February 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Music composed and conducted by John Debney
Violin solos by Joshua Bell
‘Dreamer’ performed by Bethany Dillon, written by Bethany Dillon & Ed Cash
Album also contains an unlisted, untitled bonus song
  Available on Sony Classical (SK 97742)
Running Time: 64: 25
Crotchet   Amazon UK   Amazon US

See also:

  • James Newton Howard – The Village
  • Thomas Newman – The Horse Whisperer
  • James Horner – Legends of the Fall
  • Dreamer is a polished family film starring Dakota Fanning, Kurt Russell, Kris Kristofferson, Elizabeth Shue and a horse. In a limited field it is easily the best girl and her horse movie since The Horse Whisperer (1997), though where the earlier film sought pastoral epic marked by adult longings and bittersweet emotional restraint, Dreamer races to the finish line marked feel-good drama.

    If ever it were easy to tell which scores a film had been temp tracked with, that film is Dreamer. Its evens that most of the temp track came from Thomas Newman’s The Horse Whisperer, with most likely a little of James Horner’s Legends of the Fall (1994). John Debney’s resulting score bears hints of the melodic qualities of both, while it displays a considerable debit to the pastoral / lyrical feel of each score. This is especially noticeable in that the music for Dreamer has both many passages of lovely, gently scored winsome Americana, and several strikingly contrasting folk-bluegrass inspired cues featuring rousing, up tempo guitar (sometimes played by the composer), mandolin and dulcimer.

    Though classical superstar Joshua Bell is featured on the cover for his very fine solos - recently featured as the musical voice of Nigel Hess' Ladies in Lavender - the whole album is marked very much by the presence of solo instruments, bringing a distinctively intimate voice to the music. At various points we are presented with piano, clarinet, oboe, guitar, cello, mandolin and dulcimer, with much of the writing having a delicate, highly melodic and atmospheric sensibility. These understated passages intermittently surrender to full orchestral writing given full reign in the grand Hollywood heroic feel-good tradition. These set pieces, beginning with ‘First Race’, climax with the rousing ‘Last Race’, where the big tune comes into its own and is guaranteed to put a smile on all but the most cynical face. There is little doubt this is a happy ending film, which, while offering nothing whatsoever new or original, works well as both movie and album to fulfil its goal of providing solid enjoyment.

    Normally I wouldn’t be so enthusiastic about a score which wears its influences so obviously on its sleeve. In this case it is perhaps fortuitous that my favourite Thomas Newman score (by a country mile) is The Horse Whisperer, while, by an equal distance, my favourite James Horner score happens to be Legends of the Fall. Debney clearly references both, but brings his own voice to the music such that it takes on a life of its own sufficiently to be highly rewarding its own right.

    Best though skip track 23, a song called ‘Dreamer’, and stop the disc completely before the unlisted, untitled and unacknowledged track 25, a slightly different version of the same song.

    Gary Dalkin


    Ian Lace adds:-

    After having to report some rather disappointing, derivative Debney film music of late, it is pleasing to welcome this gently lyrical score. It uses a large orchestra but its power is employed sparingly with solo instruments, such as a guitar strumming, in country style, spotlighted and with a solo piano prominent.

    As might be expected for a story of a little girl and her horse, the rhythms match their rides and are high spirited and exuberant rising to great excitement (and one senses at one point tragedy) or gentle amblings. And often the music turns pastoral evoking bird song or lush country vistas and to underline the emotions, it becomes wistful, warmly pleading or nostalgic. It is beautifully reminiscent of the music of Aaron Copland.

    A charmer

    Ian Lace


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