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 Posted:   Jun 27, 2015 - 2:18 PM   
 By:   JamesSouthall   (Member)

Please forgive the self-indulgence...

I've been very moved by James Horner's death and listening to so much of his music over the past week has reaffirmed my belief that the body of work he built up over a 35-year film music career is one of the finest that any film composer has created.

I've been writing about film music for two decades, generally badly, and have written "reviews" of many of his scores over that time, but now will be revisiting a lot of those old reviews and filling the gaps for albums I hadn't written about previously. I like a lot of his work (in fact I like it a lot) but by no means all of it and I won't be pretending that I think things are good that I don't. But I should say now - I do think that a large part of it is good.

This may be of no interest to many people - if so, please ignore this thread. I'll update it every time I post a new review.

http://www.movie-wave.net/james-horner-review-odyssey/

These are ones I've written comparatively recently and won't bother rewriting:
Wolf Totem - http://www.movie-wave.net/wolf-totem/
The Amazing Spider-Man - http://www.movie-wave.net/the-amazing-spider-man/
Black Gold - http://www.movie-wave.net/black-gold/
Avatar - http://www.movie-wave.net/avatar/
The Spitfire Grill - http://www.movie-wave.net/the-spitfire-grill/
Jade - http://www.movie-wave.net/jade/
Apollo 13 - http://www.movie-wave.net/apollo-13/
Clear and Present Danger - http://www.movie-wave.net/clear-and-present-danger/
A Far Off Place - http://www.movie-wave.net/a-far-off-place/
Patriot Games - http://www.movie-wave.net/patriot-games/
An American Tail: Fievel Goes West - http://www.movie-wave.net/an-american-tail-fievel-goes-west/
Extreme Close-Up - http://www.movie-wave.net/extreme-close-up/
In Country - http://www.movie-wave.net/in-country/
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids - http://www.movie-wave.net/honey-i-shrunk-the-kids/
Vibes - http://www.movie-wave.net/vibes/
An American Tail - http://www.movie-wave.net/an-american-tail/
Cocoon - http://www.movie-wave.net/cocoon/
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock - http://www.movie-wave.net/star-trek-iii-the-search-for-spock/
Uncommon Valor - http://www.movie-wave.net/uncommon-valour/
Gorky Park - http://www.movie-wave.net/gorky-park/
Testament - http://www.movie-wave.net/testament/
Brainstorm - http://www.movie-wave.net/brainstorm/
Krull - http://www.movie-wave.net/krull/
48 Hrs. - http://www.movie-wave.net/48-hrs/
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan - http://www.movie-wave.net/star-trek-ii-the-wrath-of-khan/
Rascals and Robbers: The Secret Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn - http://www.movie-wave.net/the-homecoming-rascals-and-robbers/

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 27, 2015 - 2:51 PM   
 By:   Luc Van der Eeken   (Member)

Go right ahead James, I love reading these reviews. And you're right, a lot of it IS really good even outstanding. I still can't believe he's gone, he was one of the greats. That last track from 'Wolf Totem' gets me every time and now even more...

 
 Posted:   Jun 27, 2015 - 2:55 PM   
 By:   WhoDat   (Member)

As a regular reader of your reviews (love your site... we share many similar tastes in film music and I find myself checking it several times a week for new reviews) I'm looking forward to some new reviews by you of past Horner works, especially The Rocketeer, Braveheart, Sneakers, The Mask/Legend of Zorro, Willow, Legends of the Fall, and (the underrated) Karate Kid. Keep up the thoughtful analysis and criticism!

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 27, 2015 - 3:03 PM   
 By:   bond6007   (Member)

Thanks for the update, James. I've always enjoyed your reviews. However, I must point out that you have a few headscratchers:

Titanic (***) - REALLY!??! I thought this grade was a joke, but alas I clicked on the review and it was not. Really hard to take you seriously with this one. ***** score, one of the best and most influential of all time.

Willow (***) - This is an epic score, and anything under 4 1/2 stars is an insult. A lot of people rank this as one of James' best, and even though it's not a personal favorite of mine, I can agree that it's a ***** score. So much amazing writing in this one, a true showcase.

Glory (****) - A good score under most circumstances, but not for this masterpiece. ***** score without a second thought.

