Thursday, June 29, 2006

HIGHT NOTES: Clear & Present Danger

One of the chief complaints issued about James Horner’s score for “Patriot Games” was that it was too brooding and dull. I don’t think anyone could have issued that same complaint with “Clear & Present Danger.” This score kicks off with a blast of brass instruments that about knocks you out of your chair if you make the mistake of turning your volume up too high.

Even though “Clear & Present Danger” saw James Horner return as composer, the scores didn’t really deliver any returning themes. The CD packs in most of the best tracks into the first half. “Operation Reciprocity” opens up very strong, the first half being very boisterous and fun. After that, we get the longest track on the CD, “Ambush,” which coincides with an attack on a motorcade. Where as the previous track comes out of the gates strong, “Ambush” gives us a slow buildup, which explodes about five-and-a-half minutes later into some heavy drums and dissonant flutes and strings.

With such strong music early on, the music tails off and never really regains the same level of excitement. That’s not to say the score is without some good music. “Deleting the Evidence” offers a similar buildup to “Ambush,” but on a smaller scale. “Greer’s Funeral/Betrayal” while a strong piece doesn’t really capture the same power it has within the film, because the film employs “Taps” within this same section. I’ve always wished that had been added into this track.

The CD provides ten tracks for fifty-three minutes of music, but I think it could have used a little more. The movie wasn’t without some powerful pieces near the end, but they get left out.

“Clear & Present Danger” offers a greater variety of music than “Patriot Games,” and while that makes for a more enjoyable listening experience, I don’t always feel as if the music ties together well. “Laser-Guided Missile” feels the most out of place, bearing little resemble to the rest of the score. We’re also treated to “Looking for Clues” which employs one of Horner’s most overused themes. For my part, I hear this music and think I’m supposed to be watching “Aliens” in which this theme made quite a few appearances.

One thing that might have helped this score would be a different arrangement of the tracks. I typically prefer a chronological score, meaning the music is put in the same order as it was used in the film, and you’ll find most scores are arranged in this manner. For the most part, “Clear & Present Danger” is chronological until near the end. The tracks “Escobedo’s New Friend” and “Second Hand Copter” are out of order. This was a good choice, but neither really gives the score a good punch to end things. Even the closing credits leave something to be desired. If the score wasn’t going to be chronological, then I think the music should have been completely rearranged.

Other Scores by James Horner:

Despite my knit picking, I enjoy the music to this film a great deal. I also think this score offered a better variety of Horner’s music even providing some themes that haven’t been overdone within his other films, a trait for which Horner has become quite notorious.

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