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|CD Reviews: The Terminal and Piano Works|
|Posted By: Nick Joy, John Takis on January 2, 2005 - 9:00 PM|
CD Reviews: The Terminal and Piano Works
The Terminal ***
14 tracks – 57:50
Light, breezy, lengthy, occasionally amusing and fairly
inconsequential. Those were my general feelings after seeing Steven
Spielberg's latest, not-quite-greatest effort, which held my attention
but failed to make any real impression. Straddling the line between
drama and comedy, Spielberg seems to aim for whimsy. Maybe he does hit
the mark, and whimsy just doesn't stick for me. Or maybe whimsy simply
stretches thin over two-plus hours. I certainly can't fault Tom Hanks,
who, with his mannerisms and quasi-Greek accent, does his best in the
role of resourceful émigré Viktor Navorski. And I can't
fault John Williams, whose score fits the film like a glove…for better
and for worse. It is also light, breezy, lengthy, occasionally
amusing…and yes, fairly inconsequential. At least in this reviewer's
mind. Maybe you, the reader, love Williams in his gentle jazz mode,
which is the vein of most of this score. I find him kind of boring.
Yes, I said it...boring! Oh, don't get me wrong! This is top-notch
writing all the way. And as I said, it's a neat fit for the film, which
at times seems to lack a soundtrack in favor of airport muzak. I
certainly can't imagine anyone writing a better score for this film.
Viktor Navorski's theme is charming and infectious (perhaps a little
too infectious, the way it bounces maddeningly into my head at odd
moments!) and the breezy (there's that word again!) theme for Viktor's
antics has a nice laconic swing to it. The "Krakozhia National Anthem"
makes for a welcome change of pace mid-album, and the Cape Fear quote in "Refusing to
Escape" is amusing. Finally, there's an old school Hollywood love theme
that makes its best appearance in "The Fountain Scene." But the
majority of the album is slight repetitions and variations on these
themes amidst meandering underscore.
If you're a Williams fan, you're probably familiar with this side of
the maestro. It's no less an authentic part of his distinctive
compositional voice than his heroic fanfares or layered action cues.
Yet I do not happen to feel that this particular score makes for a very
successful album. In spite of Williams butchering the score's
chronology to make for a more musically sensible experience (I'm not
convinced), it just doesn't hold my interest beyond the first few cues.
There are highlights here and there – quotes of "Here Comes the Bride"
in "The Wedding of Officer Torres"; the piano-bass duet that opens
"Jazz Autographs" -- but pushing an hour in length, the album is simply
And yet…and yet…it's quality music! Mature, well-arranged,
compositionally flawless. In short, typical Williams. It pains me to
give any Williams album less than four stars for just these reasons.
Williams at his least inspired writes better music than most of his
contemporaries on a good day. But I have to go with my gut over my head
on this one, and review the album as an experience. I love many slow
scores, long scores, and even moody, atmospheric ones. But for some
reason this one puts me to sleep. Forgive me, maestro…your godlike
talent ensures you three stars, but my perplexing resistance to this
latest opus draws the line there. -- John Takis
Piano Works (Limited Edition) *** 1/2
19 tracks - 58:23
For those who thought Craig Armstrong's greatest work was achieved at
his bank of synthesizers, the composer goes "unplugged" to demonstrate
the range both of his own compositions and the piano as a single source
of sound. Instead of the "best of" compilation that many originally
anticipated, this release utilizes a selection of Armstrong's familiar
tracks and transforms them into one complete piece. I'm avoiding the
use of the word "classical," if only because many would (wrongly) see
this as synonymous with stuffy old-fashioned music. By contrast, this
work is very contemporary, while still classical in structure. It's a
mature piece from a composer who is so comfortable with his craft that
he is prepared to re-work and re-structure his own classics into
something quite different.
Where else would you find music from scores such as Love Actually, Romeo + Juliet, Orphans and Moulin Rouge and Massive attack's
"Weather Storm" sitting alongside one another as if they were composed
for the same movement? Of course, this could have backfired terribly,
with the collector enraged that his favorite Armstrong tracks have been
stripped down to their barest melody. But surely that's the point of
the album -- a good composition is a good composition, and with the
orchestral layers peeled away, the purest music is left to dominate.
Moulin Rouge fans might find
that Satine's Theme is too different a beast in this form, but that
will ultimately be a matter of opinion. Both movie and now piano
versions exist for the same source, and how often are we as collectors
offered contrasting takes by the original composer? The melancholy
theme from Orphans is,
incidentally, presented here for the first time in an official release.
All sounds on the album are created by the piano, though there are
electronic treatments on most of the tracks. Armstrong makes a point to
inform which piano was used at which of the four recording locations.
This is a limited numbered release, beautifully packaged in a bound
fabric-covered 28-page booklet with photographs of Paris. It was here,
in France's capital city, that Armstrong recorded a number of the
tracks, and the CD also features a preview of a film of this recording,
due for DVD release. Armed with the knowledge that the music is being
performed in such a romantic setting, the disc takes on further elegant
nuances with repeated play. More than a chillout album or a simple mood
piece, it's a concert work for your living room.
-- Nick Joy