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That Good Night (Guy Farley)

April 28, 2018

Guy Farley is one of those hard-working guys (pardon the pun) whose name you hardly ever see in mainstream movies or television. Caldera records have a rich history of releasing Farley’s music that has, quite likely, slipped under anyone’s radar. And the thing is… it’s really great stuff. I’ve reviewed his Mary of Nazareth in the past, and I want to share a few thoughts on That Good Night as well as the Film Music Collection; both available from Caldera.

That Good Night deals with the inevitable: death. It’s about a terminally ill writer who tries to reconcile with his son before it’s too late. The lead role is performed by John Hurt for whom, rather bitter-sweetly, this would be his last role before passing away in January 2017.

With the story set in Portugal, there’s a distinct Mediterranean vibe to the music, which I initially interpreted as French before my research corrected me. Acoustic guitar (or rather: cavaquinho, mandolin and Spanish guitars), piano and accordion dominate the score. Clarinet, bass and a small string section are also present. The overall tone is light and melancholic; at times it’s dramatic, but never heavy-handed.

In the audio commentary (which is one of Caldera’s unique touches to their releases) Farley talks about meeting the director, Eric Styles, and how Styles likes to work with temp music. That’s as much as Farley says, but it leaves me wondering how far Farley was allowed to deviate from the temp track. I dare say, not too far as the score frequently reminds of other scores. There’s an idyllic Mediterranean melody, first heard in “That Good Night” and several times thereafter, that sounds like a rather typical French melody. It actually reminds me of Desplat’s theme from The Shape of Water, which itself reminded me of Giacchino’s Up.  There are other moments where the sparse use of piano (and strings) remind of Silvestri’s Cast Away, as well as Grusin’s On Golden Pond. Whether any of those resemblances are coincidental or not, it gives you a good-enough idea as to the overall style and sound of That Good Night.

In its review of the film itself, The Hollywood Reporter uses words such as “gentle paced” and “sauntering”. I think the same can be said about the music, though in relation to Farley’s score those words are meant a bit more positive than those from THR about the movie. The score balances delicately between drama, melancholy, despair, nostalgia and hope. I often talk about how soundtracks should tell a story; and this one certainly does. It does end a little abruptly and I’m not sure how well-remembered this score will be in the long-term; but it is a charming work, well written, well performed and recorded and accompanied by a fine booklet with extensive liner notes.

I mentioned a Guy Farley Film Music Collection at the start of my review. This is also available from Caldera and it contains music from Anthropoid, Tula: The Revolt, Irish Jam and Dot.Com, as well as another audio commentary. I don’t how much music was written for Anthropoid, but here we are treated to only one cue “Dulce et Decorum”, a religious piece for male and female choir. It’s very beautiful and leaves me wanting more.  Tula is a Dutch historical drama telling the story of the Curacao slave revolt of 1795. In the liner notes it is noted that Farley only had about three weeks to score and record a 70-minute score. The six cues present here are beautiful and elegiac with strings taking lead. Something like Inception or Thin Red Line may have existed in the temp track.

The dozen-or-so tracks from Irish Jam deliver precisely what you’d expect from a title like that. There are a few uplifting jigs for Uilleann pipes (performed by Tony Hinnigan), violins,  frame drums and strumming guitars. A couple of tracks feature melancholy vocals performed by Anna Friel. For me, the highlights are the few instrumental, dramatic cues for strings and Irish instruments. It’s gorgeous stuff that brings back memories of James Horner’s Titanic and Braveheart, as well as Hans Zimmer’s An Everlasting Piece or even Beyond Rangoon; perhaps even Mark Mancina’s Return to Paradise. Don’t get me wrong here. I don’t wish to imply that the score is derogative; it’s just that some of the orchestrations or some of the melodic twists remind me of those other scores, which happen to be amongst my favourites, so I really don’t mind any of those similarities! And I think for many film-music fans these Irish Jam cues alone will be worth pursuing this album.

Dot.com shares with Irish Jam a strong sense of locale, with Dot.com set in Portugal and musically relying on a string quartet and a band of fifteen players, including trumpet, clarinet, accordion, castanets and tambourin. It’s less ‘my kinda thing’ than Irish Jam is, but I can’t fault the passion and detail that prevails in these cues; not to mention the amount of fun (listen out for a cue that’s clearly inspired by Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, reimagined for this Mediterranean band). And as with all Caldera albums, this one concludes with an audio commentary from Guy Farley talking about the music on this, highly recommended, album.

That Good Night, Guy Farley, 24 tracks, 48m, Caldera Records 2017.
Film Music Collection, Guy Farley, 34 tracks, 69m, Caldera Records 2017.


Review by Pete Simons (c) 2018 Synchrotones

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