May 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

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

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Tears of the Sun  
Music composed by Hans Zimmer
  Available on Varèse Sarabande VSD-6457  
Running time: 46.38
Crotchet   Amazon UK   Amazon US

tears of the sun

1. Yekeleni Part I / Mia’s Lullabye (2:35)
2. Heart Of Darkness (2:01)
3. Small Piece For Doumbek And Strings / Kopano Part I (8:55)
4. Under The Forest Calm (1:07)
5. Yekeleni Part II / Carnage (7:55)
6. Kopano Part II (2:25)
7. Night (2:34)
8. Cry In Silence (2:04)
9. The Jablonsky Variations On A Theme By HZ / Cameroon Border Post (8:42)
10. The Journey / Kopano Part III (8:17)

With Tears of the Sun Hans Zimmer returns to Africa, continent of his greatest triumph commercial, The Lion King; let's not forget part of the Zimmer-Ridley Scott picture Gladiator is set in Africa, as almost the whole of the Zimmer-Scott war epic Black Hawk Down. Tears of the Sun certainly revisits some of the ethnic texturing of the latter film, though it is a more full-blooded, up-front score in the direction of the intensity of emotional impact of Gladiator rather than the ambient "soundscape" style of Black Hawk Down. The new film is again a modern war drama, though by most accounts - the much delayed in the USA picture isn't set to reach the UK until October - a less successful and much more clichéd one than Black Hawk... Bruce Willis plays a US officer who develops a conscience and determines to rescue a stranded group of refugees as well as the obligatory beautiful doctor.

Though the score is credited to Zimmer alone on the front cover, the back cover makes it clear this is largely a collaborative score, with major material contributed by Heitor Pereria, Lebo M, Lisa Gerrard, Steve Jablonsky, Andreas Vollenweider, Martin Tillman and Jim Dooley in various combinations with each other and/or with Hans Zimmer. This is nevertheless a remarkably cohesive work, clearly strongly guided under the hand of one dominant composer.

Music ranges from delicate African atmospheres of "Yekeleni Part I" with the fore-grounding of kora and kalimba to the string balladry of "Kopano Part I (Stop the Carnage)" with Lisa Gerrard performing a song which can not but help evoke Gladiator to the sombre aftermath of "Carnage". Elsewhere Gerrard's vocals are balanced by the either anguished or triumphant male vocals of Lebo M., climaxing with a victorious version of "Kopano Part III", a superb bitter-sweet and ultimately exhilarating African choral anthem not a world away from Jean-Claude Petit's Lumumba (2000) or John Williams' Amistad (1997) title themes. It's the best new song I've heard in a film in a long time and if it doesn't win the song Oscar next year there is no justice in Hollywood.

Tears of the Sun's blend of ethnic instrumentation combined with memorably melody and compelling action writing very much puts me in mind of Zimmer's lyrical and moving work on John Boorman's Beyond Rangoon (1995). And indeed there an American lady doctor was caught-up in political / military turmoil in Burma, while Tears of the Sun offers a not dissimilar storyline. The album seems to pretty much tells the tale, and from the monumental two final tracks, which run in total over 17 minutes, one can largely figure out the story; big battle, stirring and heroic act of ultimate sacrifice, moment of reflection and the above mentioned bitter-sweet victory. Anyone who misses the furious yet powerfully emotional Zimmer of The Assassin (Point of no Return) (1993) will find a similar blistering intensity here - albeit with very different and more sophisticated orchestration - all finally unleashed in the epic "The Jablonsky Variations on a Theme by HZ/Cameroon Border Post". In this piece Gerrard and Lebo M's voices combine in an adagio of overwhelming percussive ferocity which alongside the song which follows has proven the most stunning new film music listening experience I have heard so far this year.

Even if the sound quality and production were not by themselves so breathtaking, this is quiet simply a must have release for anyone who cares about film music which has the power to move the listener to the core. Could Tears of the Sun could live up to its music, it would be an instant modern classic.

Gary Dalkin

***** 5

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