March 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Uncorked (At Sachem Farm)  
Music composed by Jeff Danna
  Available on La La Land Records (LLLCD-1001)
Running Time: 29:32

uncorked

You may not of heard of Uncorked, the title of this CD and the name under which the film At Sachem Farm was released on video in America; a movie also known as Trade Winds, and shown on US cable TV as Higher Love. It is apparently a somewhat eccentric drama with elements of romance and humour, and stars Minnie Driver, Nigel Hawthorne and Rufus Sewell in a story set in the Californian wine making community.

The resultant CD, given a limited release on the recently formed La La Land Records label, is produced by the composer, Jeff Danna, and is as beguiling as it is brief. There may be just 29 minutes of music, but little wasted in a score which is highly melodic, very atmospheric and has a genuine folk-like romantic spirit. The scoring is generally low-key, penned for guitar, mandolin, lap steel guitar, harmonium and piano (all played by Jeff Danna) and various combinations of clarinet, flutes and recorders, fiddle, hurdy gurdy, cello harp, percussion, vibes, psaltery and dulcimer. The inclusion of various folk/period instruments lends the score a striking folk-early music quality, with several pieces sounding as if they would not be far out of place on a disc of Italian Renaissance music. Among these, the song Love of Heaven (co-written with Mychael Danna), performed by Sara Clancy is utterly magical.

Alternatively, cues such as 'The Crane' fit well into the recent vogue for sparsely scored, introspective and melancholy writing, with piano, harp and woodwind at the centre of a delicately moody piece. Elsewhere the guitar show-piece 'Ross' Concert' is a most enjoyable standout which calls to mind the excellent solo writing of Anthony Phillips, while 'Red Wine' is fired by gurdy gurdy and percussion into a dance with distinctly medieval Andalusian/Sefardic qualities. The 'End Title' is a charmingly upbeat, almost acoustic Celtic-rock version of the attractive main theme and it completes a thoroughly rewarding release which may be hard to find but which is well worth seeking out.

Gary Dalkin

**** 4

Ian Lace adds:-

Beginning in relaxed bucolic mood, with strings, harp, celeste and Gaelic piccolo, the opening music speaks of a serene ‘Arboretum’. But the next track ‘Stilt Walk’ ruffles the calm, its unease bordering on menace and we have that current film music cliché, the current penchant for mixed styles, this time the not unfamiliar, incongruous, uncomfortable mix of Celtic and Arabian. The next track, ‘Kendal Says Goodbye’ adds more ingredients, synth organ-like music creating a quasi mystic quality with further synths suggesting to my ears something like the noise my washing machine makes. All this is disappointing because there are better things to come. ‘Little Pillar’ and ‘Ross’ Concert’ are nice little guitar studies, the former with treble piano chords recorded in an imaginative acoustic, impress far more because of their simplicity. Piano, cello, oboe, guitar and strings are morose and tentatively romantic through ‘The Crane’. I will pass over ‘The Murder Pillar’ with the usual synth horrors, although there is an interesting hint of old Indian war dances with its shaking jingles. ‘Discovery’ re-establishes the opening serenity and adds a touch of innocence. ‘Love of Heaven’ adds Gaelic charm in a very familiar sounding folk-song idiom, and it introduces the vocalist Sara Clancy sounding suitably angelic. ‘Red Wine’ has peculiar synths that sound like an exasperated exhalation and then, alas, we are back to Dublin in Baghdad. The final ‘End Title’ has the Gaelic jazzed up.

As the curate observed, good (well fairly good) in parts but Uncorked this score is not best Danna vintage.

Ian Lace

** 2

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