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Blown Away (Alan Silvestri)

April 13, 2014

Cover_blownawayBLOWN AWAY

Alan Silvestri, 2014, Intrada
34 tracks, 73:10

Twenty years after the film’s release, Alan Silvestri’s score for “Blown Away” is finally available in its full and wonderful glory.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Following their collaboration on “Predator 2” and “Judgement Night”, director Stephen Hopkins turned to Alan Silvestri for a third and last time on “Blown Away”. The 1994 film stars Tommy Lee Jones (as an Irish terrorist who escapes from prison and subsequently executes several bombings) and Jeff Bridges as a Boston-based bomb disposal expert. Needless to say, their paths are bound to cross. The film didn’t perform well at all, and was out-done by the similarly themed “Speed”. A soundtrack CD was released at the time, which contained nine (pop)songs and just one cue by Alan Silvestri. Thankfully, Intrada have finally been able to release ‘all of the music Silvestri recorded for the film. Each cue plays for its full length and in the sequence originally intended by the composer.

What does it sound like?

The album opens with an absolute gem, though one that Silvestri can only take limited credit for. “The Prince’s Day” is a lengthy and lyrical Irish melody set to a classic song by 19th century poet Thomas Moore. Its melody is said to be first published in John Playford’s collection of folk tunes from 1650. The performance by, what appears to be a boy soprano accompanied by a humming choir and soft strings is nothing short of breathtaking. It serves as a main title (though not as a main theme, there is a difference) and returns in a more folksy arrangement (for strings and flute) towards the end in “Everybody Loves a Hero”. He may not have written it as such, but the arrangements, especially during the latter cue, are trademark Silvestri.

The album as a whole is very structured and coherent, as Silvestri employs a handful of recurring themes and motifs. The only drawback here is that they appear so often, and in various combinations, that it becomes nigh impossible to work out what (or who) they represent. The second track, “The Escape”, introduces the score’s key ingredients. Around 0:50 we hear the first glimpse of a short motif; here on piano, followed by resolving chords for brass. Later in the score this motif is mostly picked up by woodwinds, but it’s always the brass that finishes it off. It seems to be a kind of danger motif, though it has a sad tinge to it.

Around 1:30 (in “The Escape”) Silvestri introduces some running flutes. They just move up and down the scales in a fluttery sort of way. It actually reminds me of “Die Moldau” by Bedrich Smetana, but I suppose that in “Blown Away” it depicts a building tension. Then at around 2:20 the composer hints at, why I consider to be, the score’s main theme. It’s quite a lengthy one for silky smooth strings that owes a little to the love theme from “The Abyss”, in that it’s got that same kind of fluid movement; it just glides along effortlessly.

I expect it goes without saying that Silvestri employs plenty of percussion, mostly timpani and snares of a militaristic nature, throughout the album. Let’s face it, no action score by Silvestri is complete without his square, snare-driven rhythms. Also included on the album are several takes on Tchaichovski’s “1812 Overture”, arranged and conducted by Silvestri himself. I have mixed feelings about their inclusion. I understand that Intrada have put together a complete representation of the score Silvestri recorded. The “1812 Overture” plays an important part in the film, as some of the action takes place during 4th of July celebrations which include fireworks (of course) and a concert featuring the classical overture. Silvestri adapted fragments of this work to serve as both background scoring and foreground concert music.  Whilst this may work in the film, on album it’s a little distracting (and borderline cheesy), especially as there are five takes of it.

