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Angela's Ashes by John Williams

Tracksounds Rating = 9/10

Angela's Ashes by John Williams

Composed  by John Williams
 Soloists: Steve Erdody (Cello) John Ellis (Oboe) JoAnn Turovsky (Harp) Randy Kerber (Piano) Andew Bennet (Narrator)
Released by Varese Sarabande November 1999

Track Title Time Rating Gushing Williams
by Christopher Coleman

It is no wonder director Alan Parker “gushes” about John Williams in his quote contained in the liner notes of this CD release from Sony Classical.  He was right in feeling like he won the lottery when John Williams agreed to compose the score for his film, Angela’s Ashes.  If  National Book Critics Circle Award, Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize winning author, Frank McCort had any knowledge or say in whom scored the film, I’m sure he was equally pleased. The excellence of Williams is demonstrated yet again through this mesmerizing score.  Following Williams’ more deep, sentimental yet passionate style of the nineties heard in scores like:  Schindler’s List, Seven Years in Tibet, and Stepmom,  Williams taps into the depths of the human experience and does so with all the expected magnificence of a Williams score.

Without a doubt this is one of the finest scores in the last few years.  One reason for this is Williams’ employment of the strings.  They are  simply spellbinding containing captivating themes and movements as his scores for JFK or Born on the Fourth of July did.

The narration could be looked at as a distraction, but in actuality it poses but a minor threat to the “enjoyability” of this score.  Generally, the narration takes place in the first 20 seconds of the track, while the piece is usually subdued and still building.  Occasionally, as an interlude within a track, like track 5, the narration returns, but, again, it shows itself for only a few moments.  The narration merely sets up the context of the track, which, if one has not seen the movie, helps to solidify the story and emotion being conveyed.  The irony is that Williams’ music is so clear in its intent and emotion that it hardly needs such context to be set for it.

Each track is an absolute pleasure to listen to.  Track 4, My Dad’s Stories, features some intriguing pizzicato work. The cello is featured similarly to Seven Years in Tibet.  Here, it is played skillfully by Steve Erdody and is used much more sparingly than Yo Yo Ma’s inspired lead cello.  Track 8, The Lanes of Limerick contains some magical harp- not too far off from Williams’ use of the harp in E.T. the Extraterrestrial.  Track 17, Back to America is one of those sweeping epic sorts that just beg to be used in future trailers!  Hopefully,  it will give trailer producers a wonderful alternative to the overused Dragonheart theme.

Whether played by Randy Kerber on the piano or John Ellis on the oboe, or Steve Erdody on the cello, the main theme is truly memorable:  on the sad-side, but not gut-wrenchingly sad like Schindler’s List. On whichever instrument this main theme is played,  captured are the hardships of Frank McCort’s growing up in the Depression-Era of New York and Limerick, Ireland.

A bit of a distraction are The Dipsy Doodle (track 7) and Pennies from Heaven (10).  Old jazz/big band tunes do provide some contrast and they are relatively short, but these tracks would have been better left off or at the very end of the CD.

This release by Sony Classical contains a fat CD insert with a ton of stills from the film.  While they, like most stills included in liner notes, are nice to look at once, they provide little for the owner of the CD.  The first two pages do contain a minimal amount of information on the production of the CD and a quote from Alan Parker.  This compact disc thankfully contains just under an hour of music.

If John Williams “other” score for 1999 did not  thrill his fans as much as anticipated, he certainly makes amends, in many ways, with his score for Angela’s Ashes.  Now that author McCort has completed the next installment of his life story, entitled Tis, maybe we can look for Williams’ return for this likely-to-be-made-film as composer!

1 Theme from Angela's Ashes 6:18 *****
2 My Story 2:19 ****
3 Angela's Prayer 4:47 ****
4 My Dad's Stories 1:55 ***
5 Lord, Why Do You Want the Wee Children? 4:03 ****
6 Plenty of Fish and Chips in Heaven 3:41 ****
7 The Dipsy Doodle* 1:30 *
8 The Lanes of Limerick 3:37 ****
9 Looking for Work 3:31 ****
10 Pennies from Heaven* 1:11 *
11 My Mother Begging 3:46 ****
12 If I Were in America 2:34 ***
13 Delivering Telegrams 2:23 ***
14 I Think of Theresa 1:50 ****
15 Angels Never Cough 2:38 ****
16 Watching the Eclipse 3:00 ****
17 Back to America 2:38 *****
18 Angela's Ashes Reprise 6:16 *****
  Total Playing Time      




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Final Score


Other reviews:

John Williams has given the film world his most harrowing and emotional dramatic score in years. In the classic symphonic tradition, Angela's Ashes becomes the years most heartfelt and fragile piece of work that flows over the listener like a cascading ocean tide gently pulling with its undertow until one is absolutely lost in the middle of the sea. ****

Vance Brawley -Scorelogue

Composer John Williams
John Williams

Angela's Ashes by John Williams
John Williams had better clear off some space on the mantle. This year he not only gave us a new Star Wars score, but he also provided us with an exceptionally warm, dramatic, and moving score for Angela's Ashes. The Academy will certainly have a problem on their hands, considering that this year the two score categories have been re-merged into one score. ****

Dan Goldwasser -

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Angela's Ashes by John Williams

All artwork from Angela's Ashes  is exclusive property of Sony Classical (c) 1999.  Its appearance is for informational purposes only.