1. The Plaza of Execution (8:28)
2. Elena and Esperanza (8:20)
3. The Ride (3:25)
4. Elena's Truth (4:11)
5. The Fencing lesson (5:29)
6. Tornado in the Barracks (5:12)
7. The Confession (3:43)
8. Zorro's Theme (3:01)
9. The Mine (Montero's Vision) (3:00)
10. Stealing the Map (6:30)
11. ''Leave No Witnesses...'' (13:21)
12. Diego's Goodbye (5:31)
13. I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You, Marc Anthony and Tina Arena (4:41)
This must be James Horner's first proper action outing in a long while, in fact the last pure action score by Horner I can think of is possibly The Rocketeer and that was about decade ago. After scoring some heavy films, winning an Oscar and facing the usual barrage of complaints about originality, Zorro comes along as an interesting change in direction and almost inspired originality. For example, not only is the action music not especially similar to any of his recent scores, but any similarity is cleverly covered by a great Hispanic theme for our masked hero, slightly reminiscent of Rozsa's El Cid, but we'll let it pass! Also, the introduction of Spanish guitars, flamenco tap dancers and clapping and an array of exotic percussion and the usual shakuhatchis and so the effect is startlingly different, even if it almost always has enough of the usual Horner touches to mark it as definitely one of his scores.
As well as the main Zorro theme, there is also the love theme, turned into a song at the end exactly the same as in Titanic, but if a formula works, why change the luck? Even if this song isn't quite as good as My Heart Will Go On, it works effectively and uses the love theme well in the context of the lyrics. The duet performance is acceptable, but I rather liked Celine Dion's unique voice, something that neither Marc Anthony nor Tina Arena possess. Interludes of romance abound, most notabl in Elena and Esperanza which is a delicate Horner romantic interlude embellished by Spanish guitars in the background as well as the more typical solo horn renditions of the love theme.
Not only is the opening track a great action cue, it's possibly the most enjoyable on the album as it does, admittedly show up more of the inspiration than later on as some of the later cues do rather rely a little too much on more traditional Horner fayre. However, The Ride is an galloping cue that starts as it means to go on, at a hefty pace and doesn't really sound like anything Horner much of the time, indeed the guitar and shot gun style flamenco outbursts are really quite inspired. For once, the shakuhatchi appearences don't drown out the rest of the music, thus there are no sections like the nine minutes during Willow when there is nothing but shakuhatchi which is frankly rather boring. I gather the effect of any shakuhatchi outburst is to signify the sudden appearence and disappearence of Zorro, a pretty nifty device, since the main Zorro theme isn't really constructed in a fashion that would be a good fanfare to delineate his every entry and ex it to the scene. Willow is really the only source of any major copying where Bavmorda's four note motif is used on occasion, most notably at the beginning of Elena's Truth. This is rather disappointing after the gripping orchestral heroics of The Ride. Still, it's only four notes and they are perfeclty suited to underscore the villians doings.
Horner bashers will be surprised and Horner fans will be ecstatic at this release, not only is it long (over 74 minutes), but there are no bad tracks, there is a decent song and it is also often very creative indeed and makes a welcome change of direction after being stuck in his Irish/Celtic style for so long. The orchestral performance is first rate as is the mixing, which on many recent Horner scores seems rather low and thus the slow music becomes really boring becuase you can't hear anything! This is a score to enjoy and be impressed by, then listen to Williams' Saving Private Ryan for an example of subtle and emotive scoring at its finest!
With the score for The Mask of Zorro James Horner revisits the action/adventure genre, a genre he indeed masters (Just listen to scores like Willow and The Rocketeer). This strongly flamenco influenced score is one of the best coming from Horner's pen in the last years. It's without doubt going to be a classic. Horner uses all the traditional flamenco instruments, such as spanish guitar, trumpet, castanets and, which I find very clever, the sound of dancing feet. He also makes use of the Sakauhachi, but it's never overused, just a burst here and there to highten the tension and the drama.
The music is very thematic, and is dominated by Zorro's theme (which can be found as a concert arrangement in the track "Zorro's Theme") and the love theme, also used in the song "I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You", which really is a great, passionate, song, but I doubt it will become as popular as "My Heart Will Go On" (I'm not saying that "My Heart Will Go On" is a better song, but I think it got so popular because of the Titanic hype, plus the fact that it's a great song of course). Unlike the previous Deep Impact Horner really makes use of the different themes, developing and twisting them throughout the entire score. The music is mainly adventurous and lively, but there are also more tender moments, like for example the gorgeous "The Confession", featuring Tony Hinnigan on the Kena flute, and "Diego's Goodbye".
"Is it original then? Are there any reused music?", some of you are probably wondering. Well, I'm happy to say that The Mask of Zorro is very original and fresh sounding. Sure there are some, very small, parts that sound a little familiar (a motif from Willow is used in a couple of tracks for example, and some parts in "The Fencing Lesson" is very reminiscent of Bizet's Carmen suites), but the Horner haters out there are sure going to have difficulties finding already used stuff in there.
The liner notes don't say anything about the orchestra, but I have heard somewhere that the music is performed by members of The London Symphony Orchestra and a Los Angeles Studio Orchestra, plus a dozen soloists.
All in all I have to say that The Mask of Zorro is a superb score and a very enjoyable listen. If you like Horner's other action/adventure scores - what the heck - if you like good music, this score is really worth checking out. Trust me, you are going to love it! Olé!