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Soundtrack Review

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The Music of James Horner


Composer: James Horner
Performed by: The City Of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
Silva Screen Records
RRP: £15.99
Available 30 May 2011

Silva Screen Records release a 2 CD, 27 track collection, celebrating one of the most prolific and accomplished composers working in Hollywood today. James Horner’s outstanding film music career has seen him work with the greatest directors of the last three decades including James Cameron, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard and Oliver Stone...

James Horner has always been one of my favourite film composers. I can forgive the fact that he tends to reuse themes over and over again when he moves from one project to another, because when he writes melancholy music he knows just how to do it so that the emotion it brings with it takes you completely by surprise.

This two disc collection represents a good mix of his work and, while I don't usually recommend compilation albums for soundtrack fans, this is one set that's worth getting hold of - even if you own all of the music on their original soundtracks. Why? well, firstly it does play like a 'greatest hits' of the composer and provides a nice selection of his various strengths. And, as I've mentioned before in other reviews of this sort of compilation, while the orchestra may be playing from the original score notes the mix will almost certainly be different - therefore you get to hear a different part of the orchestra that you may not have heard on the original recording. At times (for example on 'Take Her To Sea, Mr. Murdoch' from Titanic) this can alter the sound and feeling of the recording giving the listener something new.

This is the bit where I show what an anorak I truly am and illustrate my earlier point about Horner reusing very similar music when moving from film to film. In fact almost every track here you'll pick up at least a segment of another score of his. For example the 'End Credits' of Glory includes a similar style to that he used previously in Star Trek: II but not noticeable enough to really make an issue out of it.

However, where there's almost blatant self plagiarism is on tracks like 'Legends Of the Fall', which sounds like a reworking of the 'Cocoon' track on this album; and 'Electronic Battlefield' from Patriot Games sounds almost identical to his work on Aliens.

There are also flavours of other composers work. 'Remember' from Troy sounds very similar to David Arnold's Stargate music, whilst 'Charging Fort Wagner' from Glory, is very reminiscent of Carl Orff's 'O Fortuna' from his Carmina Burana cantata (or the music from the Old Spice ads as most people will know it).

As I've mentioned before with these sort of compilations, I'm not normally a huge fan. These recordings are usually not up to scratch with the originals. However, with this release the sound is about as close to the original as is possible. Being such a huge Horner fan I own almost all of the original soundtracks and know them inside out, but even I was hard pushed to tell some of these from the original.

There's only the odd hiccup. For example the 'End Titles of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan ends in a rather sorry mess when compared to the original, but on the whole this should give you a taste of the wonderful world of James Horner.


Darren Rea

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