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It's a pity that most film score fans have never heard of and won't buy this intesely moving score, since it's probably one of the best new releases of the year.  Mark McKenzie, not exactly a household name, was hired to craft the music for this Hallmark Hall of Fame Irish epic, so, predictably, he integrates many ethnic instruments like pan pipes, penny whistles, and the like.  Much of the score is made up of several themes, all of which are introduced in the spectacular 7 minute "Durango".  Of course this epic landscape music isn't exactly the most complex thing ever written, but it provides a nice 45 minute diversion.  Fans of James Horner will definitely have a field day with this album, because he could have easily written something exactly like it.  Thankfully, McKenzie's Celtic stylings are much more interesting than Horner's in Titanic.  Performances by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra (Silva's favorite group) are exemplary, and their performance of this slower and more flowing material isn't plagued by any of their typical performance flaws.  Since this is an Intrada release, packaging and liner notes are above average, complete with an essay on the score and movie by the composer.  Overall, this is one of the better scores released this year, and I highly recommend picking up a copy, especially if your collection has too many action scores.  I guess the main downside of the album is that, while all quite nice, the thousands of permutations on the themes will begin to get wearing after about 5 tracks.

Track by Track Analysis
1. Durango Suite (6:57)
McKenzie begins this score with a suite of all the major themes.  Reminiscent of some of Randy Edelman's work, all of them contain abundant uses of soaring strings, and a few of the later motives use Uillean pipes and a penny whistle.  The first theme, while a little TOO simple, acts as intensely moving landscape music.  Next comes a richly evocative theme written in the style of an Irish hymn, in 6/8 time, with refrains on pipes and whistle.  The suite now turns to a scherzo-like theme in the flutes for a short while, before returning to the main theme.  A more somber motif surfaces in pan pipes, which sounds like any of the other ones, and also gets put through the rich string treatment.  Various other statements of all these themes put an end to McKenzie's suite.

2. Main Titles (4:43)
The mood changes entirely for these main titles, in which the scherzo-like theme gets played in a Celtic instrument ensemble, which later melds into a full, soaring statement of the 6/8 main theme.  Later comes a permutation of this theme on pan and Uillean pipes, none of which has been heard in the suite.  The mood changes once again into a faster, more comedic variation of the same theme, with a pulsing string ostinato.  Although most of this cue is based on that hymn-like theme, a short snippet of McKenzie's first theme from the suite (the love theme) appears near the end.

3. Farewell Speech (1:24)
A new theme is introduced in this cue, which sounds virtually identical to all the other ones on here, but still quite nice.  Like the other themes, this one gets played by Celtic instruments eventually.

4. She's a Beauty (:54)
The first real instance of McKenzie's first theme from the suite appears here, with the same flowing pizzicatto ostinato in the background.

5. Elope? (1:35)
By this time, most of the cues are beginning to sound alike, this one based on yet another soaring string theme.  Later comes a vague rendition of the love theme on plucked strings.

6. The Journey Begins (5:57)
One of the highlights of the score is this lengthy suite, which contains a few of the themes we've heard so far, worked into a lush, fun composition.  I won't go through and describe every musical nuance here, since the listener has heard most of the themes so far.  Near the end we get our first hint of foreboding music with an ominous gesture for strings, backed by the Celtic bodhran drum.

7. God Save the Republic (1:17)
One of the more lighthearted sections of the album, this isn't really based on any thematic material, but rather a jaunty Irish dance in the strings, with various solos over it.

8. Making Progress (2:08)
The 6/8 theme gets melded into a real jig with the bodhran drums, with an evocative Uillean pipe solo over it, forming one of the better moments present.  More of theme #1 comprises the rest of the cue.  After a short foreboding section, the jig is back in full force, with brass accompaniment.

9. Haunted Hill (2:01)
Despite its foreboding title, this contains little ominous music, instead another 6/8 dance-like section based on one of the secondary themes, complete with bodhran drums.  However, the mood does become more ghostly in the second half, with a real innovation for this score: minor chords!

10. Dog Attack (1:56)
Although it starts with another dance, this becomes a bonified action cue, with a desperate string ostinato and brass riffs.  Unfortunately, that doesn't last long, opting instead to go to another lush string theme.

11. Mark and Annie's Love Theme (2:07)
It's now revealed to the listener that McKenzie's first theme from the suite was actually the love theme, and this cue puts it through a number of interesting permutations, including the usual lush string/Celtic instrument presentation that opened the CD.

12. Fight for Privelege (2:59)
McKenzie takes one of his trademark Irish jig themes and plays it into another one of the 6/8 dances that are so numerous throughout the album.  This one, however, is more exciting than any of the others on the score, introducing another previously unheard aspect of the score: brass fanfares!

13. Good Day to You (2:19)
The composer mixes several of his styles here, including a more militaristic section of Celtic instruments.  The cue's title seems to be misleading - this happens to be one of the more ominous tracks of the score.

14. Mission Accomplished (2:27)
Befitting its title, McKenzie inserts a gleefully triumphant version of the main theme, which later returns to its moving 6/8 form instead the 4/4 version used in most of the rest of the music.

15. Fire! (2:33)
Another of the composer's few action cues, this is backed by the bodhran drums, and has the typically lush strings over a foreboding trombone section.  In the later section, a minor key version of the main theme pops up, which is one of its more creative uses here.

16. We're Getting Married (1:30)
Although its first section isn't very remarkable, McKenzie provides a pretty good finale for the score, consisting of a final, soaring statement of the love theme, and ending on a somewhat rushed 6/8 triplet cadence.
 

In summation, this is probably one of the better new scores of the year, and although the continual bombardment of lush string sections will most likely bore you eventually, this is a perfectly serviceable score that you will definitely return to often, if only for the first track.



 
Durango: The Final Score
Music Rating 8/10
Packaging/Liner Notes 7/10
Orchestral Performance 9/10
Sound Quality 8/10
Length 8/10


Durango is Copyright 1999 by Intrada. Review Copyright 1999 by Andrew Drannon.  All Rights Reserved.