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Monday, April 02, 2007

CD REVIEWS:- Curse of the Golden Flower & Jet Li's Fearless

A couple of linked reviews today, as it is unlikely I will be able to post anything tomorrow.

Curse of the Golden Flower
Music by Shigeru Umebayashi
Lakeshore Records LKS 338982 (US)
24 Tracks 49:20 mins

The latest colourful historical epic from director Zhang Yimou is the wonderfully titled Curse of the Golden Flower and stars the ever dependable Chow Yun Fat and Gong Li.
Following the great success of composer Shigeru Umebayashi's score for The House of Flying Daggers, I was keen to see what he would bring to this story. I was not disappointed. It's a big, choral/orchestral effort, although perhaps a little on the downbeat side, with its good share of mournful strings, yearning solo female vocals and big choral/orchestral laments.
Early on in the album however, there are some fine choral processionals, some more powerful than others, but all nevertheless very involving. The action writing is all quite subdued, with the music more fateful and expectant, propelled by drumming, and only occasionally becomes more strident and purposeful as with "Betray to the Emperor."
The score does however reach a satisfying conclusion with the triumphant "Imperial Ceremony" leading into the rather mournful flute solo of the title track, which intensifies and segues into the "Ending Title" where strings take up the theme. Drums and flute then propel the track to its final choral lament.

Jet Li's Fearless
Music by Shigeru Umebayashi
Lakeshore Records LKS 338772 (US)
36 Tracks 66:52 mins

Still available from Lakeshore Records is last year's Umebayashi score for this Jet Li martial arts extravaganza.
The album gets off to a fine start with the solo flute and strings of the "Opening Title," followed by the drum-driven "Shanghai Fight." Unfortunately, it quickly loses its way with a number of brief and somewhat spare cues. A lot of the action features unaccompanied drumming, but when strings join to make the music a little more involving, often the cues stop and start, making it hard to become really involved.
There are some nice ethereal touches in the score, mostly featuring solo flute or female voice, but a lot of the music is fateful and rather downbeat, though there is some delicate and then more romantic string work in "Moon Explains" and "Yuanjia & Moon."
It's only really at the end that the score becomes more satisfying, with the triumphant "Fearless Men," then the soaring wordless female voice and flute of "Theme of Yuanjia & Moon," leading on to the "Ending," a new percussive theme with a nice violin lead.

Of the two I definitely prefer Curse of the Golden Flower, but Fearless, though a tougher listen, has its rewards and both discs have their share of worthwhile moments.


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