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CD Reviews: Pavilion of Women and The Tailor of Panama

Pavilion of Women *** 1/2


Varèse Sarabande 302 066 245 2

22 tracks - 52:29

Conrad Pope is perhaps best known as an orchestrator for high-profile composers including John Williams and Danny Elfman, but he's quietly eked out a few scoring opportunities for himself. Pavilion of Women is certainly his highest-profile solo score yet, unless anyone thinks Project: Metalbeast is a high-water mark of some kind. The opening cue, "Pavilion of Women," sets Pope's grandiose main theme amongst colors provided by Chinese instrumentation. One hears the crispness of John Williams' most recent works in Pope's compositions, but this isn't necessarily a bad thing. "The Library" has a pensive and organic feel, and the score as a whole has a cohesion and focus that's welcome. "The Rape" is a standout cue, moving through several shifts of tone and instrumentation before climaxing with a melancholy dirge for the strings.

Pope approaches the score from both a symphonic and operatic standpoint, which accounts for the strengths and weaknesses of the album; it's overlong, and at times a little disconcerting. It's all eminently tasteful and meticulously composed, but at the same time homogenized; the ethnic effects get lost amidst all the operatic writing, and sometimes come across a trifle gimmicky, rather than organic. The operatic approach unfortunately results in a lot of repetition as the album goes on, and one can only hear so many grandiose orchestral crescendos before they too become invasive. But there are standout cues: "Secrets and Wages of Sin," a swirling, seductive cue setting yearning string chords against the plaintive call of the ehru (a traditional Chinese instrument) and some ethereal choral effects; "The Embrace," a stirring cue that builds slowly but surely into an explosion of Pope's primary theme; and "Together Forever," the score's emotional climax, a choral introduction leading into a movingly emotional crescendo for full orchestra. The album is a lengthy one, but there are enough moments here and there to make it worthwhile. Pope himself contributes liner notes to the booklet.  -- Jason Comerford

The Tailor of Panama ***


Varèse Sarabande 302 066 243 2

16 tracks - 48:48

Shaun Davey's score for John Boorman's The Tailor of Panama is a leisurely stroll through a handful of musical styles, most of which mesh together. "Harry Pendel, The Tailor of Panama" leads off the album, and bridges atmospheric effects for guitar and bongo rhythms with full-orchestra writing. The richer orchestral passages merge smoothly with the ensemble players, and the tone is admirably consistent. The occasional piccolo flourish might remind you of Davey's earlier Irish scores (in particular Waking Ned Devine), but for the most part, the music is low-key and unobtrusive, with the percussion and guitars providing a quasi-Hispanic feel. The mock-march of "The Tailor at the Palace" and the upbeat jig of "The Vibrating Bed" break up the more monotonous cues; Davey sustains a constant tone throughout, but after a while they start to run together. The tone darkens with "Harry, A Thief in His Own Home," a brief cue with some standard-issue low-end suspense chords sawing away. "Ten Million" builds to a brief-but-grand crescendo for full orchestra, Davey's main theme floating through the cue in clever permutations.

As the album goes on, it becomes clear that Davey doesn't have much else up his sleeve besides the ethnic colors and the standard-issue suspense writing (i.e., "Panic and the Pentagon"). The score plays better in the film than it does on disc; there are a lot of good moments but it's repetitive, and there's not a whole lot to hang your hat on for 48 minutes. "Harry's Drive Through the Carnival" echoes the more grandiose strains of "Ten Million," except on a larger scale, and "Louisa's Confrontation and the Death of Micky Abraxis" starts out with a nicely mournful cello solo that coalesces into a driving, punchy section for full orchestra. It's basically a warm-up for the climactic cue, "The Ambassador, The Chase, and The Helicopters," which sets Davey's main theme in an escalating tempo before finally exploding into some admittedly entertaining, albeit familiar, action material. The shift from lounge-music rhythms to Zimmer-esque attack patterns is a little jarring, but it's over before it wears out its welcome. The album closes out nicely with "Harry's Confession/End Titles/'Todavia Cantamos'," a melancholy restatement of Davey's primary thematic material.  -- JC

Editorial Note:

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