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L. Hubbard (Cardiff)

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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully varied score album by Powell that isn't completely sterotypical for the genre, 17 Mar. 2012
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This review is from: Lorax (Audio CD)
John Powell is a composer who started off in the studios of Hans Zimmer. Now working on his own for several years, he has become one of the most sought after composers in Hollywood. Of late, many of his scores have been composed for the animated genre for which he consistently writes stunning scores, the best example has to be the sensational score for How To Train Your Dragon. In case it isn't clear, this CD contains the orchestral score only. If you wanted the soundtrack album with songs you can find that here: Dr Seuss the Lorax.

The score for The Lorax is exceptionally diverse in terms of different styles of orchestral tracks. Some are some tracks with huge amounts of energy and frenzy that you would associate with a film of this type ("The River Bed" (Track 7)) is the best example of this. The album is not dominated with tracks of this type though. Others tracks contain some good action writing, "The Last Seed" (Track 10) is probably the best of this type, although Thneedville Chase (Track 11) is also a strong contender.

There were two standout tracks for me. The first was the absolutely sensational "Valley Exodus" (Track 9), which contains some fantastic brooding choral music accompanied by strings. Around the 3:30 mark there is some great writing for female choir, before the track finishes with a short piano piece. Simply exquisite. The other standout for me was the final track "Funeral For A Tree" (Track13). It begins with a wonderful piano solo before strings, woodwind and choral sections reaching a climax just before the 2 minute mark.

From a production perspective, the sound quality is fantastic as you would expect, with Powell being credited as a producer of the CD in the accompanying CD booklet). The album runs for approximately 46 minutes, which is relatively short. However, of the 13 tracks, only 5 are under three minutes in length and this allows for a bit of development over the duration of the tracks. The varied style of the music present means that despite being fairly short, it does feel longer and that is a good thing,

Overall, this is score that contains something for everyone. The highlights for me were the fantastic choral writing in many of the tracks. Also, the short piano sections were particularly enjoyable (although somewhat infrequent). For those who may be put off because you consider this to be a "kids" score, you are partially right. Some of the tracks are slightly frenzied and manic in a way that you would associate with a film of this type, but this is not in the majority. For fans of Powell's writing, this will simply reinforce what a great composer he is. I found that I enjoyed the score more on each listen, so if aren't bowled over right away, please give it another go. This certainly isn't up there in terms of quality when compared to How To Train Your Dragon. However, the quality was high across the album, and the two tracks I mentioned above are both 5* in my opinion. This album is definitely worth a punt if you enjoyed the music within the film or are a Powell fan!

John Carter
John Carter

11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars John Carter is the best score of Michael Giacchino's career and will surely be one of the best scores of 2012, 15 Mar. 2012
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This review is from: John Carter (Audio CD)
Michael Giacchino is one of the most sought after composers in Hollywood. I was expecting great things from John Carter. Almost every review of the film I have heard has commented on how good the score is. I haven't seen the film yet so I can only comment on the music as heard on the album itself. I will start by saying I think it is Giacchino's best score to date (surpassing what I considered to be his previous best for his score to Super 8).

The style of the album is purely orchestral with some great choral writing. Giacchino's quality of writing has continued to improve over time, and in John Carter he has shown that he can write brilliant themes and adapt them. The quality of the album rarely drops below 5 stars for the entire duration.

I started to list my favourite tracks, and quickly realized I would be listing pretty much the entire album. The ones that stood out for me were the opening "A Thern for the Worse" (Track 1) and takes a suite form lasting just short of 8 minutes. It introduces most of the main themes on the album. "A Thern Warning" (Track 11) was fantastically somber with some amazing writing for the string and choral sections. There's also the epic "The Prize is Barsoom" (Track 14) with some great action writing for the orchestra and choir. The album comes to a spine tingling conclusion with "John Carter of Mars" (Track 19), a near 9 minute track that finishes the album off on the perfect note. All of the tracks deserve an acknowledgement though!

The production side of the album definitely deserves a mention. One of the pet hates by many who have heard Giacchino's previous scores argue that the mix is always horrendously dry. The lack of reverb does often make the music sound less impressive because it makes the orchestra sound smaller than it really is. This criticism cannot be said for John Carter. The mix has a much wetter quality to it, and this enhances both the quality of the music and the listening experience. I have always been impressed by Giacchino's music, and this mix elevates it to a new level.

