I am Sam by John Powell Available at Amazon.com



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I am Sam (Soundtrack) by John Powell

Musically Challenged
Review by Christopher Coleman


I am Sam by John Powell

I am Sam

I am Sam by John Powell (Soundtrack)

Category  |   Score

Originality 8
Music Selection 7
Composition 7
CD Length 8
Track Order 7
Performance 8
Final Score 8/10


Real Audio Clips




John Powell
John Powell


Quick Quotes

"It's refreshing to hear something different from Powell, but different, as most of you know, doesn't earn it the right of being declared as enjoyable, because basically speaking, it isn't
. **

Jason Farcone -
SoundtrackCinema Reviews I am Sam


Composed and Produced by John Powell
Conducted by Gavin Greenway
Orchestrations by Bruce Fowler and Suzanne Moriarty
Album Produced by John Powell
Executive Producer: Robert Townson
Performed by the Hollywood Studio Orchestra (strings), Steve Erdody (lead cello); George Doering, Heitor Pereira (ukes and guitars); Michael Fisher (percussion);
Dave Carpenter (bass)
Released by Varèse Sarabande Records - January 8, 2002

Picking up where he left off in 2001, arguably his best year yet, composer John Powell begins 2002 with yet another inventive effort, I am Sam.  The film itself has met with its fair share of criticism and Powell's score has received its misplaced share as well.  I am Sam is a large departure from the style that helped him become so popular in 2001, so it is little wonder that this score has been reacted to with noted disappointment.  On the other hand, for those who love the occasional surprise, from a composer they thought they had "nailed," Powell's work for I am Sam is one that is due a look.

It is too bad that the distinguished performances of the story's main characters have been overshadowed by the film's somewhat suspect plot.  A good number of viewers have left theatres wanting more.  Some left offended, and still others left with a feeling of being emotionally manipulated.  Even though many film critics seem to echo such complaints, one element of this film that certainly foregoes the typical route of pulling at the audience's heartings is John Powell's acoustic effort.

For I am Sam, John Powell takes the Rain Man-page from Heir Zimmer's career book. The story of a mentally-challenged man and his plight in keeping custody of his daughter who, by the age of seven, has already surpassed his level of intelligence, affords Powell the opportunity to experiment and explore as Hans Zimmer did for his Academy nominated score of 1988.  Aside from the fact that both scores give the film a unique personality...and the occasional use of the penny-whistle, Powell's score stylistically has little else in common with Zimmer's Rain Man and is considerably brighter in its overall tone.

It is to Powell's continued credit that he can abandon his raucous style heard all throughout 2001:  Evolution, Shrek, Rat Race, and still manage to provide an entertaining listen.  Those that love the aforementioned scores and who are looking for more of the same need not apply here.   I am Sam is an unconventionally, striking score that features a lead ensemble consisting of guitar, ukulele, cello, bass, and various percussion.  These are backed by a subtle, yet poignant performance by the string section of the Hollywood Studio Symphony. 

Powell achieves a special sense of balance in I am Sam. To start, he uses guitar and ukeleles in a variety of ways:  harmonics, plucking, strumming, you name it.  It's all in there.  Of course he injects a bit of synthesized sound design in a number tracks as well. Typewriters, hand claps, dialtones, phone rings, and flamenco dancers, are the easiest to discern, but upon careful listening one will pick up "simulated percolating" and other curious bits.  The general effect is one full of vim and vigor and creatively inspiring.  In contrast, Powell employs somber celli and piano to underscore the deeper emotions of film.  Some of the score's best moments come in it's most emotional such as in track 6, The Birthday Party.  It is this balance, forged in such an unusual way, that makes this score so easy to listen to.

Thankfully, a separate album was successfully released containing the plethora of Beatle's tunes used throughout the film and so this release is completely focused on John Powell's score.  Varèse Sarabande's presentation of I am Sam provides just enough score (40:46) and a recording that is crisp and clean.  The liner notes go beyond the usual black and white spread, but, yes, they're in there too, to include a fairly extensive credit list.

One's initial reaction to this score could be on the negative side, but if a little patience is exerted and the mind opened slightly, even the most musically-challenged, film-music fan will find something endearing about I am Sam.  After a few listens (with ample time between them to let the music resonate within) I am Sam turns out to be a welcome, creative, gesture from John Powell.  While creative kudos can, and have at great length, been given to Hans Zimmer et al for Black Hawk Down, I am Sam is of a softer brand of creativity that should have a more widespread appeal.  It appears composer John Powell hasn't reached that place of constant "re-use" and "repetition" that seems to settle upon many-a-composer once they are "successful."  Hopefully that day is a long ways off and, if I am Sam is any indication, Powell will go on musically challenging audiences throughout 2002.


Track Listing and Ratings


Title Time


1 Starbucks & Hospital 5:04  ***
2 It's Ok Daddy 1:06  ***
3 Sam's Friends 1:49  ***
4 Reading Together 1:36  ****
5 At the Park 1:08  ****
6 The Birthday Party 2:37  ****
7 Rita 3:16  ***
8 Sam Visits Lucy 2:55  ****
9 Buying Shoes 0:40  ***
10 Lucy Runs and Sam Loses 2:11  ****
11 Annie's Father 1:21  ***
12 Making Coffee 1:34  ***
13 Kramer v. Kramer 2:52  ***
14 Torn Away 1:44  ***
15 Lucy Paints, Sam Makes Origami 4:27  ****
16 Lucy, Calm Down 1:04  ***
17 Nighttime Visits 1:19  ****
18 I'm Getting More from This 1:38  ***
19 On the Stairs 2:25  ****

Total Running Time


I am Sam (Soundtrack) by John Powell

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.


Referenced Reviews
Shrek  |  Black Hawk Down



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