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Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope (Blake Neely)

June 2, 2013

Cover_SpaceShuttleColumbia_NeelySPACE SHUTTLE COLUMBIA: MISSION OF HOPE

Blake Neely , 2013, Cow on the Wall,
20 tracks, 49:27

The soundtrack to the 2013 PBS drama “Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope” features an original score by Blake Neely. Not a terribly original one, to be fair, but certainly an extremely pleasant one. Utterly charming with gentle ‘Americana’ themes and light orchestrations.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

“Space Shuttle Columbia: Mission of Hope is the untold story of Colonel Ilan Ramon, a fighter pilot and son of Holocaust survivors who became the first and only astronaut from Israel, embarking on a mission with the most diverse shuttle crew ever to explore space. Ramon realized the significance of “being the first” and his journey of self-discovery turned into a mission to tell the world a powerful story about the resilience of the human spirit.” [1]

What does it sound like?

To me it actually sounds a little like it could be from the 90s. It’s written in a very gentle Americana style, not unlike some works by Mark Isham or Thomas Newman. Someone keen to do so could probably nit-pick this score apart and point out exactly which scores it resembles. I am not going to do that, as it wouldn’t be fair on this charming little soundtrack. I will say that with it soft strings, oboe and some virtuoso piano performances, I keep thinking of “October Sky” – no, it doesn’t sound much like it, but just the whole atmosphere reminds me of it.

The album opens with “Out of the Sky”, which is relatively modern with echoing pianos, pulsating electronics and some distorted percussion. It’s all very soft and subtle, but it’s a deceptive opening for a score that is otherwise very lush and very orchestral. Yes, some other cues feature electronics too, but don’t expect anything harsh. During the closing moments of this track a brief reference to the main theme (“Ilan’s Theme”) is made – I assume this is the main theme. It comprises of four chords for strings, with a virtuoso piano line over the top of it (not unlike something Dario Marianelli might do; and in fact has done). It returns numerous times throughout the score and ultimately closes the album, which is otherwise loaded with additional themes.

“Found Articles” introduces a Thomas Newman-esque theme; initially for oboe and later for cello. “He Has a Certain Twinkle” is strongly reminiscent of Thomas Newman as well, with yet another theme for piano and later solo violin. “Growing Up” presents a gorgeously whimsical theme for piano, especially once it gets past the intro. “As a Pilot” and “Items to Take” showcase a less lyrical, more chord-driven theme. There are at least half a dozen strong melodies in this score, which all come to the fore in turn. It gives the album a varied, yet coherent character. If you’re expecting any bombast from “The Launch” you are mistaken. The score is at its most energetic during “The Scroll Carries the Man” when a lively violin solo (playing “Ilan’s Theme”) is accompanied by building percussion.

Is it any good?

This is a lovely little score. A true hidden gem. It’s full of beautiful melodies and light orchestrations. It’s nigh impossible not to like it; though you won’t find anything spectacularly original here. It’s a safe score; one that can easily be returned to again and again. I know I have! It’s reminiscent of those lovely little scores from the 90s, by people like Isham, Newman or Shaiman. “October Sky” keeps coming to mind; for its overall style rather than any specific ideas. It’s hard to award this much more than 3,5 stars as it is so firmly rooted in familiar territory, but having said that… its utterly inoffensive nature means I find myself playing this score far more often than most higher rated albums.

Rated [4/5]

Tracklisting:

1. Out of the Sky (2:02)
2. Found Articles (2:01)
3. February 1 2003 (1:03)
4. Growing Up (2:47)
5. As a Pilot (1:34)
6. Iraq (3:23)
7. Becoming (1:43)
8. He Had a Certain Twinkle (2:29)
9. An Outdoor Adventure (2:00)
10. He Was More Than That (2:51)
11. Items to Take (3:08)
12. The Holocaust (3:27)
13. Bergen Belsen (2:48)
14. Bar Mitzvah (2:25)
15. The Launch (4:04)
16. The Tiny Torah (3:19)
17. They’re Gone (1:33)
18. A Dream Fulfilled (1:50)
19. The Scroll Carries the Man (2:36)
20. Ilan’s Theme (End Titles) (2:23)

Notes:

[1] Source: http://www.pbs.org/programs/space-shuttle-columbia/

Available digitally only; on I-Tunes, Amazon and Google Play.
Also available through ScreenArchives.com.

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