With all the heavy-duty action scores John Powell has written for the Bourne series, as well as music for suspense downers like United 33 (2006), and what’s probably his best orchestral score thus far, X-Men:The Last Stand (2006), it’s easy to forget the composer’s very comfortable scoring family fodder, including animated films like Bolt (2008), the latest 3-D animal adventure tale from Disney.
Because of his more familiar action scores, it’s a bit jarring when some action elements pop up, and that happens every so often in this familiar orchestral/light electronic hybrid. “Bolt Transforms” is very Bournian, with punchy percussion over which Powell pits agitated strings against brass, twisting into a fast-moving cue that hits a crescendo before the rock-based “Scooter Chase,” with clipped and flittering synth chords, and strong low brass. The latter’s actually a pretty fun cue with its strong James Bondian overtones (particularly the fuzzy techno-percussion cluster that’s standard in David Arnold’s Bond scores), and given it’s a chase cue, Powell has a bit more room to layer the cue than some of the album’s far shorter cuts.
“New York” is a good sampling of Powell’s flair for light comedy, with muted brass and sax nicely conveying a little pooch overwhelmed by the size and scope of the city. There’s also some very subtle colouring – pulsing metallic beats with watery shimmering – and Powell also has fun working with more intimate instrumental groups, as with the waltzing “Meet Mittens,” with a few quick nods to Debussy on piano.
Bolt isn’t as invigorating as Evolution (2001), and that’s probably due to the album’s brief running time. Less the two pop songs, “I Thought I Lost You” (performed by Miley Cyrus and John Travolta) and “Barking at the Moon” (performed by Jenny Lewis, who adds a closing lyric in the CD’s final track), the original score cuts are under 29 mins., and there’s some very abrupt edits between a few cues, particularly the schmaltzy ‘Bolt victory’ theme in “Rescuing Penny,” and the (:46) “A Real Live Superbark.”
Overall, the allowable score cuts are very good, but the album will leave ardent Powell fans yapping for more.
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan
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