To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday (**) - Personal favorite of mine, and perhaps the most controversial choice on my list here, but I feel this a **** score. Or *** in the very least. Beautiful atmospheric music, and the last track is just a gorgeous orchestral suite that ties everything together, similar to the last track of Field of Dreams. Like several of the above scores, you are complaining about the flow of the album, as if the score should be arranged on the CD just to fit your tastes. I haven't watched the movie yet (will do soon), but the score probably fits the film perfectly.

I must stress that your criticisms about albums being too long are completely misguided. If you don't like the extra music, skip the tracks you don't like or make your own mixes. For the rest of us, we want every minute of score that the composer wrote. Complaints like yours do nothing to help the effort to get complete releases. More music is never a bad thing - if you don't like the extra material, just don't listen to it. Omitting amazing music in the effort for a more streamlined album is a much greater sin.

I also think you need to do a better job taking into account that these are film scores and not classical works. They are written to fit the film, not for presentation on a CD. I think it's a huge mistake to lower the grade of a score just because the label was nice enough to release more music on the CD than you personally wanted.

Sorry for ranting, but I'll also point out that Filmtracks addresses this particular issue by grading the score both in the film and on the album, which is nice, but not really necessary. The important thing is that you review the score - not the CD presentation. And then if you want to complain about the CD being too long as a side note, that's fine, as long as you don't penalize the score and the hard work of the composer because of it.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 27, 2015 - 3:21 PM   
 By:   JamesSouthall   (Member)

Thanks for the update, James. I've always enjoyed your reviews. However, I must point out that you have a few headscratchers:


Yes... there's a reason I'm rewriting them!

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 27, 2015 - 3:24 PM   
 By:   bond6007   (Member)

Thanks for the update, James. I've always enjoyed your reviews. However, I must point out that you have a few headscratchers:


Yes... there's a reason I'm rewriting them!


Haha! Well that was a short and succinct reply to my long and protracted rant. Will look forward to the new reviews! smile

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 27, 2015 - 3:30 PM   
 By:   jb1234   (Member)

I'm excited about this! Your site is my go-to place for Goldsmith and Horner reviews. It'll be interesting to see how your thoughts for the rewritten reviews change.

 
 Posted:   Jun 27, 2015 - 3:31 PM   
 By:   McD   (Member)

Titanic (***) - REALLY!??! I thought this score was a joke

No, Bond6007, it's a fantastic score. Not only one of Horner's finest, but one of the finest ever, full stop. And it sold shitloads!

No idea why Mr Southall didn't give it five stars though.

It's a great review site, by the way. Although, like every film fan who reads it probably, I wonder why he hasn't covered more of my own favourites. (And, as an example, I think he hasn't covered any of Howard Shore's best work, all pre-LOTR. Which means he hasn't got around to it yet, or he's still to be exposed to it, the lucky devil). And I can't be the only one who would think this (though likely in the minority), but it feels like a lot of the Goldsmiths are reviewed well above what they deserve. To compare two scores for comparable films from the same year - is Goldsmith's worthless crud of Runaway really worth the same rating as Horner's inventive and fun Commando?

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 27, 2015 - 3:36 PM   
 By:   bond6007   (Member)

Titanic (***) - REALLY!??! I thought this score was a joke

No, Bond6007, it's a fantastic score. Not only one of Horner's finest, but one of the finest ever, full stop. And it sold shitloads!

No idea why Mr Southall didn't give it five stars though.


Haha I assume you're joking here? Good point either way though, I changed the word "score" to "grade" in my original post. Obviously, I was talking about the *** grade being a joke, when it's clearly a ***** score. It's not my fault that the word "score" is such a versatile word! razz

 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2015 - 4:24 AM   
 By:   Thomas   (Member)

I must stress that your criticisms about albums being too long are completely misguided. If you don't like the extra music, skip the tracks you don't like or make your own mixes. For the rest of us, we want every minute of score that the composer wrote. Complaints like yours do nothing to help the effort to get complete releases. More music is never a bad thing - if you don't like the extra material, just don't listen to it. Omitting amazing music in the effort for a more streamlined album is a much greater sin.

I also think you need to do a better job taking into account that these are film scores and not classical works. They are written to fit the film, not for presentation on a CD. I think it's a huge mistake to lower the grade of a score just because the label was nice enough to release more music on the CD than you personally wanted.



Speak for yourself by all means, but of course albums can be too long. Simply padding out the CD doesn't necessarily mean it's all good. If the music is simply written to fit the film, then why bother presenting it on CD at all? Unbelievable as it may seem, we don't all clamour for complete releases. Many C&C releases suffer from it.

