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CD Reviews: Judgment Night and Camera: Reflections on Film Music

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Judgment Night (1993) *** 1/2


Intrada Special Collection Vol. 23

19 tracks - 72:44

Alan Silvestri's debut on the Intrada label, Judgment Night proves to be a welcome addition to the composer's discography. The majority of the score is written for large orchestra, into which Silvestri weaves electronic textures that add an unsettling feeling.

Most of the cues are dark and atmospheric, evocative of the slums of the inner city at night (the movie takes place over one night in Chicago as four friends witness a murder and then become hunted by the gang that committed it) and all of the dangers inherent to it, whether real or imagined. However, Silvestri's trademark propulsive action writing does frequently break out from these darker cues, and this material is very reminiscent of his writing for the Predator films (and in fact Predator 2 was directed by Judgment Night's Stephen Hopkins) with their jungle percussion rhythms. In fact, over a dozen percussionists are credited, which should give a good indication of the type of sound present here. "Execution" and "Train Yard" are good examples.

The album finishes off with a suite of unused electronic score cues, including Silvestri's main title, which contains an ominous quote of the "Dies Irae." Although there is thematic material here, you won't be humming it the way you might Silvestri's more catchy themes for films such as Back to the Future and Forrest Gump. However, if you like Silvestri in full-blown action mode, this release is highly recommended.     -- Darren MacDonald

Camera: Reflections on Film Music ***


True North TND 294 (Canada)

15 tracks - 63:08

Incantation have achieved great success with their evocative performances based around ethnic instruments, especially Celtic and Latin American. Having contributed their distinctive voice to numerous scores since their debut on The Mission (1986), it is only natural that they should give us a "best of" collection. As one might expect, this is no Panpipes Go To the Movies: each of the 15 cuts has been arranged with a good deal of flair and variety by leading light Tony Hinnigan.

The approach is low-key, intimate and affectionate; the performances feature dextrous playing of pipes and strings; and the close-miked sound is deliciously crisp and clear, guitar squeaks and Hinnigan's breathing vividly to the fore. The only real miscalculation is in the occasional use of electronics to provide a soothing bed of sound: the result tends to come across more like hiss on the recording!

The music of James Horner predominates, with no fewer than 10 pieces, including two from "the iceberg movie." The reverential performance of "Hymn to the Sea" -- even employing a faux organ  -- makes a good case for this over-familiar score. Braveheart is immensely pleasing, Hinnigan displaying impressive breath control, with a striking use of vibrato and an eerie solo coda. Willow is also winning with its peculiarly drowsy tempo. On the other hand, Legends of the Fall, The Devil's Own and The Mask of Zorro struggle to rise above the indifferent source material, whilst the lovely melody of The Land Before Time is spoiled by a trite drum line.

Of the other composers' works, Christopher Young's roistering theme to The Shipping News is a little disappointing, lacking the heady momentum of the original. Michael Nyman's The Piano provides a literal and slightly eccentric change of tone: with strings to the fore -- and, yes, no piano! -- its ascetic quality is an intriguing, albeit too brief, diversion. George Fenton's A Handful of Dust is attractive indeed; it and The Mission allow a succession of instruments to shine. Indeed, for once the hackneyed Morricone piece sounds fresh, benefiting from some plangent plucking of guitar strings.
The liner notes carry endorsements from all the composers bar Morricone, with the quote from Horner suggesting that The Mission was to blame for his latter-day penchant for ethnic instruments.

Camera is atmospheric and sensual music-making, deserving of wide audition, though only fans of Horner and Incantation will count it an essential purchase.     -- Nick Haysom

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