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CD Reviews: Veronica Guerin and The Rundown



Veronica Guerin ***

HARRY GREGSON-WILLIAMS

Hollywood 5050466-5820-2-7

15 tracks - 41:03

Harry Gregson-Williams is without exception the most interesting composer operating out of the Media Ventures stable. While that forthright statement will undoubtedly garner an equal number of opposing views along the lines of "Heresy!" or "Faint praise indeed!" just take a look at his recent track record. Spy Game was an excellent score that successfully carried the movie between its many global locales and last summer's Sinbad literally blew it's big brother (Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Multiple Composers) out of the water.

Now Gregson-Williams is back with Phone Booth director Joel Schumacher for this dramatization of the Irish journalist who was assassinated by drug dealers. Instead of taking the hackneyed, easy route and covering the score with Irish jigs and a barrage of pipes (Mr. Horner, please stand up) Gregson-Williams offers a more respectful take on Irish music.

The presence of Sinead O'Connor is arguably the score's greatest lack of imagination; one loses count of the number of Gaelic tales that she has sung on (Michael Collins, In the Name of the Father, etc). But lack of originality notwithstanding, the songs ("One More Day" and "The Funeral") are great tracks, co-written by Hannibal's Patrick Cassidy and produced by Trevor Horn. There's also some additional music credited to Michael A Levine.

Kudos to Gregson-Williams for his discovery of street singer Brian O'Donnell, who really pours his heart out on "The Fields of Athenry." The composer first heard the singer while researching the movie and later sent his brother out with a tape recorder to capture the urchin's colloquial performance. On the disc, the track starts with O'Donnell singing unaccompanied, but by the one-minute mark the full orchestra sweeps in and transforms the track into something quite different.

A low-key ambient affair that owes more than a nod to The Thin Red Line, Veronica Guerin is an accomplished emotional piece for those who like their Irish scores with a bit of bite.     -- Nick Joy




The Rundown ** 1/2

HARRY GREGSON-WILLIAMS

Varèse Sarabande 302 066 516 2

24 tracks - 44:32

The hype surrounding The Rundown, a genre exercise in chase movies set in Brazil, was that Dwayne Johnson would come into his own as an action star. I was hoping that Gregson-Williams would similarly come into his own as an action scorer. But in the end, while you can certainly hear the composer striving for something new, he too often falls back on the "Bruckheimer Sound."

The score opens promisingly, with a collection of short cues that are at once this album's strength and weakness. While the score is more atmospheric than thematic, these cues still need more space to breathe and develop. For example, at the end of "Jeep Rental," a guitar solo underscored by a samba beat enters for 25 seconds and then never reappears -- ever. I could have lived in that sound for several more minutes, it was so expertly set up, but it disappeared all too quickly. Yet even with their short durations, these cues are full of quirky sounds and are bursting with possibilities.

Gregson-Williams absorbed the film's setting by using the School of Samba Unidos de Vila Isabel and Bloco Ile Aiye, two Brazilian groups. Their dynamic percussion combines with whistles and jews harps and even a theme from his Sinbad score (which pops up toward the end of "Little Swim") to create an impressively eclectic sound that will bring a smile to your face.

Unfortunately that smile is wiped off by the score's second half. As the cues get longer, all momentum and interest is lost. "Monkeys & Rebels," one of the longest cues, signals this change. It endlessly repeats a musical motive that at 40 seconds would have been provocative, but becomes stale after three minutes. Then, for the scores closing cues, Gregson-Williams falls almost entirely into the Bruckheimer sound he lived in on films such as Enemy of the State. While that style works fine in technology-driven pictures, it is often out of place in period or exotic settings (as Pirates of the Caribbean proved).     -- Andrew Granade

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