Category Archives: 3.5

Rocky (1976) – Bill Conti

Bill Conti’s score to Rocky is most remembered for the main title, “Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky)”, and for a good reason: essentially, when you break each of the tracks on this album down into their core elements, it is easy to hear that “Gonna Fly Now” serves as the foundation for every single (non-vocal) track on this album.

While, yes, all of these tracks are based around “Gonna Fly Now”, Bill Conti does a nice job with individualizing each track enough to make them stand out on their own merits. For example, “Philadelphia Morning” contains the main theme played mellowly on a piano, while “Butkus” is a bit of a jazzy rendition of the same theme. “Alone in the Ring” is also played on the piano, but it is weighted with contemplation and hope, and “The Final Bell” is, in my opinion, one of the best victory songs of all time. There’s not much more to say…I’ve pretty much said it all. Literally every single instrumental track follows along those same lines.

Though you might think that hearing “Gonna Fly Now” over and over again, albeit in different variations, would be boring, Bill Conti manages to keep it somewhat fresh throughout, supplying a decent score to one of the most beloved sports movies of all time. Despite that, though, it’s the lack of completely original material from track to track – as well as the fact that, at only 32 minutes long, it is a depressingly short score – that prevents Rocky from getting a higher rating from me.

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

  1. “Gonna Fly Now (Theme from Rocky)” (vocals: DeEtta Little/Nelson Pigford) – 2:48
  2. “Philadelphia Morning” – 2:22
  3. “Going the Distance” – 2:39
  4. “Reflections” – 3:19
  5. “Marines’ Hymn/Yankee Doodle” – 1:44
  6. “Take You Back (Street Corner Song from Rocky)” (vocals: Valentine) – 1:49
  7. “First Date” – 1:53
  8. “You Take My Heart Away” (vocals: DeEtta Little/Nelson Pigford) – 4:46
  9. “Fanfare for Rocky” – 2:35
  10. “Butkus” – 2:12
  11. “Alone in the Ring” – 1:10
  12. “The Final Bell” – 1:56
  13. “Rocky’s Reward” – 2:02

Total Length: app. 32 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad

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Captain America: The First Avenger (2010) – Alan Silvestri

Really, if I chose any soundtrack other than Alan Silvestri’s Captain America: The First Avenger for today, I don’t know if I could call myself an American.

The score to Captain America is one of my favorites of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, helped along by the fact that Alan Silvestri (Back to the FutureWho Framed Roger Rabbit, Forrest Gump) is also one of my favorite film composers, and nothing quite says “America” like the Cap’s main theme (as far as film themes go, that is).

Most of the Captain America score is pretty excellent, but I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t hear lots of Back to the Future and Night at the Museum throughout. For example, compare the opening seconds of “Hydra Lab” with “George to the Rescue – Pt. 1” from Back to the Future (click titles for YouTube links). Captain America’s “Farewell to Bucky” is the track that sounds especially like some bits of Night at the Museum. Sure, it’s a little disappointing, but the theme itself takes away a lot of that disappointment for me…it’s just too darned American/fun.

I really don’t have too much to say about this one; it is what it is and it does it well. Sure, it borrows freely from Silvestri’s other scores, but it still manages to be one of the better superhero soundtracks that I’ve ever heard…certainly not the best, though. But with a main theme like this and a song composed by famed Disney composer Alan Menken (Beauty and the BeastAladdinTangled), called “Star Spangled Man”, how can you go wrong?

