Harry Gregson-Williams automatically wins five stars. Why? Woodwinds, chorus, and sparkly instruments.
Allow me to back up and explain.
If you've learned anything about me in this past year, then you should know that I am the biggest sucker for a good chorus in the history of soundtrackdom. When a composer makes good use of a chorus, the results can be phenomenal. Some of my favorite composers – James Horner, Hans Zimmer, and John Williams (if you’re not familiar with John by now and you’re into soundtracks, you are officially fired) – are all experts when it comes to utilizing a chorus to make their music just that much more awesome. Yet at the same time, when I go see a movie in the theatre, I’m usually too busy watching the movie to pay super-close attention to the music and whether or not I’d like to buy it later. That has only happened to me three times; Pirates of the Caribbean 2, Lord of the Rings (The Fellowship), and Star Wars III. So when the movie was only 5-10 minutes into things, and the credits were still appearing, I was already actively paying attention to just who had done the music. That, ladies and gentlemen, is a good thing.
I spotted his name, Harry Gregson-Williams, and made a small note in the back of my brain – check this soundtrack out. Up until that point, I'd never heard of Harry before, and I was not disappointed.
1.) The Blitz, 1940 – 2:32 What I find unique about this track is that you can hear the airplanes. Now, I don’t know if it’s just an instrument imitating the sound, or if it’s something else, but I think it’s pretty neat. It is a short but tense way to start things off, fast-paced strings with that hint of trying to escape something that’s coming after you.
2.) Evacuating London – 3:38 This is the song that I heard in the movie theater that made me sit up and think, “This soundtrack will be worth looking into.” Here you can really get a handle on Gregson-Williams desire for the use of strings, piano, and even more focus on woodwinds and instruments that always make me think of sparkles (bells, metal xylophones, etc.) than I’ve ever heard in any other soundtrack. It’s traveling music, starting off with a sad parting and slowly taking you away into something you know is going to be exciting – also with our first taste of vocals. Joy. It still sends up excited goosebumps up my arms.
3.) The Wardrobe – 2:54 Tiptoeing piano soon blossoms into the popular lone flute/clarinet. It definitely gives the suggestion of tentative exploring with amazing possibilities behind the discovery – but where are we going?
4.) Lucy Meets Mr. Tumnus – 4:10 Oh so cute! I’d like to say that I love Mr. Tumnus. Faun thoughts aside, single instruments – a string here, piano there, flute in the distance, play on their own to make a whole piece of wonder, somewhere magical we’ve never been. With a brief anxious moment, more instruments emerge (sparkly ones included) they all come together hand in hand, not unlike the two they play for.
5.) A Narnia Lullaby – 1:12 Yet another song I *heart*. I just wish it were longer. Plucky strings and an outlandish flute twist up into a grand flame (yes, flame, hehe) before dying almost immediately.
6.) The White Witch – 5:30 This is actually my second least favorite song, coming in after track 16. I think mostly because it seems to have lost the unique feeling. It lacks…well, snow and ice I suppose. It lacks the personality of the White Witch, ironically enough. It sounds almost generic of other bad guy themes/songs or worried/something-bad-is-going-to-happen moments. The usual tense strings, low brass, quiet/crescendo moments. *shrug* I’ll admit…I tend to skip this one, haha.
7.) From Western Woods to Beaversdam – 3:33 More vocals and magical (yes, magical) strings/sounds here. A few drums to give things a beat, tiny clinks, it begins quiet and slow and just opens up into something gorgeous for just a brief moment before bending back again. I so used to want to play the flute…tracks like this remind me why I love it so much.
8.) Father Christmas – 3:20 This has a definite Christmasy feel to it, like waking up to find snow falling on Christmas Day. It slows after the initial excitement to an almost medieval flute piece, which morphs into a group of horns and deep vocals, rising up to a regal crest and lingering there.
9.) To Aslan’s Camp – 3:12 Sha-zam! Leap into action! Just makes you wanna run with all those blazing horns and dancing strings. Here’s where you’ll get a hardcandy taste of the Narnia theme. After another pause the flutes take the stage, turn it over to a majestic version of the theme – hmm, it’s gaining strength…
10.) Knighting Peter – 3:48 With its nearly mild starting, you wouldn’t think this song would get too hectic – but that deep pitch in the middle only serves as a transition from light to dark to mild.