As with the majority of Giacchino's albums, the running time is lengthy. Lasting just short of 1 hour 15 minutes, this is above average for score releases and I loved every minute of it. Some longer albums can cause a listener fatigue, but the variety and quality of the orchestrations and styles across the album kept my attention throughout. Of the 19 tracks on the album, only 2 are shorter than two minutes, meaning most of the tracks have time to develop musically before the track is over. The track titles are horribly cheesy as with every Giacchino album but it does raise a smile!

Overall, this is a score that exceeded my expectations (and they were high to begin with). The reasons for this are simple. The themes are amazing, the quality of the mix is fantastic and the orchestrations were sublime. Quite simply, if you loved the music as heard in the film you will surely love this release. For soundtrack fans, if you weren't a fan of Giacchino previously now is the time to give him a second chance. For those (who like me) have enjoyed his previous work, this marks a new high point in my opinion. I have been unashamedly enthusiastic in this review - but the album really does deserve it. Five stars does not feel enough, so if you find yourself on this page, do not think twice about getting this score. It is (and will undoubtedly be) one of the best releases of 2012.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 6, 2013 10:54 AM BST

Reckoning The Soundtrack
Reckoning The Soundtrack
Price: £11.67

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant fantasy game score that makes for a great stand alone album, 11 Mar. 2012
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Composer Grant Kirkhope is not a name I am familiar with, a but judging by the quality of his score for Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning, it certainly one I will be following in the future. If you are a fan of fantasy orchestral scores, this album will be right up your street. I haven't played the game yet, so this review is just of the music as heard on the album.

There are 35 tracks in total, so I won't go into every one in detail. Essentially, there is a mixture of both shorter and longer tracks (ranging from 30 seconds to just over 4 minutes in length). I preferred the longer tracks purely because it allows for a bit of development over the track. Some of my favourite slower tracks were the wonderful "The Plains of Erathell" (Track 13), "The Erathi Ruins" (Track 20) and "Alabastra" (Track 31). The first two listed reminded me heavily of Howard Shores scores for the epic Lord of the Rings. Some of the more action based tracks such as "Fight!" (Track 16) and "Balor" (Track 26) sounded very inspired by John Williams, especially in terms of the orchestrations. To my mind, given that I love both Shore and William's work, although some of their styles are referenced, this is not a bad thing in my opinion. That said, the album does not sound completely derivative of their work and Kirkhope has done well to adapt these styles alongside his own.

The album runs for just over an hour which is a decent length. For some game scores where the budget is smaller compared to the movie industry, often orchestral samples or synths will be used rather than a real orchestra. That is not the case for this release. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra were used, who are very highly regarded and their performance on album sounds fantastic. You just can't beat the real thing when it comes to orchestras.

Overall, this is a superb game score. Kirkhope's orchestral writing is brilliant, the orchestra sounds fantastic and those of you who like this style of music will surely love this release. It might be a little obscure, but if you find yourself on this page and like the music as heard in the game, or just appreciate a good fantasy orchestral album then treat yourself to this fantastic release!

Russland. Im Reich der Tiger, Baeren und Vulkane
Russland. Im Reich der Tiger, Baeren und Vulkane

5.0 out of 5 stars The soundtrack to Russland is unbelievably obscure - don't let that put you off. It is epic., 3 Mar. 2012
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The soundtrack to Russland is extraordinarily epic. The album is a powerhouse of orchestral and choral music of a quality that can only be described as exceptional.

I won't go into each of the 26 tracks in detail. The main themes are introduced in the opening track "Der Kontinent" and across the duration of the album, you will hear many different orchestrations of the themes (and they are fantastic). Some of these will be quiet (e.g. "Die Geschichte Der Steppe" and "Stimme Der Waelder" Track 12 and 14) but the majority will have a full orchestra and choir. The final track "Wildes Russland - Titelsong" (Track 26) is a suite of the main themes with a great female soloist contributing. I am guessing the lyrics are in German, but regardless, I thought it was a brilliant way to end the album.

The thing that sets this album aside from many others is the power and frequency of the choral music. It is present in the majority of the tracks in one form or another. Also, it isn't mixed quietly in the background (as they sometimes are in other releases, usually to save money on licencing fees). I thought it suited the tone of the album perfectly, but if you are not a fan of choral music, no matter how masterfully it is applied, this is not the album for you.

The album runs for one hour exactly and that epic sound rarely lets up. Neither does the quality of the music. Regarding the production side of things, Russland sounds amazing - each of the orchestral sections be it the brass, strings or woodwind has exceptional clarity. The mix with the choral side of things is masterfully done.

