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Saturday, January 20, 2007

CD REVIEWS - Eragon & Charlotte's Web

Music by Patrick Doyle
RCA 88697 04850 2 (EU)
16 Tracks 55:31 mins

The first of a brace of excellent recent scores to be reviewed here today, is that by Scottish composer Patrick Doyle for the sword and sorcery adventure Eragon, and like his fine score for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Doyle has come up with another thrilling effort, wonderfully performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, at the heart of which is a strong and extrmely hummable main theme, first introduced in the opening and title track of the album. It's big and heroic and basically great stuff! And needs to be, in that it makes frequent appearances throughout the subsequent score tracks.
Within the heroic framework of the score there are more dark and menacing moments, along with some mysticism, tragedy and high emotion. "Burning Farm" is an equal mix of that menace and tragedy, whilst "Together," with its initially tender romance, with female voice, and rising passion, supplies much emotion. But it's the heroic action sequences, with the main theme prevalent in the likes of "Saphira's First Flight," "If You Were Flying," the lengthy "Battle for Varden" and the closing "Legend of Eragon" that really get the blood flowing.
The album concludes with a couple of songs. Avril Lavigne's "Keep Holding On" is actually a very enjoyable, positive rock ballad; whilst the vocal of Doyle's main theme, "Once in Every Lifetime," by Jem, would have benefitted from a more passionate performance, but the theme is strong, so it's still quite acceptable.
I have no hesitation in recommending this as one of the most enjoyable soundtrack albums you'll hear this year, as is the following.

Charlotte's Web
Music by Danny Elfman
Sony Classical 88697-02989-2 (U.S.A.)
18 Tracks 47:18 mins

Fans of earlier Elfman works in the fantasy genre, particularly Edward Scissorhands, will love this magical offering for the new live-action adaptation of this popular childrens' story.
Utilising orchestra and female choir, with piano at times prominent, the "Main Title" opens quite sprightly, building to a crescendo before poriceeding in a more laid-back nature. "The Introduction" follows, with its delightful flowing piano. Then Elfman introduces a theme that is to appear often throughout subsequent tracks. His "Lullaby" is briefly given voice by child star Dakota Fanning, before the composer lets the music flow with the aid of guitar.
Subsequent tracks cover many moods. There are low-key, almost sneaky moments, some comical antics, busy but light action sequences, charming waltz-like movements, and some great celebratory moments, with "The Word Spreads" particularly uplifting.
Elfman often lets his musicians shine, with nice solos here and there, and his use of the choir is often subtle, but telling where necessary.
The final score track, "Wilbur's Homecoming" brings together the score's main thematic material to provide a most satisfying recap, before Sarah McLachlan's lovely vocal on the ballad "Ordinary Miracle" beings the album to a close.
If you're looking for something light and charming you can't go wrong with this one, which is engaging from start to finish.


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