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June 2001Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

index page/ monthly listings /June01/

Along Came a Spider  
  VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-6238   [34:54]

Along Came a Spide

There's no argument that Jerry Goldsmith is one of the Gods of film music. He's up there with the masters, Golden Age or otherwise. But not everything composed by the greats is of the same quality. All too often, particularly nowadays, assignments are taken because of financial considerations. However, Jerry is almost certainly beyond such concerns and I feel that for him jobs are accepted based far more on relationships. Here for instance, he's reunited with director Lee Tamahori who he previously collaborated with on The Edge (1997). The film industry as a whole is founded on these kind of professional relationships, careers live and die by them and it's very reasonable to presume that sometimes, perhaps even often, artists such as Jerry Goldsmith take on a job not because of the potential for musical invention, but because he respects and likes those behind the project. So what does all of this industry naval gazing have to do with the score for Along Came a Spider? Well, perhaps it might help to explain why Goldsmith's recent output has not been quite as dynamic and fresh as we might all like and also off-set some of the resulting criticism.

Anyway, all of the above does not mean that this score is without value, although it's biggest problem is certainly over-familiarity. The opening cue for example, 'Night Talk', begins in low-key ambient mood with what sounds like crows cawing in the distance, but soon those customary high, moody strings that always work so well (think Alien) take over, with some synthesised percussion scuttling around in the background to create that well-oiled machine that is the Jerry Goldsmith sound. Many other pieces present us with tried and tested string and brass suspense work; 'Testing' and 'Megan's Abduction' etc., although more rewarding examples are found on 'Megan Overboard', featuring some nice brass in the composers typically robust style and 'Cop Killer', where the tension builds almost palpably. And while much of this is very recognisable at times, it certainly works extremely well. The highlight of the CD would have to be 'The Ransom', the longest cue at almost seven and a half minutes and here finally a theme emerges, led by ringing brass with some feisty percussive backing. Lots of apprehension and edgy excitement. The only contrast to these tense string, brass and percussion cues is the brief, hesitant piano of 'Alone', but little is made of it and the emphasis rests squarely on nerve tingling drama and suspense.

Admittedly we've been here many times before, but Goldsmith is so good at this kind of thing that we really shouldn't complain too much. Composers like Jerry Goldsmith are almost a brand name in the film industry. When you hire him you expect to get what you pay for. And few could say he doesn't deliver here. I'm quite certain this music will work a treat in the movie itself.

Some may call this music merely workmanlike, but I think we have to put a score like this into perspective. Sadly, not every new soundtrack is going to be the innovative work of art we all hope to hear. But even average Jerry Goldsmith is never a bad thing and there are worthwhile moments to be found here ('The Ransom' in particular). Just don't expect to return to this as often as some of the composer's best work. And it's also worth bearing in mind that sometimes film music really is best suited to the place it truly calls home, the film rather than a CD.

Mark Hockley


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