11.) The Stone Table – 8:06 This track is definitely in my list of favorites – it’s at the low end, but that is in no way saying that it’s bad – there are just other tracks that get me going more than this one. It’s good and special and its own, very personal way. The longest track on here (with good reason) is a powerful mix of tribal-like chants, drums, and shakers and a bit of Aslan’s horns and strings meandering through them, sad and brave though they may be. Once what is done is done, an eerie near-silence steals into the scene, and only until evil is gone does the essence of the true Narnia return…
12.) The Battle – 7:08 Easily fighting for a position as my favorite track on this CD. Starting off low and ominous, oh things can only grow from there. I crank it up to hear the vocals and trumpets and strings all flourishing into a full fledged Narnia theme, drums beating rhythmically, and things heating up for what else but The Battle. Loving all the vocals, the tense feeling before the breaking of the storm – because when it does, it is nothing short of awesome. If you haven’t turned up the volume yet, then for goodness sakes, do it at the 4:30 mark at the very least!
13.) Only the Beginning of the Adventure – 5:32 Maybe this track will take first place. Hehe. It’s a wonderful regal mix of Narnia kings and queens – and a reminiscing from track 4. It brings us back to flutes, the piano, smooth, relaxed strings, millions of sparkles with bells and metal xylophones and cloud-like choruses. Another goosebump giving track. Beautiful. Don’t forget a bit of that Narnia theme in the end, horns and all!
14.) Imogen Heap – Can’t Take It In – 4:42 Now I knew when I saw this name that it was familiar somehow. Then after a quick check, I realized it was indeed the singer from Frou Frou, a group I’d stumbled upon last year and found several songs I enjoyed. So how did she do here? Well, I’ll just say it ranks up there in the favorites range. You might have to decide for yourself because her voice isn’t something you usually hear, but I think this song does very well for Narnia and the special feeling it has. It’s got some sparkles, piano, and none of the traditional guitar and drums, but instead some echoes and a very easy yet upbeat ambiance, I don’t mind this song being here at all.
15.) Alanis Morissette – Wunderkind – 5:19 It’s hard to let this one get completely by. There are times when songs with words on certain soundtracks get under my skin (Troy and The Mummy Returns are good examples), this one almost hits that spot. Still, Alanis manages to keep some of the same Narnia feel of something special. Sometimes I wish she would annunciate more or maybe it’s just the fact that this is Alanis Morissette singing (gives one a predisposed reaction) or some of the lyrics she puts in that give it an obvious “I made it for the movie” thing that takes it down a notch. But I still enjoy the song and don’t look into the lyrics much, so I let it slide and even hum along with it.
16.) Tim Finn – Winter Light – 4:13 If any tracks had to be removed from this CD, I honestly believe this one could go and there wouldn’t be any complaints. The first time I listened to this CD, I let every song go. Then I only listened to the first part of this song. Then I started skipping it altogether because it annoyed me. By now I let it go because I’m used to it. It’s still not my favorite because Timmy boy’s voice just doesn’t mesh well with the feeling of the movie – he’s kind of whiny; something you’d probably hear on the radio with maybe a Coldplay sort of feel to it. The majority of the song is him singing about the earth being frozen with just a piano to accompany him. It’s just too depressing to work. Enough said.
17.) Lisbeth Scott – Where – 1:54 I’m really quite sad this song is so short. Lisbeth Scott has a lovely voice which I would have really liked to hear more of. Especially with Narnia elements involved – it almost has some of the theme going on, and does indeed include some of the same sounding instruments (few sparkles, some piano, a horn, strings, and even a flute). But then it’s not even two minutes…dang.
Loved it. I was surprised to see not one but four tracks that involved singers with their own personal “touch” (if that’s what one wants to call it), but I was glad that only one out of the four bugged me (as opposed to all of them). Many times I hate it when artists do this (or are asked to, whatever, it doesn’t work), but there are other times when it does work (Enya on The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack), but usually it depends upon the artist.
Aside from them, Harry Gregson-Williams appeared on my list of composers to look for in the future, similar to Howard Shore after all his work. I still enjoy this CD and highly recommend it to anyone interested at all in The Chronicles of Narnia music. When it comes to myself, soundtracks make for awesome muses.
Originally posted on Epinions.com