Back to the score’s main ingredients. The running flute returns in numerous tracks such as “Serendipity”, “Gearity Sets Up Shop”, “Blanket Gets It”, “Searching the Docks”, “Computer Search”, “At the Dolphin”, “For Your Lovely Wife”. This motif is the least satisfying of Silvestri’s building blocks, as it is simply repeated verbatim. I guess, you can’t do much of a variation on a flute run; but its omnipresence, and its seemingly copy-and-paste demeanour detracts from an otherwise well-written score. Silvestri’s ‘danger’ motif does go through a few variations and returns (amongst others) in “Bomb Site” (quite aggressively), “Bake Sale Spy” (softly), “Trolley Bomb Site” (a vigorous little cue that also incorporates the running flute), “Red Herring du Jour”, “Shut Him Down”, “Gearity’s Hideout” (where it sounds quite stern), “You Don’t Know Me” (in a quite forlorn variation).

The main theme makes a dramatic appearance in “Cortez Goes Boom”, as it’s combined with the former two motifs. It takes on an even more fluid form in “Kite Fixer”; and it briefly appears in “Searching the Docks”. It makes its most impressive appearance in “Saint Max”, one of Silvestri’s finest cues… ever. It opens with a soft version of the danger motif on flute, before the harp picks up the main theme. Soft choir takes the theme and (after an “Abyss” like passage) passes it on to the string section, as the flutes start their unnerving runs. The theme then builds and builds, with the strings and brass swirling towards a heartbreaking crescendo.

After “Saint Max” everything else feels like an after-thought, though “Final Fight” is one helluva after-thought where Silvestri combines his themes and motifs in an aggressive way and throws in plenty of percussion to boot. He repeats that performance in “Brakeless in Boston”.

Is it any good?

Intrada have put together a wonderful score release, including extensive liner notes by John Takis and album producer Douglas Fake. Did it need a 73 minute release? To be fair, no it didn’t. For a better listening experience, you could probably cut out about twenty minutes of flute runs and filler music. It’s a minor nitpick, of course!

The composer’s regular collaborators William Ross (orchestrations), David Bifano (synths) and Dennis Sands (mixing) have all done a stellar job. Silvestri himself has delivered a classic, robust action score with plenty of sentiment. Fans of the composer’s action packed yet melodic writing will find much to enjoy here, as it sits wonderfully amongst scores like “Volcano”, “Eraser” and “Judge Dredd”. If you are familiar with those scores, you might think that “Blown Away” is more of the same. The reality is that “Blown Away” is actually the precursor to those later works (as much as “Ricochet” and “The Abyss” are predecessors to this one). This is a wonderful album, with beautiful melodies and Silvestri’s trademark muscular action writing. A void in any Silvestri collection has been filled. To be fair, it belongs in any filmmusic collection.

Rating [4/5]

Tracklisting

01. Prince’s Day (Main Title) (2:28)
02. The Escape (4:31)
03. M.I.T. Arrival (1:16)
04. Bomb Squad (3:47)
05. Flashbacks (0:42)
06. Serendipity (0:50)
07. Gaerity Sets Up Shop (2:06)
08. Blanket Gets It (2:11)
09. Bomb Site (1:17)
10. Bake Sale Spy (0:29)
11. Playing The Angle (3:16)
12. Trolley Bomb Site (1:00)
13. Cortez Goes Boom (1:16)
14. Red Herring Du Jour (11:25)
15. Shut Him Down (0:31)
16. Explosive Headset (1:28)
17. Too Easy (2:48)
18. Kite Fixer (2:06)
19. Searching The Docks (2:56)
20. Gaerity’s Hideout (1:25)
21. Saint Max (4:52)
22. Computer Search (1:02)
23. You Don’t Know Me (2:12)
24. At The Dolphin (0:50)
25. Nail Bomb (0:58)
26. For Your Lovely Wife (0:46)
27. Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture (Last Bomb) (1:00)
28. Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture (Bomb Struggle) (1:23)
29. Final Fight (3:40)
30. Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture (Desperate Run) (2:01)
31. Brakeless In Boston (3:08)
32. Everybody Loves A Hero (1:40)
The Extras
33. Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture (Rehearsal #1) (0:31)
34. Tchaikovsky: 1812 Overture (Rehearsal #2) (0:28)

Availability

Released by Intrada.

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