much larger-budgeted film and therefore can afford large orchestral/ choral forces, but the composing/producing team use them well, so that the score falls very much into line with what's gone before - just on a bigger scale.
In addition to the main theme, there is a variety of music for W & G in Anti-Pesto mode; by turns adventurous, heroic and proud. There is also a nice love theme for Wallace's love interest Lady Tottington and some pompous and vaguely threatening music for her other suitor Victor.
The Were-Rabbit itself is scored in the best Hollywood monster music traditions, even adding a '50s electronic wail on occasion.
The whole album is great fun and deserves the success that the film itself has been enjoying. It
makes one proud to be British!

Supporting Wallace & Gromit is the short animation A Christmas Caper, starring those scene-stealing penguins from Dreamworks' Madagascar.
One thing all three productions have in common is composer James Michael Dooley, who has worked on them all. A music composition graduate from New York Universtiy, Dooley joined Media Ventures in 1999, where he has collaborated with Hans Zimmer as his Chief Technical Engineer and as a composer, working on many films, including Gladiator, Mission: Impossible 2 and Black Hawk Down, as well as documentaries and award-winning shorts. His score for A Christmas Caper is a hugely enjoyable affair, very much in the retro style of Michael Giacchino's The Incredibles, and adds great support to the on-screen capers. It's a pity it's too brief for a CD release, because it's a case of short but most definitely sweet.
Dooley has also recently scored the PS2 videogame title Socom 3: US Navy Seal, his score being very much in the Media Ventures style, with that familiar big sound of orchestra, electronics and choir, recording having taken place at Air Studios in England. His action music is particularly exciting, but there are many moods to the score - heroic, elegiac, fateful and tragic - it's all there.
The composer says "Socom is by far the most complicated project I've ever worked on. It has just under two hours of music and over 250 cues. There are some pieces that are triggered randomly and some that are event specific. You have to reset your brain as you go through that many different cues in one day."
Again, there is currently no official CD release for this score, but I hope some enterprising label picks it up before long.
My thanks to Costa Communications.


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