Overall, this is a soundtrack that is the definition of obscurity. That is a shame, because it is one of the finest I have ever heard. It has a brilliant main theme, fantatsic orchestrations and is epic in a way I have not heard for some time. I will finish by saying that if you find yourself on this page, you have stumbled across a soundtrack that ranks as one of one my favourites of all time (in terms of choral/orchestral albums). If you a fan of this style of music, you have hit the jackpot with this release.

Black Gold
Black Gold
Price: £9.34

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orchestral majesty with Middle Eastern influences - James Horner has composed a stunning score for Black Gold, 2 Mar. 2012
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This review is from: Black Gold (Audio CD)
James Horner is a composer with his name attached to some of the biggest films of the past two decades, the most recent of note being his great score for Avatar. Despite his successes, some have been frustrated at his use of self-plagiarism with recurring themes and motifs across a range of different scores with his name attached. Black Gold didn't suffer from this problem - it sounded distinctly Horner in style, but there were no obvious references to his other well known work.

In terms of the music itself, it contains a full orchestra with a range of Midde Eastern influences in both orchestration and instrumentation (incuding Arabic style vocals). The majority of the album is fairly slow paced and majestic with wonderful orchestrations of the different themes across the duration of the album. The string and brass sections take centre stage throughout much of the album, however there are quieter tracks with some good Horner piano writing in "I Have Chosen You" (Track 4) and Father and Son (Track 7) to name a couple. In addition, there are some faster paced cues particularly towards the end of the album. Battle in the Oil Fields (Track 13) is the obvious standout.

There are 14 tracks on the album, and this comprises of shorter and longer tracks. "Main Title - A Desert Truce" (Track 1), "One Brother Lives, One Brother Dies" (Track 12) and finale "A Kingdom of Oil" (Track 14) are all over 6 minutes in length. I am a fan of longer tracks because the flow of the album isn't disrupted, and it allows for more in terms of thematic development. The mix of shorter and longer tracks over the course of the album does work well and allows it to flow nicely. The score runs in at just short of 56 minutes which felt like a decent length. Given that portions of the album do have quite weighty orchestrations, on a long album that can sometimes be a somewhat tiring experience. In Black Gold, this doesn't happen because the album length isn't too long. Regarding the sound production, the quality of the recording/mix is exceptionally good.

Overall, the soundtrack to Black Gold has Horner's stylistic tendencies and the fusion of the Western orchestra and Middle Eastern influences. At times the music is majestic and sweeping, in others it is quiet and contemplating (particularly in the piano tracks). The quality is consistently high throughout its duration. For fans of James Horner, I do think you would love this release, and for those who like the score within the film. For fan of more modern sounding scores with electronic elements and a faster pace, this album may not be for you. However, this is a release that shows that Horner is still a fantastic composer for film despite a reduction in the number of scores he writes. This score won't be to everyone's tastes, but I couldn't find anything to dislike in this release. If you happen to find yourself on this page (and I would imagine this will not be as popular with the public as scores such as Titanic and Avatar), I would strongly recommend buying it.

Man on a Ledge
Man on a Ledge
Price: £20.88

3.0 out of 5 stars A very electronic heavy score with orchestral strings - not highly original but shows Jackman is a versatile composer, 1 Mar. 2012
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This review is from: Man on a Ledge (Audio CD)
Henry Jackman is a rising star at Hans Zimmer's Remote Control Studios. His recent scores for X-MEN:First Class OST, Gulliver's Travels and the recent Puss in Boots have demonstrated that he is a fine composer across a range of different genres. I am a fan of his style of orchestral writin. The score for Man On A Ledge is diversion from these previous sounds, trading in the orchestra (apart from the string section) for large range of electronics. I am a fan of electronic elements to a degree, but I do prefer a more orchestral sound given the choice.

Some highlights were the start of Fly-By (Track 5) which has a nice synthy piano sound over a bed of strings. Other that were more action based that I liked were the final two cues "Good Cop Bad Cop" and "Stand-Off On The Roof".

The album is very short. Running in at just short of 37 minutes, I am hard pressed to think of a shorter release than this. That said, I wasn't gutted about the fact that it was short. The album has a well defined sound and it doesn't deviate wildly from it. In terms of the sound production/quality, as you would expect from Remote Control, the album does sound fantastic.

