Mark Isham has never really been a composer to come to the fore like Mr. Williams
or Mr. Goldsmith or demand your attention like Danny Elfman or Elliot Goldenthal.
Isham is a quieter, more subtle practitioner of the wonderful art of film music,
but gradually, over the years, he has begun to win my affection. With his intimate,
sensitive melodic work on A River Runs Through it (1992) and October
Sky (1999) he has produced notable, striking soundtracks, but for me it
was Of Mice and Men (1992) that really established him as a force to
be reckoned with. If you haven't heard that beautifully realised score don't
hesitate to track it down.
So here we are with a new Isham recording and an opportunity for him to reinforce
my growing admiration.
Opening with the quirky rhythmics of 'If I Could Kiss You', this is very much
Thomas Newman territory and really does little to inspire enthusiasm. It's not
until his major motif appears on 'Tear it Down', a poignant piano based piece,
that we get something that suggests the composer's true quality. This theme
is heard in several other places in more restrained form ('A Promise', 'Leap
of Faith' etc.), although other cues that are designed to create a sense of
introspective emotion are merely workmanlike ('Love is Not Enough' , 'I'm Happy
Today' ). Perhaps the most unexpected element of the score is the theme first
introduced on 'A Leap' and recalled on 'Building a Family'. This is a dynamic
string piece is the manner of Michael Nyman and adds a dash of welcome colour
to the proceedings.
A real mixed bag with good work counteracted by just as many cues that are
no more than middling, although at its best the music does demonstrate this
composer's keen understanding of human emotion. My internal report will read
'Mr Isham continues to show promise'!
Ian Lace adds:-
A warm, sentimental, gently lyrical score, sometimes jazzy and minimalist;
sometimes quirky; not without charm. It has something of the rippling outdoors
freshness (the cue 'I'll take this one' for instance) that made A River Runs
Through It so appealing. Coruscating, vivid coloured orchestrations (with
much use of vibraphone), and colourful treble percussion, plus interesting harmonies
and softly introspective piano solos lift this score above the average. Many
cues are slow and idyllic (even prayer-like in 'Build this house with me' and
'Leap of faith'). Even the upbeat cues have a coy busyness - 'A leap' and 'Building
a Family'. For me, Life As A House is Isham's best for some time.