James is reviewing the music as he finds on the Soundtrack CD, he's not reviewing the film. In fact, James makes clear in his reviews that many of the films he hasn't actually seen. Like a lot of us here, we have music from our favourite composers for films we haven't had the pleasure to view.

Also, I personally agree with his rating for 'Titanic'. If you're so annoyed that he didn't review it according to your wishes, then review it yourself. We'd all like to read that...

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2015 - 8:36 AM   
 By:   bond6007   (Member)

I must stress that your criticisms about albums being too long are completely misguided. If you don't like the extra music, skip the tracks you don't like or make your own mixes. For the rest of us, we want every minute of score that the composer wrote. Complaints like yours do nothing to help the effort to get complete releases. More music is never a bad thing - if you don't like the extra material, just don't listen to it. Omitting amazing music in the effort for a more streamlined album is a much greater sin.

I also think you need to do a better job taking into account that these are film scores and not classical works. They are written to fit the film, not for presentation on a CD. I think it's a huge mistake to lower the grade of a score just because the label was nice enough to release more music on the CD than you personally wanted.



Speak for yourself by all means, but of course albums can be too long. Simply padding out the CD doesn't necessarily mean it's all good. If the music is simply written to fit the film, then why bother presenting it on CD at all? Unbelievable as it may seem, we don't all clamour for complete releases. Many C&C releases suffer from it.

James is reviewing the music as he finds on the Soundtrack CD, he's not reviewing the film. In fact, James makes clear in his reviews that many of the films he hasn't actually seen. Like a lot of us here, we have music from our favourite composers for films we haven't had the pleasure to view.

Also, I personally agree with his rating for 'Titanic'. If you're so annoyed that he didn't review it according to your wishes, then review it yourself. We'd all like to read that...


This is a silly and short-sighted argument. Perhaps you're not very technologically-minded, but if you don't like some of the tracks, you can simply rip the CD to you computer, or burn a new CD and omit the unwanted tracks. Or you can just press skip on your playback device. To burn a CD catered to your own tastes would cost you a few cents.

On the other hand, if labels are constantly omitting music, inevitably there will be great music withheld that we will never get to hear. It happens all the time. You can always choose to not listen to music you don't like, but if the label withholds some of your favorite tracks, you're simply out of luck. And we, as film score fans, are the ones who suffer as a result.

I didn't say James is reviewing the film, but he is reviewing film music, and its role as film music must be taken into account. Some films are 90 minutes long, some are over 3 hours. You shouldn't dock a score just because it's "too long," when it had to accompany a 3 hour long film.

Finally, on the topic of Titanic, I think James will justifiably write a new Titanic review, and I would be willing to wager it will be higher than ***. It is a pivotal release in the history of film music, and for good reason. We shall see.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2015 - 8:48 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

It's an argument we've heard so many, many times before -- "why don't you just mix your own album?" -- as if that's something we're interested in doing. For guys like Thomas, Southall and myself, it's not a matter of 'favourite tracks', 'tracks we want to omit', 'making your own playlists' or whatever. It's about the JOURNEY; the symphonic flow of a listening experience from start to finish, created (preferably) by the artist who's done the music in the first place.

Horner is usually brilliant at this, even if some of his albums are on the long side. His long, 10+ minutes tracks almost work like an individual work within the larger work.

 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2015 - 8:52 AM   
 By:   Scott McOldsmith   (Member)

I actually agree on the Titanic score rating. I've been going back over the last few days, like so many of us, and listening to Horner's music with a loving ear and I still don't like Titanic as many others do. There are some really beautiful cues, but there's something about it that I can't put into words that doesn't give me the enjoyment of some of his other scores. Maybe it's the synth choir. Maybe it feels a little too overworked to me, it feels aware of how epic is needs to be. I give it three stars myself for the amazing power of the sinking scenes and the wonderful finale. To be fair, I also tend to not like "popular favorites" as much as other people and find Titanic a tad overrated. His Treks, Krull, Clear and Present Danger, Legends of the Fall and Cocoon all get higher rankings from me.

Bring on the revised reviews, James. I get e-mail site updates and enjoy your posts tremendously.

 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2015 - 8:54 AM   
 By:   Moviedrone   (Member)

The whole point of the soundtrack album is to create a coherent listening experience out of the context in which it was created. Composers spend a lot of time creating their ideal sequencing and mixing for the album as a standalone work - so it's fair to judge them on that. I agree with James - that art has been lost somewhat, and many recent score releases have lost points with me because not enough attention has been made to trimming the fat, and as a result some of them can be a real chore. Of course this depends as well on the type of score, thematic elements, things like that. I can't speak for James, but I have a disclaimer on my site that states that - unless otherwise noted - the review is of the album, not the score in the film (we try and have separate reviews for that).

