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Bolt by John Powell


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Bolt (Soundtrack) by John Powell

Composed by John Powell
walt Disney Records (2008)

Rating: 7/10

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[JOHN POWELL'S] effort certainly helps to lift BOLT emotionally, but could be considered by some to be an "average John Powell score." Granted, an "average" score from Powell is pretty doggone good!

Alternative Powell Source
Review by Christopher Coleman

Composer John Powell has, once again, been one of the busiest composers of the year. Following JUMPER, STOP/LOSS, HORTON HEARS A WHO, HANCOCK, and KUNG FU PANDA, comes his sixth project released in 2008 - Walt Disney Animation's BOLT. The animation studio was certainly in need of help with a seemingly endless number of previous releases, which were largely considered to be box-office-failures. With Disney's acquisition of Pixar in 2006, it was only a matter of time before the Pixar-expertise would have some positive impact on 3-D features produced and released at Walt Disney Animation Studios as well. In BOLT we can see, John Lasseter, now Chief Creative Officer of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, already having an effect. BOLT is easily the best from the studio to date, featuring decent voice-talent, en-par CG work, a well told story, and the music from the "Animation Score King," JOHN POWELL.

BOLT is the story about a television, dog-star, only he doesn't know that this is what he is. Everything the tv-hero thinks is real, isn't...except for the love of and by his owner, Penny. Thinking that Penny has been captured by their arch-enemy, Calico, BOLT is set off on a cross-country adventure to save her, but he'll have to do so without his tv-powers, because the circumstances which have moved him from Hollywood to New York are real and not set in his latest episode. Along with way, BOLT meets several comical, but devoted characters that help him in more ways than one.

The bar of expectation could hardly be any higher for composer JOHN POWELL these days. He has delivered entertaining scores one after another for years now. While every score may not be a home-run, few of his scores for animated films lack creativity. Powell has become the "sound" of 3-D animation, having composed scores for just about all of major studios of the genre...except for Disney/Pixar. That streak comes to an end with BOLT, where Powell takes advantage of the story-telling and weaves together a score that contrasts the real-dog, BOLT, with his tv-superhero-personality.

From the onset of the movie, we hear Bolt's real-dog theme which also represents his bond with his owner, Penny. At the film's onset, we see Bolt as an innocent, puppy in a pet store and we are introduced to his aggressively curious nature which is the trait that gets him chosen over all the other bundles of lively fur sharing his pen. Powell gives us a light performance of lullaby-like theme on strings and piano in "Meet Bolt" (1) and calls on the theme several times in the latter half of the score. As the television, dog-star, BOLT, is given a five-note heroic theme that POWELL employs whenever Bolt is in hero-mode.  He uses this motif when Bolt is unknowingly filming his television show and even after he's been ejected into the real world, but remains under the delusion of holding super-powers. We get our first clear and bold quote of the theme at the conclusion of "Bolt Transforms" (4). We hear it again during a action packed chase scene from the tv-show and also have introduced Bolt's secondary action theme in "Scooter Chase" (5). It's this secondary theme that the over-achieving-Bolt-fan, Rhino the hamster comically sings in "Sing-Along Rhino" (11).  As the Bolt learns and accepts the reality of his abilities (or lack thereof) and we move into tracks like "Saving Mittens" (12) we hear the hero theme arranged and performed more organically, sans all of the hyper-electronica found in the earlier action tracks. Bolt is still a hero - remaining heroic despite is knowledge of being "just a normal dog." The final five tracks lose the Bolt-action theme altogether and instead rely heavily on his real-dog theme. As he takes the final steps of his journey to rescue Penny, Powell raises the level of emotion and intensity from Copland-esque, Americana arrangements to a driving, determined performance at the conclusion of "Rescuing Penny" (16). In the film's denouement, Bolt and Penny have retiried from the tv-business, and so leave behind their 5-note, Bolt theme with the actual show.  Bolt, the show,goes on with replacement actors. "Unbelievable TV" (18) provides us our final quote of the theme as big, dramatic piece which is placed in direct contrast to the real-heroes living free in the country, "Home At Last / Barking At The Moon (Reprise)" (19).

JOHN POWELL, of course, doesn't leave things as simple as all that. He also provides a versatile theme for Bolt's reluctant side-kick, Mittens. It is introduced in track 7, "Meet Mittens" as a mafia-like, Italian folk song, with mandolins and all. Later, Powell delivers a sad variation on the theme in "Las Vegas" (14) as we learn of what lead to Mittens' life in back-alley's of New York. Speaking of New York, we hear an unashamed nod to famous New York composer, George Gershwin, at the onset of "New York" (6), where the piece starts with and extended rising note a la "Rhapsody in Blue;" replacing Gershwin's clarinet with saxophone. BOLT departs from the convention of animated films in making one of the main themes into a pop vocal track. Of course, that doesn't mean there aren't any pop tracks to be found. There are two, in fact, and they are used to start the soundtrack (rarely a favorable choice from the score fan's perspective). The first is a duet between Penny and Bold a.k.a. Miley Cyrus and John Travolta, "I Thought I'd Lost You" (1) and second is a tune by Jenny Lewis "Barking at the Moon" (2) which is barely connected in final few moments of film as heard in track 18. Neither song is particularly outstanding, but it wouldn't surprise me to find the duet being nominated and performed at the upcoming Oscars.

BOLT easily surpasses Walt Disney's previous 3-D productions like MEET THE ROBINSONS, CHICKEN LITTLE, and THE WILD. While BOLT doesn't quite hit the level of fine detail that other 2008 releases like WALL*E and KUNG FU PANDA do, it remains a very entertaining film. The same remark can be made of JOHN POWELL's score. His effort certainly helps to lift BOLT emotionally, but could be considered by some to be an "average John Powell score." Granted, an "average" score from Powell is pretty doggone good. Those who really connect to the film or those who are looking for yet another decent score from JOHN POWELL to feast upon will find that BOLT is a mostly satisfying soundtrack. Unfortunately, the average time track time being under 2 minutes and the total running time being just under 37 minutes. Considering that there are two pop tunes included in that 37 minutes, it would have been nice to have gotten a bit more score, perhaps in the form of a suite. Then again, it's not like John Powell hasn't delivered enough music for us in 2008.

Rating: 7/10

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Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 "I Thought I Lost You" (John Travolta and Miley Cyrus) 3:35  ***
2 "Barking at the Moon" (Jenny Lewis) 3:18  **
3 Meet Bolt 1:49  ***
4 Bolt Transforms 1:00  ****
5 Scooter Chase 2:29  ****
6 New York 1:43  ***
7 Meet Mittens 1:25  ***
8 The RV Park 2:14  ****
9 A Fast Train 2:38  ****
10 Where Were You on St. Rhino's Day? 1:58  ****
11 Sing-Along Rhino 0:41  ****
12 Saving Mittens 1:02  ***
13 House on Wheels 3:07  ***
14 Las Vegas 2:01  ****
15 A Friend in Need 1:13  ****
16 Rescuing Penny 3:09  ****
17 A Real Live Superbark 0:46  ***
18 Unbelievable TV 1:20  ****
19 Home at Last/ Barking at the Moon (Reprise) 1:29  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 37 minutes  



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