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Allied (Alan Silvestri)

November 20, 2016

cover_alliedALLIED

Alan Silvestri, 2016, Sony Classical
13 tracks, 42:26

Robert Zemeckis and Alan Silvestri team up once again for the much anticipated war drama Allied. Will the allegiance between the director and composer pay off?

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

In 1942, an intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war. Directed by Robert Zemeckis, the film stars Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard. Unsurprisingly, the original score by Alan Silvestri, who reunites with Zemeckis for the 16th time, if I counted correctly.

What does it sound like?

For large parts it’s a very small, low-key score. Silvestri has mentioned in an interview with Film.Music.Media‘s Kaya Savas that there was a bit of Cast Away in the temp track. I think it shows; but personally I find the theme for Cast Away much nicer and more memorable than the one Silvestri has created for Allied.

In short, there are two sides to Allied. There is the suspense (and I may tentatively add ‘action’) side, which features an echoing piano motif and percussion. There are a number of layers to the percussion. The lighter stick-like hits are very effective; but the heavier parts are too obviously from a sample library. These cues include “Essaouira Desert/Main Title”, “German Embassy” and “Confession/Escape”. They’re decent suspense cues, but there doesn’t really seem to be enough going on to make it an interesting stand-alone listen. Fans of the composer will miss his typically propulsive action music (though there’s a tiny bit of it towards the end of “Trust”); and it’s such a shame that it seems to be making way for presets from Stormdrum or similar sample libraries.

The remaining cues rely on a lovely and quintessentially Silvestri melody performed by strings, piano and oboe (indeed, quite like Cast Away). One of its prettiest appearances is in “It’s a Girl”. It’s a sweet little melody, but it doesn’t really get a chance to fully blossom. As with Cast Away it simply get repeated a few times with minimal variation. As such, it remains sadly anonymous. In years from now, you’ll definitely recognise it as a Silvestri tune, but I doubt anyone will remember which film it was from. During the 6-minute end title, the melody travels from oboe to strings and piano. This is really the only cue one needs to hear, but even this one barely grows into anything bigger than the sum of its repetitive parts.

What makes matters worse is that there are a few very notable drops in sound quality throughout the album. I sincerely hope this is only the case on the promotional demos we’ve been given, because I’d be rather miffed if I had paid for this. The quality and enjoyment of the composition is open to anyone’s interpretation, but the recording here is definitely flawed.

Completing the album experience are a number of war-time jazz tunes. Their brass-led performances offer a contrast to Silvestri’s introvert orchestrations; though the sort-of lazy laid back-ness of some of the songs makes you wonder whether Silvestri deliberately wrote a very slow, laid back kind of score.

Is it any good?

As a long-time and die-hard fan of Alan Silvestri, I can’t help but be disappointed with the score for Allied. It’s a serviceable score, but there’s no real fire here. No real passion. The main theme is sweet (and as a result “The Letter/End Credit” is really the only cue you need), but it’s still far from Silvestri’s best efforts. The lighter parts of the percussion are quite nice, but the heavier parts sound familiar and are too obviously sampled. Still, considering that electronics are Silvestri’s weakest point, he’s actually done alright here. The score is by no means bad, but as a stand-alone experience it’s just not interesting. For me, Allied was one of the most anticipated scores of the year. I was really hoping this would be his ticket to the Oscars; and it pains me to say that (on album) it’s a let-down.

Rating [2.5/5]

Tracklist:

1. Essaouira Desert/Main Title (5.21)
2. “What Are Our Odds?” (2.46)
3. German Embassy (2.09)
4. “It’s A Girl” (2.16)
5. Trust (3.07)
6. “Best Day Ever” (1.51)
7. Confession/Escape (3.49)
8. The Letter/End Credit (6.27)
9. The Sheik of Araby (2.32) – Written by Ted Snyder, Harry B. Smith & Francis Wheeler, Arranged by Alan Silvestri
10. You Are My Lucky Star (3.06) – Written by Nacio Brown & Arthur Freed
11. J’Attendrai (2.59) – Written by Rosanna D’Agnillo, Dino Olivieri, Louis Poterat & Giuseppe Rastelli
12. Sing Sing Sing (4.09) – Written by Louis Prima
13. Flying Home (1.54) – Written by Benny Goodman & Lionel Hampton


Review (C) 2016 Synchrotones

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