November 2001 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Mychael DANNA
Hearts in Atlantis  
  OST conducted by Nicholas Dodd
  DECCA 440-016-035-2   [38:07]

Hearts in Atlantis

"Hearts in Atlantis" derives from Stephen King's intelligent novel set in 1960, about a fatherless youngster's symbiotic relationship with the mysterious man upstairs at the Connecticut boarding house where the boy and his mother dwell. Considering the author, the book, and the presence of capable filmmakers (Scott Hicks, William Goldman, Anthony Hopkins), there is a measure of critical buzz for the film. The question here is, "How does the soundtrack release fare?"

Normally, I would complain about four medium-length tracks being the total of original pieces appearing on this film's soundtrack. I would complain loudly. I will not do so here. Having not seen the film yet leaves me comfortably unaware of what may be missing. Secondly, the eight remaining selections turn the album into a quality time capsule. We hear Chubby Checker ('The Twist'), Chuck Berry ('Carol'), Santo & Johnny ('Sleep Walk'), The Platters (''Only You,' 'Twilight Time,' 'Smoke Gets in Your Eyes'), The Crew Cuts ('Sh-Boom'), and Percy Faith & His Orchestra with Max Steiner's 'Theme from "A Summer Place."' Notice the 1950s and '60s classics. None of these are too shabby.

Breaking the popular music into sections is Mychael Danna's typically affecting, understated score for orchestra, glass and tasteful use of electric guitar (arguably reminiscent of Thomas Newman's better efforts). 'Never Really Went Away' opens with a pensive piano motif supported by a gently sustained chord on a glass harmonica, before the soundtrack's central, rural melody presents itself on clarinet, flute and violin among a plush carpet of warm strings. 'Summer Vacation' brings the same ideas into a more youthful introduction, the harp and glass sounding mystical as the track quietly evolves -- devolves, rather -- into a sad, almost tortured reading. The juxtaposition of piano and harsh electric guitar chords feels perfectly measured. 'The Hill' continues our dance between musical light and darkness. We have a gorgeous dramatic build-up that passionately lets loose, yet the disciplined keyboard returns again, and melancholy follows shortly... Ah, a pattern. 'Molly,' like an extended version of 'Never Really Went Away,' closes the disc on a reflective sentiment. It has a miraculous atmosphere.

As is true of many of Danna's selections, "Hearts in Atlantis" does not break filmusic molds, but neither does it exist as another formless glob in Hollywood's middling bulk of recent output. The brief existence of underscore (approximately 18 minutes) on an already brief, bare-bones album suggests it is unlikely to gain the appreciation of strict 'songtrack' bashers. It is, however, a fair listening investment for those that do not mind the occasional nostalgia compilation, with an agreeable contemporary presence.

Jeffrey Wheeler

 ***

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