Overall, this score shows a different side to Jackman that has not been heard before. Whether or not you like it will very much depend on your tolerance for a score that is dominated by electronics. For fans of his orchestral work, this release may divert too much from the sound you like. The main problem I had with the score was that it sounded very derivative. The electronics were good enough, but there's only a certain amount of synth percussion and warped sounds that I can tolerate. In addition, the string section sounded fine, but again, the techniques used were highly derivative and sounded like many other scores that are trying to emulate Zimmer's technique of choppy staccato strings. Jackman has shown he is competent at using electronics within this score and I hope he can use that on future projects with a full orchestra to show the best he has to offer (as he did for X-Men First Class). As for Man On A Ledge, it may work well within the film, but unless you like your scores to be largely electronic I would be cautious about making an impulse buy until you have had the chance to listen to some track samples first. That said, I do like Jackman as a composer, and for those of you who are unfamiliar with his other work, I would encourage you to seek it out.

Sherlock: Music From Series 2
Sherlock: Music From Series 2
Price: £12.65

21 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Darker than Series 1 but still eccentric and electric. The music for Series 2 is everything you want in a follow-up soundtrack., 27 Feb. 2012
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After the huge critical and public acclaim for the soundtrack to the first series of Sherlock, fans have not had long to wait for the release of the soundtrack of Series 2, composed once again by the fantastic talent of David Arnold and Matthew Price. I absolutely loved the soundtrack to Sherlock - Original Television Soundtrack Music From Series One. It was exceptionally individual, and captured the quirkyness of Sherlock perfectly. Series 2 was a darker affair, and the music certainly reflects this on album. The question is whether it is worth buying this album if you have the first. The answer is 100% yes. Whilst previous themes are referenced, this album has a darker feel and there is a lot of new material on the album. It certainly isn't the first album rehashed with "Series 2" on the album cover.

Regarding the tracks themselves, I won't bore you with a second by second analysis of every track. However, tracks that really stood out for me were the stunning "Sherlocked" (Track 7), "Prepared to do Anything" (Track 17) and and the brilliant conclusion to the album "One More Miracle". These tracks a are must have in my opinion (more relevant to those downloading individual MP3 tracks), but the whole album, like the first, has a consistently high quality throughout. I would recommend purchasing the CD or the whole album for the greatest enjoyment. Individual tracks a matter of personal taste though, and like Series 1, I thought the track selection was excellent, with all the best music from the series appearing on the album.

Running in at just under 50 minutes, this album is about 8 minutes shorter in length compared to Series 1. Whilst it would be easy to complain and say that the album length could be longer, I was perfectly happy with it. The tracks run in chronological order of the episodes. The first seven tracks are from episode 1 "A Scandal in Belgravia", tracks 8-14 are from episode 2 "The Hounds of Baskerville", and tracks 15-19 conclude the album with music from the "The Reichenbach Fall". From a production perspective the recording sounds exceptionally crisp and very well mixed.

Overall, the soundtrack to the second series of Sherlock is even better than the first. The thing I love about this release is that it isn't just a rehash of material from the first series - sure, some of the themes are repeated but the feeling of this album is quite different. Quirky - yes. Electrifying - yes. But this album is darker than it's predecessor, and that gives it a distinct character of its own. If you own the soundtrack to Series 1 and are unsure whether to get the music for Series 2, don't think twice. Arnold and Price have delivered the goods for Series 2 in terms of quality, and the album is distinct enough from the first to definitely warrant the purchase. It's going to be a bit of a wait until Series 3, but until then, enjoy what has to be one of, if not the best scored show on TV.

There Be Dragons: Secretos De Pasion
There Be Dragons: Secretos De Pasion
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £14.16

5.0 out of 5 stars A bit of a hidden gem - There Be Dragons is a wonderful orchestral score with Spanish influences, 25 Feb. 2012
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From the title, "There Be Dragons: Secretos De Pasion", it sounds like this is the score for a Spanish fantasy epic. Instead, the story is based upon the Spanish Civil War. I haven't seen the film, so my opinions of the score will be based on what I heard on CD only.

Having no preconceived expectations about this release (I hadn't heard of the film, or composer Robert Folk), I was very impressed at the quality of the orchestral writing and Folk's ability to add just enough Spanish flavour to make the score sound authentic for the subject matter. Some of my favourite tracks were "Who to Kill" (Track 22) - the guitar and orchestral writing was superb. "Love and War" (Track 6) is absolutely stunning - the brass section gets to shine, as does the choir. I won't go into every track in detail but I found it hard to single out tracks that I particularly enjoyed because the quality was so consistently high across the album.

