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
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
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
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!