Nicholas Dodd's score for this re-imagined rendition of Robert Louis Stevenson's classic tale of pirates and double-crossing is grand in scale, but it's also a strangely schizophrenic blend of large orchestral lyricism and Bondian harmonics – which sounds ridiculous until one considers Dodd, still a newcomer to solo scoring duties, has years of experience orchestrating every conceivable genre, including David Arnold's Bond films.
Associated with Arnold since his 1993 debut score (the gorgeous Young Americans), Dodd has traveled with Arnold through that composer's own efforts in developing a distinct style, and for the Bond films, establishing the most successful evocation of John Barry's signature sound – sweeping strings, low brass, and slowly enveloping melodies - while remaining fresh and contemporary.
Treasure Island's “Main Title” is very evocative of John Barry's You Only Live Twice, and nicely blends an epic tone with Dood's own haunting melody, furthered in “The Treasure and Jim's Heart” and the concluding cue “Finale,” with a solo female voice and a slow, deeply resonant electronic bass pulse. “The Baroness” also resonates with strong emotion, nicely conveyed through a brief piano solo and strings, but pretty much disappears from the represented score.
Where the contemporary Bondian elements first appear is in “Confession and Chase,” with electronic rhythms and kinetic strings way up front; “Fight, Recognition and Spaniards” furthers the techno beats and funky rhythms, and Dodd ties the past and present with sharp brass eruptions, and strings rendering the cue's main melodic content.
Both are clear efforts to bridge the past with the present, but it's an odd combination when one expects a more formal orchestral approach, and it'll be interesting to see if five to ten years from now Dodd's fusion still feels fresh, or whether it has dated as badly as Jerry Goldsmith's use of primal synth strings and sequencers during the 1980s. (The least frustrating among Goldsmith's pioneering fusions is perhaps King Solomon's Mines, but Lionheart, Baby, and elements of Legend sometimes try one's patience.)
Setting aside Dodd's familiarity with Arnold's Bond scores, one does find some strong personal elements in Treasure Island, but the chief problem is the brevity of most cues– ranging from under a minute to a smidge over four – and how Dodd's own themes and variations just don't have much room to develop.
“The Baroness' Nightmare” is a beautifully crafted, haunting cue, but like many of the album's tracks, it feels like an extended musical stab, or bridge piece in an impatiently directed film. “Jim Land” evokes a bit of Philippe Sarde through a buoyant, swaggering half-theme that functions as the score's comedic motif, but that too feels snipped, and one wonders if Dodd felt a bit robbed in not having enough room to expand on some clean thematic ideas.
Alexandre Azaria had the same dilemma in Les Danton – beautifully orchestrated cues rippling with frenetic energy, but subjugated by the filmmakers' overzealous cartoon style – but unlike Dodd's score, Les Danton was further curtailed to make room for source cues from other films for tiresome pop culture nods.
Dodd's score is more uniform, and his blend of electronica is mostly subtle if not supportive, but one can't shake those overt Bondian emulations. The album is crisply mastered, and the production by MovieScore Media is again first-rate.
© 2008 Mark R. Hasan