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The Contender (Soundtrack) by Larry Groupe

Larry Groupè's Surprise Contender
Review by Christopher Coleman

Buy The Contender by Larry Groupe available at Amazon.comComposed and Conducted by Larry Groupè
Produced and Mixed by Larry Groupè
Orchestrations by Larry Groupè, Frank Macchia, Bruce Connelly
Released by Citadel Records  November 2000

The Contender (Soundtrack) by Larry Groupe

Category

Score
Originality 8
Music Selection 8
Composition 9
CD Length 9
Track Order 8
Performance 8
Final Score 8/10

One of the surprises of 2000 came with the film The Contender.  While it sported some excellent performances by the likes Joan Allen and Jeff Bridges, it is also blessed with one of the surprise scores of the year by composer Larry Groupè.

The story revolves around the main character's fight for justice in the midst of the dark world of Washington D.C. politics.  Larry Groupè's score reflects more hope and general positivity than one might expect.  Given his work for other film's such as Deterrence, which happens to also be featured on this very same CD, it would be easy to expect a much darker score.  Instead, Groupè provides a nice, big slice of Americana that rivals Shaiman's American President.  

Despte many critics calling 2000 a thin year for high quality films and film scores, it is films and scores like The Contender which go under-appreciated and not fully considered in making final assessments of the year's yield.  The story and performances, themselves, in The Contender, are worthy of more than a few nominations.  Likewise, Larry Groupè's score, while unassuming, is simple and evocative.  Unfortunately, it is not the type that draws a lot of attention to itself and likely won't receive any major awards or the vocalized attention of film music fans.  Still, I would list The Contender as one of my ten favorite scores for the year 2000.

The score is built around a very simple theme that is incorporated into most every track.  Fortunately, is a very amiable theme.  The Statesman, track 1, establishes this theme as a solo piano opens the piece playing the theme as the subtlest of strings slowly make themselves evident.  It is this sort of simple beauty in film music that can get sorely lost among the loud and audacious music that seems to monopolize articles, reviews, and conversations.  Continuing in its simplicity track 2, I Stand For, builds on the main theme, with a slower, more determined tempo, taking its time in reaching its crescendo.  As far as the use of this most "hummable" of themes goes, it reaches its apex in track 8, The Speech.  Here the orchestra really manages to push this theme to its limit and could prove a little sappy for some, but these happen to be the sort of moments I relish.

Other noteworthy moments, not directly involving the main theme do exist.  Of particular note, Prophecy Fulfilled (4), as a short but sweet aria, and Timmy Meets the President (3), a mellow piece which makes only scant use of the main theme and establishes a slightly livelier secondary theme.

The use of music in the film is sparse, hence the modest amount of score from The Contender on the disc.  Fortunately, if you are not familiar with Mr. Groupè, an entire additional score has been included with The Contender, Deterrence.

Deterrence was actually released in 1999 and only available as a promo until now.  The music for Deterrence is much bolder and militaristic.  Not too surprisingly it leans more upon synthesizers than The ContenderDeterrence is enjoyable in its own right, but is cut from a different cloth than The Contender.  After listening to The Contender, one is generally in the mood for something along the lines of October Sky.  

Overall, The Contender/ Deterrence soundtrack is a high quality, listening experience.  It is certainly a worthy investment to "cut one's teeth" on, if  unfamiliar with the work of composer Larry Groupè.  Hopefully, Groupè's work for The Contender is only a precursor for his scores to come.

Track Listing and Ratings

 Track  Title  Time

  Rating

 The Contender 1 The Statesman 1:30  ****
2 I Stand For 1:12  *****
3 Timmy Meets The President 1:16  ****
4 Prophecy Fulfilled 0:40  ****
5 Marching Orders 1:51  ****
6 The Real Story 5:25  ****
7 Meet Mr. Makerowitz 1:22  ***
8 The Speech 2:50  *****
9 Nobody's Business 1:15  ***
10 The Deposition 0:56  ***
11 The Portrait Room 2:13  ****
12 Will's Story 1:57  ***
13 End Title: The Chapel of Democracy 3:14  ****
 Deterrence        
14 Main Title 3:28  ***
15 Deterrence 3:00  ****
16 The Garden of Eden 2:07  ****
17 Omari Phone Call 2:42  ***
18 First Strike 1:35  ****
19 Lay Down the King 2:46  ***
20 Contemplation 1:11  ***
21 Addressing the Nation 1:52  ***
22 Decision I 1:20  **
23 I Hate War 4:05  ***
24 Omari's Scheme 1:53  ***
25 We Attack 0:45  ***
26 Mr. Prime Minister 1:11  ***
27 Omari's Threat 1:23  ***
28 The Shooting 1:36  **
29 Omari's Last Stand 1:56  **
30 Pilots of Fate 1:10  ***
31 Phone With Bean 1:28  ***
32 Enter Mr. President 1:09  ***
33 Gambling vs. Certainty 1:10  ***
34 Report In  2:43  **
35 Target Chosen 1:04  ***
36 The Dark March 3:01  ***
 

Total Running Time

72:45  
 
 

Referenced Reviews:  

October Sky

 

Quick Quotes

"THE CONTENDER/DETERRENCE double-header album from Citadel Records is my first exposure to Larry Groupé's music - and what a way to start! While not a mind-blowing effort in the film, THE CONTENDER makes for an engaging listen. It's understated and economic construction is refreshing. However the real surprise is DETERRENCE - albeit an entirely synthesized one - that broils with tension and slick execution."  ***.5

Ryan Keaveney - Cinemusic

"I suppose more than anything this score is a frustration since it evidently shows a personable composer with plenty of his own skill, even if it's not the most distinctive of musical voices. The result being a somewhat less interesting version of scores that have gone before. The album is enjoyable enough and at least doesn't get bogged down in a mire of repeating synths and actually makes good use of the orchestra. A pleasant and enjoyable score, even if it doesn't stick in the mind much afterwards.  ***

Tom Daish - Soundtrack Express


Larry Groupe
Composer 
Larry Groupè

 

 

Buy The Contender by Larry Groupe available at Amazon.com

 
 

 

 

 

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