We can only judge what's put in front of us.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2015 - 9:01 AM   
 By:   bond6007   (Member)

It's an argument we've heard so many, many times before -- "why don't you just mix your own album?" -- as if that's something we're interested in doing. For guys like Thomas, Southall and myself, it's not a matter of 'favourite tracks', 'tracks we want to omit', 'making your own playlists' or whatever. It's about the JOURNEY; the symphonic flow of a listening experience from start to finish, created (preferably) by the artist who's done the music in the first place.

Horner is usually brilliant at this, even if some of his albums are on the long side. His long, 10+ minutes tracks almost work like an individual work within the larger work.


If you're interested in the journey, shouldn't it be the complete journey, and not one fraught with holes? It's hard to see what you're arguing for here. And if that "journey" consists of somebody just picking and choosing pieces of a larger whole, why can't you do the same?

I can see the argument for a "selective journey" if the composer is the one who "chose" the pieces, and thus you are listening to the composer's presentation of the score. But many albums are not assembled by the composer himself/herself, so this argument often does not apply.

 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2015 - 9:07 AM   
 By:   Erik Woods   (Member)

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2015 - 9:08 AM   
 By:   Thor   (Member)

Getting a weird sense of deja vu here, he, he....

If you're interested in the journey, shouldn't it be the complete journey, and not one fraught with holes?

If I want to hear all the music, I'll see the film. I don't listen to soundtracks because of the movies -- I listen because they're great concept albums. So I don't really care what's missing. All I care about is what is in front of me, and how that holds up as a listening experience.

And if that "journey" consists of somebody just picking and choosing pieces of a larger whole, why can't you do the same?

Because I'm not an album producer, and creating albums is more than just assembling personal playlists. Album arrangement is an artform, and best served by the composer him or herself. If the composer is not available to produce/arrange the album, then I would trust an album producer to make a selection. Unfortunately, many album producers do not (at least among the specialty labels), and instead elect to present them C&C.

 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2015 - 9:09 AM   
 By:   mastadge   (Member)

And if that "journey" consists of somebody just picking and choosing pieces of a larger whole, why can't you do the same?

For the same reason that Horner could compose, orchestrate and conduct a gorgeous piece of music and I cannot. For the same reason that a great film editor can assemble a great film from the same pieces that I would likely assemble into an incoherent mess. Ability to appreciate a structure doesn't imply ability to properly create that structure.

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2015 - 9:14 AM   
 By:   bond6007   (Member)



Haha! This about sums it up. I don't post here very often, so clearly I've missed the many arguments about this particular topic.

At any rate, we'll just have to agree to disagree. Also, since this is such a big issue for some, it further validates Filmtracks approach of giving multiple review scores - oftentimes, one for the score in the film, one for the score on the album, and then one overall score. Sure, James hasn't seen many of these films, but he could certainly do this type of approach for a score like Titanic (if he's interested, of course).

And uh... you have seen Titanic, haven't you James? smile

At any rate, we'll just have to wait and see what type of approach he comes up with. I will maintain hope that Titanic and Willow will get ratings bumps in the near future. wink

 
 
 Posted:   Jun 28, 2015 - 10:21 AM   
 By:   Pedestrian Wolf   (Member)



Haha! This about sums it up. I don't post here very often, so clearly I've missed the many arguments about this particular topic.

At any rate, we'll just have to agree to disagree. Also, since this is such a big issue for some, it further validates Filmtracks approach of giving multiple review scores - oftentimes, one for the score in the film, one for the score on the album, and then one overall score. Sure, James hasn't seen many of these films, but he could certainly do this type of approach for a score like Titanic (if he's interested, of course).

And uh... you have seen Titanic, haven't you James? smile

At any rate, we'll just have to wait and see what type of approach he comes up with. I will maintain hope that Titanic and Willow will get ratings bumps in the near future. wink


Not to speak for James, but I think the purpose of his reviews is primarily to let people know whether or not he recommends purchasing a soundtrack album for listening pleasure. Whether or not the score works in context isn't really relevant to that. He has on occasion noted scores that worked perfectly in their films but nevertheless don't stand up well on their own.

 
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