Film Music Review
The Sammy awards








Music composed by John Murphy

33 Tracks (Playing Time = 61:54; 1 non-score track: 4:04)

Produced by John Murphy and Ford A. Thaxton. Music conducted by Matt Dunkley and James Shermer. Orchestrations by Matt Dunkley and Stephen Coleman. Also includes the “Minuetto” from Mozart’s fifth violin concerto in A, K. 219. Score recorded and mixed by Nick Wollage at Air Lyndhurst, London, England. Additional engineering and mixing by Tyler Barton and Chris Barrett. Additional engineering by Brent Arrowwood. Album digitally edited and mastered by James Nelson at Digital Outland. Art direction by Mark Banning.

La-La Land Records LLLCD 1045

Rating: ***


Depending on your point of view, John Murphy either got a great assignment or an awful one. And regardless of what anyone has said about BASIC INSTINCT 2, it is the kind of film that Jerry Goldsmith was often called in to “save” throughout his career. There are times when you want to scream because it just sounds like the studio orchestra is playing the same cues from the original score. And then there are times when you sympathize with the difficulty this project might have been to Murphy.

When the first track begins, it is like hearing a call from the ghost of the late maestro. The track is one of several that reuse themes, or “adapt” them, from the original BASIC INSTINCT. Between that opening track and the second one we get an immediate picture of the “updated” scoring style being used for Hollywood thrillers these days. Some of the sliding string ideas from Goldsmith’s score are molded into a new idea that is accompanied by forwardly miked percussion in what becomes a mild action cue. More ambient soundscapes with mild, subtle ideas appear to provide a modicum of tension. There are moments of gentle, even if creepy, music in cues like “Sex with Michelle.” Middle Eastern and even Asian flavorings pop up along the way.

The other thing that is more a mark of contemporary scoring are the brief musical tracks. The lengthier musical sequences possible in the first film appear to be less likely here, but when a scene is given lengthier musical support the resulting tracks turn out to be among the highlights of the disc.

The Goldsmith themes are so strong that they cast a shadow over some of the other music. It is hard not to wish for their return. As the CD progresses it becomes clearer how masterful the adaptation has become. In “ Catherine at Police Station” Goldsmith’s thematic idea is hinted at before some of Murphy’s ideas take over. Throughout the playing time these two musical ideas vie for each other’s attention making it the more interesting example. In the days when a thirty-minute score release was the norm, this would likely have been one of the several tracks. “Jacuzzi” does something similar but sounds like a cue from BASIC INSTINCT with some mild scoring and pacing adjustments.

Pulling the “best,” often longer, tracks of this disc will give you a far better appreciation of what Murphy has achieved in this score but many will feel it is indistinguishable from other films of this genre. The wiser choice might have been to let him create his own score without using Goldsmith’s theme. His contribution manages to hold its own and I would even go so far as to suggest beginning the CD at track two so that you can experience his sound first before it is colored perhaps by your own nostalgia.

There are four “bonus” tracks. One of these is a performance of the “Minuetto” from a Mozart violin concerto which ends the disc and is aptly played by Rolf Wilson. The others lie closer to the kind of music Murphy has been called on to provide for some of the other urban dramas he has scored. Two of these, “Atlantic Bar” and “Orgy” are techno-influenced cues likely serving as “source” music in the film. They are so out of character with the rest of the score that they will be skipped over by those who were willing to accept the rest of the score’s approach.

The English born Murphy does a fine job of providing a score that demonstrates that he is capable of matching current Hollywood expectations step by step. That it only demonstrates how vacuous the current scene feels is not his fault. You can experience his talents on fine display in the recent MILLIONS (2004). This time out he creates a good score for a high profile film. La La Land is to be commended for giving the music an airing for those interested in exploring Murphy’s style or those wishing to hear the adaptation of Goldsmith’s thematic material. (It is closest perhaps to Don Davis’ assignment for JURASSIC PARK 3 though less reliant on specifically “new” themes.) The booklet is filled mostly with stills from the film.


--Steven A. Kennedy , 28 April 2006

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