There are 28 tracks present, and only two are over three minutes in length. This doesn't allow for a huge amount of thematic development within the tracks, but there is a good deal of variation across the album instead that makes up for it. The album duration is just over 52 minutes. Whilst probably below average in terms of soundtrack releases, the album doesn't sound short. There is good variation in the types of track present, ranging from all out action, to softer tracks with guitar. This is a good balance and helps the album to flow well. From a production perspective, the album sounds great. The guitar is at the forefront of the mix in the tracks it is present, meaning it isn't overpowered by the rest of the orchestra.

Overall, this release will surprise you by the consistently high quality. A sweeping orchestral score with some Spanish flavour in the form of an acoustic guitar, this release certainly doesn't reinvent the genre, but the Spanish dimension certainly adds something different to proceedings. This is a release that I suspect will be confined to relative obscurity. However, if you do find yourself on this page, don't hesitate to click the buy button. I thought it was brilliant!

In Time
In Time
Price: £20.94

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Orchestral and electronic mastery - In Time is Craig Armstrong's best album for many years, 24 Feb. 2012
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This review is from: In Time (Audio CD)
Craig Armstrong is a composer who has a unique style - his ability to fuse electronic and orchestral elements are sublime. The soundtrack for In Time has to be the finest fusion of these styles to date from Armstrong, who in my opinion, is leagues ahead of other composers for this style of music.

The orchestral element of the soundtrack is dominated by the string section, but there are brilliant pieces for piano, exotic woodwinds and occasional brass for extra punch. A large electronic component is also present.

The main theme for the film is introduced in the imaginatively titled "In Time Main Theme" (Track 1). How much you like this track will likely determine your opinion of the whole album This single track contains, from a musical perspective, almost every aspect of the album (minus some writing for piano). Much of the album comprises of more action based material (Abduction - Track 11, and Rooftop Chase - Track 18) were my favourites. For the slower tracks I particularly liked The Cost of Living (Track 4), In Time Choral Theme (Track 23) and In Time Main Theme (Orchestral) (Track 25). The whole album has a consistent quality, and there are enough variations in the style of the tracks and differing versions of the main theme to keep your interest for the duration.

In terms of the running time, the album lasts approximately 45 minutes. This is a little short for a score release. Also, of the 25 tracks, only one is over three minutes in length (In Time Choral Theme - Track 23). That doesn't allow for a huge amount of development musically within each track - but the flow of the album is superb meaning the development of the themes occurs over the duration of the album instead.

The production of this album is absolutely stunning. Balancing electronics and orchestra is a not an easy task. Overbearing electronics can (in my opinion) completely ruin the sound of the orchestra, whereas an orchestra with light electronics/synths quietly in the background can be as irritating. On this album however, both are balanced perfectly. Some sections are purely orchestral, others purely electronic, but more often than not a hybrid approach is taken (the best example of this is probably the short but very sweet There's Still Time (Track 24).

Overall, I can't praise this album highly enough. For a style that fuses orchestral and electronic elements, you won't get much better than this. Sure, the track lengths are fairly short, as is the album length, but crikey that 45 minutes certainly pack a punch. The sound quality and mix is superb. For those of you who favour a purely orchestral sound, this album is not for you. But those of you who are familiar with Armstrong's style of orchestral and electronic writing, I cannot think of a better album than In Time for showcasing his talent.

CleanMyMac Classic (Mac)
CleanMyMac Classic (Mac)

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Removes gigabites of unwanted files. Quick and easy to run, this is a great piece of software that does exactly what it promises, 22 Feb. 2012
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This review is from: CleanMyMac Classic (Mac) (CD-ROM)
Being fairly new to Mac, a friend suggested this program for freeing up a lot of space on the hard drive by removing unwanted and unused files from your system. It does exactly what it claimed, and on my first run, the program removed over 4gb of clutter.

The thing I liked about this software was the ease of use. Simply hit "scan" and once it's identifying the files that can be cleared, just hit "clean". It's as simple as that. It clears a whole range of unwanted files such as additional language files, system logs and many other things.

With this package, you get a disk with the program and a security key within the box for lifetime updates and support. Just type in the security key and provided you are online, it's registered with no fuss whatsoever. However, it can only be installed on one Mac at a time, so unlike other security software, you will need a new license for each machine should you have more than one Mac.

Overall, it works brilliantly on Mac OS Lion - the time taken to scan for files is between 30 seconds to a minute in my case, and takes a few seconds to clear the files. I have no hesitations in recommending this to other Mac users.

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