December 8, 2007

CD Review: Music from the Motion Picture - August Rush

August Rush arrived in theaters just in time to provide the Thanksgiving holiday with a little sentimentality. Fortunately, the film overcame its dripping sentiment to deliver a truly touching tale of familial discovery and genuine emotion. The driving force for the film's family ties is music; rock, classical, and other styles meet head on in a melding of genres that help take the film to the next level. The film is more than meets the eye, showing how something outside of us can have an impact on our lives. In this case, watch how music can prove to be the unifying force to drive us forward. This soundtrack takes the featured songs and succesfully parts them from the film, providing an experience that is satisfying, although not quite as filling as the movie proper.

August Rush is not a musical in the strictest of definitions, although it has a bit of that feeling. The musical feeling of the film becomes even more apparent when listening to the soundtrack. When I think of a musical, films like Chicago and Singing in the Rain come to mind, films where the story has a good portion told through the characters singing. There are also films that I have seen described as musicals but aren't true musicals despite the inclusion of a lot of music. This type of film includes such recent entries as Ray and Walk the Line, neither of which is a musical. Period.

Then there is something like August Rush. It's story is not told through song, nor is it a bio-pic about some musical star, August Rush falls somewhere in between the two extremes. While the story is not told through song, it is not there to demonstrate the musician's pure skill (well, maybe a little bit). The music in this movie is the driving force and is what ties this separated family together. The music is the glue holding everything together. Without it, the story would be flat, lifeless, and the movie could not exist. This being the case, the music plays a very important part in the success of the film. It is more than just a score to help cue your emotions.

The album opens with the soft sounds of a piece composed by Mark Mancina. It is complete with the narration by actor Freddie Highmore as he speaks of the importance of the music he hears all around him. It is an opening that is simultaneously sorrowful and hopeful, the perfect way to start the album.

The next two songs chronicle the introductions of Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers characters. First is "Bach/Break" which begins with some cello before breaking into the rock song performed by Meyers. The film cut between these two simultaneous moments, but the soundtrack version begins with Back but once it makes the transition to "Break" it does not go back, playing the rock song uninterrupted. The third track is directly from the film, Meyers singing Van Morrison's "Moondance" to Russell, while the Robin Williams character plays into the night on the street below.

The rest of the album is filled with great songs; however, there are a pair at the center which anchor all of the creative energy that the film possesses. Kaki King contributes a pair of acoustic instrumentals, doubling for Freddie Highmore. The two tracks are "Bari Improv" and "Ritual Dance." Both of these tracks are jaw dropping in their beauty and the uniqueness of their sound. I had never heard of King before, but now feel that I must seek out more of her work.

The other centerpiece track is "August Rhapsody." It is a beautiful symphonic piece which builds to the films climax, and plays to the musical genius of the main character. The album presents the Mark Mancina composed piece uninterrupted and in all of its magical glory.

Other highlights include "Dueling Guitars," a song that is the meeting between father and son when neither knows their true relationship. "Raise it Up" is a choir piece which speaks to young August on a special level, and features a strong performance from Jamia Simone Nash and the Impact Repertory Theatre.

Coming in later on the album, but well worth listening through to are "Someday" by John Legend and "King of the Earth" by Five for Fighting's John Ondrasik. Neither of which I remember from the film, yet fit in nicely and are strong performances.

Unfortunately, this is not a perfect collection. There are a pair of tracks that feel like filler and are not particularly impressive. First up is the sleep inducing version of "God Bless the Child" by Chris Botti and Paula Cole. The other is Leon Thomas III's performance of "La Bamba," a cover that I just did not care for at all. I guess you can't win them all.

Bottomline. By far, this is a fantastic collection of music from a magical fairytale of a film. There are some great performances, particularly by Kaki King and, surprisingly, Jonathan Rhys Meyers who handles himself well behind the microphone. This is highly recommended to those who fell in love with the movie.

Highly Recommended.


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