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Friday, April 06, 2007

CD REVIEWS - Becoming Jane & Tortilla Heaven

A double helping of reviews for Easter - see you after the holidays!

Becoming Jane
Music by Adrian Johnston
Sony BMG 886097078482 (EU)
23 Tracks 47:10 mins

Although Jane Austen has never really gone out of fashion, it's probably fair to say that fresh interest was ignited in her work with the most recent adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, which carried a score by Dario Marianelli, which was very classical in nature and received much critical acclaim but, at least as an album, failed to involve me emotionally as a good film score should.
His approach was pianistic, and for this fictionalised biopic of how the author, who died a spinster, became such an expert of the subject of romance, Adrian Johnston has taken a not too dissimilar approach, with John Lenehan performing well on piano, ably supported by other soloists Marcia Crayford, Gaby Lester and Aidan Broadbridge (violin); Vicci Wardman (viola) and Anthony Pleeth (cello), alongside the orchestral lineup. However, Johnston's music is a much more satisfying listening experience, with plenty of emotion on show, be it delicate and more passionate romance, or desolate and yearning.
"First Impressions" gets the album off to a tentative start with its piano intro, but orchestra joins to warm things up nicely, before the brief, but sunny "Hampshire" bursts onto the scene. "Bond Street Airs" introduces the first source tune adapted by the composer "The Irishman;" then "The Recruiting Officer" is the folksy dance in "The Basingstoke Assembly."
"A Game of Cricket" flows nicely before giving way to W.Leeves' "Why Tarries My Love? Ah, Where Does He Rove?" "Selbourne Wood" is light and flirtatious, becoming romanticised on piano; whilst "Lady Gresham" is initially quite joyful, but more formal to close. J.Hook's "Ma Chere Amie" makes up "Advice from a Young Lady," followed by the folk dance "Softly Good Tummas" in "Laverton Fair."
Jane's romance with Mr. Lefroy then takes off with the magical, and ultimately dreamy "To the Ball," followed by the eventually soaring "Rose Garden." But the mood isn't to last and the following tracks present a fair does of sadness, yearning and despair, as the lovers are parted. Things do however take a turn for the better with the romantic mood again blossoming in "Runaways." But this is but a temporary respite and the sadness returns for the next three tracks.
A source piece by Mozart, with vocals by Lynda Lee, leads us intothe final two tracks, "Twenty Years Later" and "A Last Reading," which induce a feeling of warm nostalgia for a long lost love.
After a quite lengthy absence from our screens, it's good to hear from Adrian Johnston again, who tells me that he spent much of last year on the film. "In the end I was responsible for all the souce music choices, dance arranging and recording, as well as the score. I leafed through Jane Austen's original books and wanted to weave some of it into the film." It was certainly time well swept in this writer's opinion.
What is clear is that we should be hearing much more from the busy composer in the months to come, as he has a new film "Sparkle" due out probably in May, as well as two forthcoming TV projects "The Trial of Tony Blair" and the latest instalment of "14 Up 2000."The there is the eight-part Channel 4 series "Cape Wrath" and two more Poliakoff films, which are always an event.
He also continues his work on silent classics with the score for 1929's "Lucky Star" for the BFI and Fox. He says "This film was considered lost until it was discovered 15 years ago. I performed live for its 'first' performance in Italy and then played it round Europe and USA so it's a treat to come back to it."
As if all this wasn't enough, he also reveals that his Becoming Jane and Kinky Boots director Julian Jarrold is filming the big screen version of Brideshead Revisited, and I'm sure his music for that production will give Geoffrey Burgon's well-loved TV score a run for its money.
My thanks to Adrian Johnston for his time and for making this review possible.

Tortilla Heaven
Music by Christopher Lennertz
20 Tracks 24:12 mins

Composer Christopher Lennertz has teamed up with multi-cultural band Ozomatli for the score to this indie comedy, directed by Judy Hecht Dumontet and starring George Lopez. They previously worked together on the band's "Street Signs" album, where Lennertz provided the orchestral arrangements that helped the 10-piece band take home a Grammy Award for Best Latin Rock Album of the Year.
The film is based on the true story of a small New Mexican town, turned upside down by the discovery of the face of Jesus on a hand-made tortilla.
The score is about as quirky as it gets, with Lennertz and the band members providing a mix of Spanish, rock and even reggae.', with guitars, sax, harmonica, accordion, steel drums, percussion and even voice all chipping in to telling effect. There is plenty of forward motion to the score, either in the form of flowing tunes or more sneaky, caperesque moments. Occasionally there's a real feeling of fiesta, with trumpet to the fore, but sometimes the music is dialed down somewhat with some nice, warm moments for acoustic guitar. All-in-all a real feelgood score.
No news of a commercial release for the score as yet, so you'll have to catch up with it in the movie, I'm afraid.
My thanks to Costa Communications for making this review possible.


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