March 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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John POWELL
I Am Sam  
  OST Steve Erdody (cello), ukes and guitars (George Doering and Heitor Pereira)   VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-6317   [40:58]

I am Sam

How refreshing to have an album of music that is so upbeat and sunny after having to endure so many dark arcane scores on albums that seem to go on for ever and leave the poor reviewer limp and dispirited.

[I am Sam is about a mentally challenged father Sam, Sean Penn, raising a daughter with the help of an extraordinary group of friends. On her seventh birthday begins to overtake him mentally and the authorities therefore think she should be taken into care. Sam fights against this decision and seeks the aid of attorney Michele Pfeiffer...]

Forget the track titles – they mean so little and just sit back and relax with this predominantly easy-going music. Forget too, the misleading booklet inside back cover of listing of the full string complement of The Hollywood Studio Symphony. In truth, these strings are rarely used and certainly not en masse; instead this is an ensemble led by accoustic and electric guitars and ‘ukes’ with a nice unobtrusive blend of synths and exotic percussion and some interesting sound effects. The style is mostly Latin/Caribbean, sometimes ‘primitive’ African, mostly joyful, sometimes plaintive, sometimes dreamy and romantic but always colourful. The music is sometimes jazz or blues based. Often it is minimalist but the ear is never bored because of the interesting harmonies, modulations and shifting rhythms and instrumental colours. The solo cello, often sharing the stage with a solo piano, is used to designate moments of sadness. Interesting effects abound, in ‘Rita’ for instance the sound stage seems to conjure up mental images of a colourful jumgle scene but you have remarkably counterpointed tap-dancing, toe-tapping sound effects, telephone dialling sounds and wet glass glissandos – but it all seems to fit together so harmoniously – a tribute to the creativity of John Powell.

A real joy - we could do with more upbeat, sunny scores like this.

Ian Lace

***(*)

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