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Thursday, February 23, 2006

CD REVIEW - Gideon's Daughter/Friends & Crocodiles

Gideon's Daughter/Friends & Crocodiles
Demon DMGST 001
31 Tracks 76:13 mins

Last month the BBC screened Friends & Crocodiles, one of two new dramas from Stephen Poliakoff and Sunday sees the screening of the second, Gideon's Daughter.
Demon have done us a great service in releasing regular Poliakoff collaborator Adrian Johnston's scores for both productions on one CD, commencing with 15 tracks from Gideon's Daughter, which the composer admits is his favourite of the two. The film is set in the summer of 1997 and encompasses Labour's election victory and the death of Princess Diana. I would agree with Johnston's assessment - this is certainly the most enjoyable of the two scores here presented, commencing with the flowing piano and strings of "Flower Upon Flower, and underlining all the nervous energy of "Movie Premiere; whilst "Gideon's Youth" is a nostalgic piano-lead theme. "Jump in Jump Out" starts out easy-going, but becomes more purposeful and "Bicycle Lane" has an almost jungle feel to it. "The Great Meeting" is light and airy, a happy variation on "FUF". Actress Emily Blunt sings "Natasha's Song" at her last school assembly, with lyrics by Poliakoff, and the song returns in the emotional "Calton Hill."
Friends & Crocodiles spans 20 years from 1981 to the present and explores the relationship between a boss and his secretary over this period. The 16 tracks presented commence with the bright, flowing, guitar-driven "Colour Codes," followed by "Poolside," which has a laid-back, almost Reggae feel to it. "Room of Dreams" is, well, suitably dreamy, with "Picnic a brief, but flowing cue. "Swan Magic" is again; well, magical, whilst "Party Riot mixes strings with modern dance elements. "Book Ruined" and "Geometry Box" are sad and sensitive, with "Venture Capitalists" featuring laid-back guitar, but with a propulsive mid-section. The opening theme returns triumphantly in "All the Winners," and the upbeat mood is continued with the fast and flowing "Wedding" and the happy and excited "Takeover." "Bonfire" provides a delicate, reflective ending for piano and strings.
The accompanying booklet features a summary of the films' plots, plus an extensive and appreciative note on Adrian Johnston and his music by the director.

These films see Adrian Johnston make a triumphant return to TV scoring, following a busy year, spent largely working on big screen productions, including two "dog features," Lassie and The Mighty Celt. For the former his wrote a conventional orchestral score, with a subtle Highland feel, reflecting the film's setting. Lassie's journey is filled with sadness and Johnston's score suitably reflects this without ever going over the top with sentiment. Along the way there are bursts of action writing to be found, as Lassie makes various escapes, and the splendour of the scenery is duly and expansively noted. Unfortunately, no soundtrack release has been forthcoming, nor for The Mighty Celt, where the score has a folk-come-pop feel to it, with mystical elements. The racing scenes are largely guitar-driven and again the sentiment is subtly handled.
In the summer, Adrian worked on the horror film Isolation, which I don't believe has been released as yet. It concerns mutant cattle on a farm and was certainly a change of pace. "I loved doing it," he says, "with Jew's harp, percussion, a herd of double basses and violins, mikes swinging overhead, and me on metal rakes and barrows." The results are certainly a world away from anything I've previously heard from him and is easily the equal of many a recent low-budget Hollywood horror score, with much dissonance and suspense and appropriate menace where required.
Finally, his most high profile film assignment was for the very British comedy Kinky Boots. A soundtrack was released for this movie, by Hollywood records, but only three tracks featured Adrian's score. However, as much of the score consists of very brief (often under one minute) cues, these prove a good representation of his music, grouping together most of the best moments of the score, including the inspirational main theme, a magical choral, some urgent and more comical music, guitar and strings sentiment, and some cool sax-lead jazz.
Johnston's most recent assignment is the satirical TV film Coup - about the failed African coup, with Mark Thatcher.

My thanks to Adrian Johnston for making this review/feature possible.


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