I will admit to having no knowledge of the music of Craig Pruess. On the strength of the joyful, infectious melodic music on this album, however, I will be looking out for his name in future. This is one of the most entertaining CDs to have come my way in many months.
Pruess’s music is very colourful with striking harmonies and arresting orchestrations – the ear is constantly captivated. Any sense of longueur is very brief and confined to a very few dark dramatic cues. The film’s director, Gurinder Chadha, in his rather ambiguous album notes, in which he seems to suggest some personal involvement in the compositional process, says that he wanted a fusion of styles to reflect the cultural diversity of Los Angeles. This fusion is immediately recognisable in the opening cue, the racy and joyous ‘Wipe Out’ which is arranged in a diversity of styles: Caribbean, Mexican Tijuana-style, Indian, Chinese, and New Orleans jazz with a touch of classical refinement. ‘Thanksgiving Feast’ is just as bright and infectious with its stirring and Italianate marching string figures, and nostalgic overtones. ‘Tattooed Ass’ is all glittering chimes; another hypnotically rhythmic piece. ‘Living in L.A.’ is a toe-tapping hectic mix of styles, with Caribbean, Latin, North African predominating.
‘Audrey’s Theme’ slows the hectic pace awhile for hesitant and enigmatic introspection with rather chill orchestrations oddly reminiscent of Roy Budd’s Get Carter score. ‘Rachel’s Theme’, is warmer, more romantic but still somewhat Budd-like and brittle. It is repeated as a solo piano but imaginatively arranged so that it sounds like Ravel in Spanish mode.
‘Tension at the Video Shop’ adds some menace with some strange synth. effects that certainly don’t alienate the ear as much as most. ‘Turkey Processional’, and the rather chill and lonely, jazz blues-based ‘Javier Loses Out’, are the other darker cues; but they are both arresting. ‘Jimmy Runs’ to some imaginative string music with staccato stabbings and tremolandos and those chilly Get Carter-like palpitations again but these are supplanted by warmer Latin material that leads into the much brighter ‘Pipeline’ another infectious number that manages to be both racy and poignant. ‘Avilas and Seligs’ starts with quivering strings before sultry, slinky Latin music takes over with some extraordinary humorous touches like the intrusive Tyrolean figures; another winning track. ‘Ladies Avila’ is proudly Spanish; and the Hispanic style continues in the lovely ‘Latin Love Song’ with its seductive trumpet solo and sensuous percussion. In contrast, ‘William’s Household’ has a Mozart-like classical elegance. ‘Shopping in the U.S.A.’ returns to Latin and jazzy fun especially when the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ is treated in such a comically soulful way. The album is rounded off with some nice close harmony singing in ‘Wouldn’t it be Nice.’
Altogether a delicious dish that I will be savouring over and over.