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

1. “Captain America Main Titles”    0:56

2. “Frozen Wasteland”    1:53

3. “Schmidt’s Treasure”    3:01

4. “Farewell to Bucky”    2:50

5. “Hydra Lab”    1:54

6. “Training the Supersoldier”    1:08

7. “Schmidt’s Story”    1:59

8. “Vitarays”    4:25

9. “Captain America “We Did It””    1:59

10. “Kruger Chase”    2:55

11. “Hostage On the Pier”    2:46

12. “General’s Resign”    2:18

13. “Unauthorized Night Flight”    3:13

14. “Troop Liberation”    5:06

15. “Factory Inferno”    5:06

16. “Triumphant Return”    2:16

17. “Invader’s Montage”    2:16

18. “Hydra Train”    3:27

19. “Rain Fire Upon Them”    1:39

20. “Motorcycle Mayhem”    3:05

21. “Invasion”    5:09

22. “Fight on the Flight Deck”    3:30

23. “This is My Choice”    3:26

24. “Passage of Time”    1:35

25. “Captain America”    1:08

26. “Star Spangled Man”  2:53

27. “Captain America March”    2:36

Total Length: app. 74 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


Cars (2006) – Randy Newman

The score to the Disney/Pixar film Cars was composed by Randy Newman, who was also responsible for the scores to all three Toy Story films, A Bug’s Life, andMonsters, Inc. However, like most of Pixar’s film soundtracks, there are a few songs in the track list that are lyrical.

In the case of Cars, nearly half (9 out of 20) of the tracks are vocal songs, and 4 of those were written specifically for the film. I’ll briefly walk through each of these 9 tracks before getting to the actual “score”.

The first track on the album is “Real Gone” by Sheryl Crow. This is one of the songs that was written for the film. This song, aside from just being lots of fun and making references to cars, has lyrics that fit Lightning McQueen’s character at the start of the film: “you got your blinders on”, referencing the things placed to side of a horse’s eyes so that it can only see straight ahead, refers to McQueen’s love for nothing but himself and his career.

Next is Chuck Berry’s “Route 66”, which is on the album for obvious reasons that I hope I don’t have to explain. John Mayer has another decent version of this song available on the album.

Rascall Flatts’ version of Tom Cochrane’s 1991 hit “Life is a Highway” is also included on the album for obvious reasons, but it also has a set of lyrics that fit in well with the themes of the film, found in the bridge:

“There was a distance between you and I

A misunderstanding once

But now, we look it in the eye.”

This chunk of lyric could fit either Lightning’s relationship with Sally, which grows from a mutual annoyance to a blossoming romance, or with Doc, which starts with a lack of communication/understanding but becomes a strong teacher/student or father/son relationship.

Brad Paisley wrote two songs for Cars the first of which is titled “Behind the Clouds”. The lyrics in this song talk about the silver lining that can be found in situations that appear bleak at first, i.e. Lightning getting lost and trapped in a near-ghost town in the middle of nowhere. Which turns out to be a blessing! Yay for songs that fit the story!

The third song on the soundtrack that was written for the film is titled “Our Town”, composed by Randy Newman and performed by James Taylor. This song, a Grammy winner and Academy Award nominee, reveals one of the morals of the film: what you have is only what you make of it, and no one can take it away from you. An awesome message, and one of the reasons why I love Pixar (even if Cars is far from my favorite).

“Sh-Boom”, a 1954 song by The Chords, is played during the scene where McQueen and the citizens of Radiator Springs restore the city to look the way it did in its heyday as a surprise for Sally. I wasn’t alive back then, but this song just seems to define the 50s for me. It’s relaxed and fun and perfect for this scene in the film.

The final lyrical song written for the film is another by Brad Paisley, this one titled “Find Yourself”. (On a quick side note, I now have Cars to thank for the presence of country music on my iPhone! Who’da thought it’d ever happen?!) This song, like “Our Town” is particularly poignant because it talks about how, though we may lose our ways in life sometimes, it’s at those times that we’re lost that we often discover who we really are and what we really want, as Lightning does in the film.

The final lyrical song included on the soundtrack album is Hank Williams’ “My Heart Would Know”, which, as far as I can tell, has no lyrical connection to the story, merely serving the purpose of establishing the setting/context/feel of the film.

And now we (finally) move on the the actual film score by Randy Newman. Unfortunately, Randy’s film scores are often like Hans Zimmer’s and Danny Elfman’s in the sense they sound the same a lot of the time (certainly not Randy’s themes, just his background music usually), and the first two instrumental tracks, “Opening Race” and “McQueen’s Lost”, do nothing to prove that theory wrong. “Opening Race” reminds me of some bits from Toy Story, while “McQueen’s Lost” has an entire 7-second section of music that almost sounds exactly like a theme from A Bug’s Life. (go to YouTube and compare :37-:44 of “McQueen’s Lost” to :34-:40 of “The Bird Flies”)

Luckily, Randy completely switches gears in the next track, “Bessie”, which suddenly turns into what could easily be mistaken for the intro to a country/western song. Thank you, Randy! Although there were hints of Toy Story again in the next track, “Dirt is Different”, and in a couple of other tracks later on, Randy sticks to a Western-feel, occasionally bluegrass-y, that is for the most part refreshing and different coming from him.

