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Saturday, December 24, 2005

CD REVIEWS - Zathura & Oliver Twist

Music by John Debney
Varese Sarabande 302 066 705 2 (U.S.)
20 Tracks 44:26 mins

For this family sci-fi adventure, John Debney has come up with a score that has left some critics raving, comparing it to past triumphs like Cutthroat Island. I wouldn't go as far as that, but it has been a good year for the composer, what with his fine score for Dreamer and his enjoyable, if somewhat familiar music for Chicken Little. What we have for Zathura is a bold and adventurous orchestral/choral score in the finest sci-fi traditions of John Williams and the like, commencing with his heroic main theme and travelling on through some exciting and menacing action sequences, mystical vocals and even a few intimate and tender moments. An enjoyable romp is how I would best describe it and I look forward to viewing the images it supports.

Oliver Twist
Music by Rachel Portman
Sony SK 96506 (EU)
18 Tracks 53:26 mins

Rachel Portman can always be depended upon to come up with the goods for adaptations of classic period stories and her latest effort is no exception. It should however be pointed out that, although the score starts out in her typically jaunty and lightweight fashion, Oliver Twist isn't all sunshine and light and accordingly Portman's score takes a dramatic shift around Track 9 Watching Mr. Brownlow's House and continues on darkly until a return to her jaunty theme for Oilver concludes the album. There's some genuine suspense here and also some dark and desperate action, illustrating Nancy's tragic fate and Bill Sykes' flight from the law, which shows another side to the composer. Earlier things are indeed more hopeful, though even amongst the craftiness of The Artful Dodger and the versatile, vaguely Jewish theme for Fagin, a note of sadness enters here and there, like in A Kind Old Woman, though even this ends warmly. Whether light or dark, the music is unmistakenly Portman's and if you are a fan of her work, you should definitely seek this one out to add to your collection.

Well, that's it from me until after the holidays, but there's plenty more to look forward to in days to come, so check back for reviews of all six releases to date of Gabriel Yared's earlier work on the Cinefonia label; four from Varese Sarabande: Stargate:Atlantis, Doom, Where the Truth Lies and Firefly; Disney's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch & the Wardrobe; the Perfect Dark Zero game score from Sumthing Else; King Kong from Decca; Brokeback Mountain from Verve Forecast; The Brothers Grimm and The Island from Milan; Ballets Russes from Intrada; The Film Music of William Alwyn Vol.3 from Chandos, Syriana from RCA; plus a few surprises. So, in the meantime, it only remains for me to wish you a Very Merry Christmas and a New Year with plenty of good music to listen to.


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