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Saving Mr. Banks (Thomas Newman)

December 2, 2013

Cover_SavingMrBanksSAVING MR. BANKS

Thomas Newman, 2013, Disney
31 tracks, 45.55

Christmas comes early, courtesy of Thomas Newman’s “twinkly” and “heartwarming” score for “Saving Mr. Banks”.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

“Saving Mr Banks” sees writer Travers (Emma Thompson) reminiscing her troubled childhood whilst meeting Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) during the production of the film adaptation of her book “Mary Poppins”. Directed by John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side”, “The Alamo”) the film is received positively by critics and audiences alike; and is being described as “twinkly” and “heartwarming”. Those two words are equally apt for Thomas Newman’s original score.

What does it sound like?

Let me first note that there are two albums in circulation. A single CD and a 2-CD special edition. This review is based on the single CD, which opens with Colin Farrell’s performance of “Chim Chim Cher-ee”. Don’t worry… he doesn’t actually sing, rather he turns the lyrics in to a little story (or poem). It is accompanied by a piano, the recording of which is made to sound old and faded. Onto Newman’s score then with his theme for “Travers Goff”. Whilst it opens with solemn strings, it soon turns in to a foot-thumpingly jaunty cue for a combo of piano, guitar, marimba and bells. Part of it is performed in a 7/8 rhythm; another presents a simple but recognisable four-note hook – two up, two down. Goff’s music returns a few times (e.g. in “Beverly Hills Hotel” and “Ginty My Love” ). “Walking Bus” continues with a jumpy melody for piano augmented by string stabs. Bells and a distant flute are also present. We are instantly in familiar and much-loved Thomas Newman territory – and it is oh so lovely.

Newman’s cues are typically short, only two make it past the 3 minutes mark. The score is firmly rooted in Newman’s typical style and orchestrations. You’ll find plenty of plucked violins, guitars, bells and vaguely Indian-sounding instruments. It’s an energetic album, with a positive vibe; and even the shortest of cues while have you tapping along. Unfortunately, the score does get interrupted by a handful of songs and – worse – excerpts from the motion picture itself. The excerpts are nothing more but brief quotes, like “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”! It adds nothing to the album, other than grievance.

Highlights include “Uncle Albert”, which makes everything worth while. After an almost regal opening for woodwings, a most heartwarming theme for strings emerges. It’s a joyous and loving piece. Its simplicity only adding to its childlike charm. It’s lovingly repeated in tracks like “Celtic Soul”, “To My Mother”, “Westerly Weather” and ultimately the end title cue.

“Mr Disney” may be extremely short, it is very lively with a wild-west energy.  “Laying Eggs” is the gentlest of cues for slow strings and glockenspiel, like only Newman can write them. “Split Splot” offers more twinkly sounds, whilst “Forgiveness” sees an oboe going solo before strings and guitar make a quiet appearance. “The Magic Kingdom” treats us to exciting strings and zither writing (I’m guessing it’s a zither). It’s fast-paced and uplifting. Surprisingly it also features a synthesised brass sound, but even more surprisingly… it works! The aforementioned “Ginty My Love” and “Saving Mr. Banks (End Title)” close the album, repeating the scores main themes. They are glorious tracks.

Is it any good?

I have to say that nothing on this album will surprise anyone. It is Thomas Newman through and through. Technically it is as well written as anything he’s ever done and the recording is crystal clear, letting you hear and enjoy every tiny little sound. It is a wonderful amalgamation of Newman’s gentle orchestral writing and his quirky orchestrations. I found it reminded me of… well, many Newman scores, but “The Green Mile” and “Lemony Snicket” in particular. Those wanting it to reach the soaring heights of “The Shawshank Redemption” or “Meet Joe Black” may have to wait a little longer though. The short cues and various interruptions are a little bit of a shame. Having said that… “Saving Mr Banks” is a totally loveable score, without ever getting overly sentimental. It makes your heart smile.

Rating [3.5/5]

Tracklisting

1. Chim Chim Cher-ee (1:04) *
2. Travers Goff (2:06)
3. Walking Bus (2:10)
4. One Mint Julep (1:31) *
5. Uncle Albert (1:34)
6. Jollification (1:18)
7. The Mouse (0:57)
8. Leisurely Stroll (1:34)
9. Chim Chim Cher-ee (Responstible) (0:26) *
10. Mr. Disney (0:35)
11. Celtic Soul (1:20)
12. A Foul Fowl (2:04)
13. Mrs. P.L. Travers (1:16)
14. Laying Eggs (1:08)
15. Worn to Tissue (0:54)
16. Heigh-Ho (2:11) *
17. Whiskey (1:21)
18. Impertinent Man (0:38)
19. To My Mother (3:44)
20. Westerly Weather (1:58)
21. Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (0:05) *
22. Spit Spot! (1:49)
23. Beverly Hills Hotel (0:38)
24. Penguins (1:18)
25. Pears (0:55)
26. Let’s Go Fly a Kite (1:55) *
27. Maypole (0:59)
28. Forgiveness (2:00)
29. The Magic Kingdom (1:05)
30. Ginty My Love (3:12)
31. Saving Mr. Banks (End Title) (2:12)

* Song / Excerpt from the Motion Picture

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