I don’t want to go into too much (more) detail, so I’ll sum it up.

Overall, while a bit familiar, the country feel to Cars’ instrumental score, in addition to the excellent vocal tracks that accompany it, makes this a better soundtrack than I initially expected. My favorite track is “McQueen and Sally”.

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

1. “Real Gone” Sheryl Crow 3:22

2. “Route 66” Chuck Berry 2:52

3. “Life Is a Highway” Rascal Flatts 4:37

4. “Behind the Clouds” Brad Paisley 4:09

5. “Our Town” James Taylor 4:07

6. “Sh-Boom” The Chords 2:26

7. “Route 66” John Mayer 3:25

8. “Find Yourself” Brad Paisley 4:11

9. “Opening Race” 2:05

10. “McQueen’s Lost” 2:29

11. “My Heart Would Know” Hank Williams 2:27

12. “Bessie” 0:59

13. “Dirt Is Different” 1:28

14. “New Road” 1:17

15. “Tractor Tipping” 1:22

16. “McQueen & Sally” 2:00

17. “Goodbye” 2:42

18. “Pre-Race Pageantry” 1:31

19. “The Piston Cup” 1:52

20. “The Big Race” 3:07

Total Length: app. 53 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad


Spider-Man 2 (2004) – Danny Elfman

After listening through Danny Elfman’s score to Spider-Man (2002) yesterday, I checked out his score toSpider-Man 2 (2004) today. Again, this is in anticipation of the upcoming release of the Spider-Man reboot The Amazing Spider-Man, directed by Marc Webb and starring Andrew Garfield, Rhys Ifans, and Emma Stone.

I didn’t really have any expectations for Elfman’s sequel soundtrack, so I went into listening through it with a fairly open mind. I’m wrapping up my second listen-through as I type; I’m pretty unimpressed.

That’s not to say that I didn’t really enjoy it, though. It just fell victim to the Danny Elfman/Hans Zimmer Effect: it sounds the same as the first. The Main Title, as exciting in the second film’s score as it was in the first’s, is overused throughout, and much of the music seems to be a basic rehash of what was done in the first film’s score. I didn’t feel like I was listening to a different soundtrack like I should have.

That being said, Elfman managed to compose a couple of tracks that stand out as being pretty fantastic. “Doc Ock Is Born” introduces a theme for arguably the best Spider-Man villain, a theme that is used again multiple times throughout the film. “At Long Last, Love”, is a pleasant mix of emotion and themes from the first film – a moment that is appropriate for the main theme to be used. Despite the overuse of the main theme, Spider-Man 2’s score manages to improve just a bit on the first film’s score.

Overall, as enjoyable and fun as Danny Elfman’s Spider-Man 2 score is, it isn’t much different than his score for the first Spider-Man film, with a couple of exception tracks. However, it IS better-composed than the first film’s score, so bonus points for that. If you’re debating on buying it, take a listen to the tracks on YouTube or Spotify first and decide whether it’s different enough for you.

Rating: 3.5 (out of 5)

  1. “Spider-Man 2 (Main Title)” 3:21
  2. “M.J.’s New Life/Spidus Interruptus” 2:31
  3. “Doc Ock Is Born” 2:23
  4. “Angry Arms/Rebuilding” 2:51
  5. “A Phone Call/The Wrong Kiss/Peter’s Birthday” 2:06
  6. “The Mugging/Peter’s Turmoil” 3:21
  7. “The Bank/Saving May” 4:27
  8. “He’s Back!” 1:50
  9. “Doc Ock’s Machine” 1:42
  10. “Train/Appreciation” 6:16
  11. “Aunt May Packs” 2:51
  12. “Armageddon/A Really Big Web!” 6:28
  13. “The Goblin Returns” 1:36
  14. “At Long Last, Love” 2:59
  15. “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” – Performed by B. J. Thomas 3:14

Total Length: app. 48 min.

iTunes Album Link

-Chad