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Copperhead (Laurent Eyquem)

November 2, 2013

Cover_CopperheadCOPPERHEAD

Laurent Eyquem, 2013, Varese Sarabande
31 tracks, 60:31

Want a lush, emotive score? One with big themes, lots of strings and woodwinds? Well look no further! Laurent Eyquem’s score is not only a bit of a hidden gem, it’s also one of this year’s finer delights.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

“Copperhead” is a drama about the American Civil War. The third from director Ronald F. Maxwell, after “Gettysburg” (1993) and “Gods and Generals” (2003). Reviews and user ratings for the film were disappointing, and revenue has only been a fraction of its reported 12 million dollar budget. The cast is relatively unknown, starring Francois Arnaud, Lucy Boynton and Case Thomas Brown; music is by French composer Laurent Eyquem. His score here is lush, very emotive and melodic; at times reminiscent of James Horner.

What does it sound like?

Those familiar with the aforementioned “Gettysburg” and “Gods and Generals” will have realised that Maxwell likes his scores melodic; and “Copperhead” is just that. Opening track “Main Titles” showcases a long-lined Americana theme that starts on piano and is then taken over by the entire string section. It rolls and swells, yet leaves room for a few solo accents (viola and horn). It’s instantly likeable and evokes images of grand open landscapes.

“Sunday Morning” moves along skippingly with its staccato strings, whilst “One Room Schoolhouse” paints a nostalgic pictures with strings and woodwinds. It has an air of James Horner, or perhaps more so: Thomas Newan, about it. “The Devil among the Tailors” (The Barn Dance Musicians) is one of two source cues; this one being a old fashioned country dance for banjo and fiddles. “A Simple Life” continues where “One Room Schoolhouse” left off with strings and oboe; and “Avery’s Porch” presents a string-variation on the theme from the previously mentioned tracks; all the while presenting a peaceful, tranquil (presumably pre-war) image. “Blessed are the Peacemakers” is short, ends abruptly and as such feels a little superfluous, but it does signal a change in mood with its hesitant piano play and anxiously wavering strings. “A Poor Beggar in this World / The Mill” and “The World turns Upside Down” offer sadness through a wonderful piano themes, with variations for strings (with an emphasis on cello).

“The Picnic” offers a return to gentler music with piano and flute taking the lead, with (what I think is) another “Schoolhouse” variation. “Jeff’s Decision” (to join the army, no doubt) is met with sober strings and oboe. “The Enlistment” kicks off with a vibrant Western theme, which actually feels a little out of character, but soon continues with a clear repeat of the main titles. “A Candle Light Vigil / The SImple Life” present a wonderful variation on the earlier track.

With noble exception, most tracks are of a similar character. Differences between them are often of such a subtle nature that it is hard to determine whether Eyquem is presenting new ideas, or variations on previous ones. Though rather helpfully, some track titles clearly reflect the re-use of earlier material. The album continues with, what could all too easily be dismissed as ‘more of the same’. Each track is orchestrated primarily for strings, with the odd solo viola, cello or woodwind instrument. There is very little variation in the orchestrations. The result is that the album, whilst very pretty, meanders on a bit with little or no sense of a dramatic arch. “Resurrection” is a maginifcent closing track as it’s a concert-like suite of the score’s main themes, but there is virtually no build-up towards it.  This is a real shame and it pains me to write this, but there simply is too much of the same on this album. A trimmed down version of around 45 minutes would likely have been a more effective listening experience.

Is it any good?

Each cue is very beautiful, melodic and harmonious. There are brief snippets throughout this score that want to remind me of something else, but they’re so fleetingly and disappear before any thought can materialise in my mind. As such, comparisons remain a little superficial. Fans of Thomas Newman, James Horner and Fernano Velazquez (maybe even Howard Shore, think the Shire theme) should find plenty to enjoy here. My only concern with the album is that most tracks sound too much alike. Whilst there are solos for viola, cello, oboe and flute, most of the cues are indiscernible. The album is also slightly marred by the inclusion of nearly a dozen tracks that don’t (or barely) make it past the 1-minute mark. Whilst they are effective in creating an atmosphere, they contribute little to the album; and ultimately hamper the narrative flow of the album. As a result, the whole does not quite live up to the sum of its parts, though it is all very beautiful; and some individual cues, such as “Main Titles” and “Resurrection” are simply sublime. Laurent Eyquem is most certainly a name to look out. With this score and “Winnie Mandela“, 2013 may well be this man’s break-out year.

Rating [3/5]

Tracklisting

1. Copperhead Main Title (2:47)
2. Sunday Morning (:47)
3. One Room Schoolhouse (2:23)
4. The Dev’l Among The Tailors (1:41) Performed by The Barn Dance Musicians
5. The Simple Life (:44)
6. Avery’s Porch (:54)
7. Blessed Are The Peacemakers (1:01)
8. A Poor Beggar In This World / The Mill (3:16)
9. The World Turned Upside Down (2:54)
10. The Picnic (1:50)
11. Jeff’s Decision (1:11)
12. The Enlistment (2:59)
13. Candle Light Vigil / The Simple Life (1:47)
14. Hurley’s Dream / Casualties At The Front (2:11)
15. A Peaceful Man (:54)
16. Visiting Esther (:50)
17. No News / A Poor Beggar In This World (2:18)
18. Warner’s Return (:40)
19. Missing In Action (1:07)
20. A Fine Singer (2:03)
21. Ni Goes South (1:04)
22. The Ballot Box (:46)
23. The World Turned Upside Down (2:20)
24. Tears / A Peaceful Man (1:47)
25. They Are Coming Tonight (:29)
26. The Locket (3:45)
27. The Prodigal Son (1:08)
28. Sharp Shooters On The Ridge (2:26)
29. Reunion (1:33)
30. Resurrection (5:36)
31. “Slumber My Darling” (5:09) Written by Stephen Foster, Sung by Marcus Bently

Album credits

Album credits on allmusic.com

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