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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Soundtrack (Harry Gregson-Williams) - CD cover
Composer: Harry Gregson-Williams
Released: 2008 (Film release: 2008)
Label: Walt Disney Records (050087108502)
Disney Japan (4988064126590)
Disney EU (5099922646101)
Type: Movie
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Format: CD, Download
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The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Soundtrack (Harry Gregson-Williams) - CD cover The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Soundtrack (Harry Gregson-Williams) - CD Back cover

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1. Prince Caspian Flees (4:33)
2. The Kings and Queens of Old (3:26)
3. Journey to the How (4:39)
4. Arrival at Aslan's How (2:53)
5. Raid on the Castle (7:00)
6. Miraz Crowned (4:42)
7. Sorcery and Sudden Vengeance (6:15)
8. The Duel (5:51)
9. The Armies Assemble (2:17)
10. Battle at Aslan's How (5:14)
11. Return of the Lion (4:10)
12. The Door in the Air (7:50)
13. The Call, Regina Spektor (3:07)
14. A Dance 'Round the Memory Tree, Oren Lavie (3:38)
15. This Is Home, Switchfoot (3:58)
16. Lucy, Hanne Hukkelberg (4:31)

Total duration: 74 minutes
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Review of Oscar Flores, submitted at , score: 8/10
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian has definitely been well received by critics and fans alike. Even though the first installment, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, performed fairly well when it premiered, it lacked many of the directional elements that had made Andrew Adamson such a renowned animation director. Obviously, he had to adapt to a different cinematic milieu but, even so, some critics and fans were still disappointed. Harry Gregson-Williams composed a solid score for that movie, but, unfortunately, it lacked thematic presence and continuity. This time, his focus centered on clear and majestic themes and overall action-packed orchestrations, which proved to be the right move. Aside from the fact that this release does not include the complete score, the music we get to hear is very impressive. Sadly, Gregson-Williams is not expected to be the composer for the next installment of the Narnia series. Nonetheless, he leaves us with a great film score.

Although not the most outstanding introductory piece ever written by Gregson-Williams, “Prince Caspian Flees” is an entertaining piece filled with the usual string ostinatos one would expect from this composer. We do hear indications of an impressive overall theme — later becoming more dominant in the score — that at times reminds us of James Newton Howard’s score for Vertical Limit. Moreover, some of the harmonies and orchestrations used by Gregson-Williams are reminiscent of the ones he used for Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas .
The dominant presence of the woodwind section in “The Kings and Queens of Narnia” is evident, starting with the English horn and oboe lines, which give away to a beautiful theme played by the entire orchestra. Though, as we here this theme played by the strings, there is a constant run down pattern played by the piccolo, which, in turn, seems a little bit obtrusive.

“Journey to the How” begins as a more atmospheric piece relying heavily on harps and phrases played by woodwinds with accompanying string lines that lack orchestral development. In the second part of this piece, we hear some ostinato patterns very similar to the ones John Powell used in The Bourne Identity. More importantly, many of the muted trumpets and harmonies played by the brass are comparable to the ones Michael Giacchino used in the Medal of Honor series.

“Arrival at Aslan’s How” has the usual chord progressions associated with Gregson-Williams. These progressions — which rely heavily on suspended chords — were used extensively in Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, so any listener will quickly discover the parallelisms. Overall, they work great both on screen and off screen, but there is very little original material within them.

“Raid on the Castle” could arguably be categorized as a ‘Powellesque’ piece. After all, it is impossible not to notice how similar the electronic rhythms and the staccato lines played by the strings are to Powell’s Bourne Identity score. Surprisingly, this piece evolves nicely and has enough energy to satisfy any listener during seven minutes; but, unfortunately, it just seems as a mixture of Media Ventures’ sounds and styles. Aside from Powell’s influence, we hear some sounds more characteristic of Hans Zimmer, Trevor Rabin, and even Mark Mancina. It is hard to pinpoint with accuracy every musical influence Gregson-Williams acquired while working under Zimmer’s supervision, but the similarities are there and people will quickly identify them.

“Sorcery and Sudden Vengeance” is made up of about 95% atmospheric material, mostly relying on dark overtones and harmonies. Luckily, towards the end, we do hear the usual musical phrases containing choirs and rhythms that are characteristic of modern movie trailers’ music. While, overall, this is a somewhat less energetic piece, the orchestrations are never weak or thin.

In “The Duel,” Gregson-Williams attempts to introduce an 8-note motif with the brass section; however, the motif is only used a couple of times and never expands significantly to be considered a major theme. Without a doubt, “The Duel” is one of the weakest pieces in the score. For the most part, the drums and a few instruments occupy most of the acoustic space; alas, only a few parts have interesting musical phrases. Nonetheless, none of these are important enough to alter the overall character of this track. “The Armies Ensemble”, on the other hand, maintains sufficient intensity throughout its short duration that most listeners will definitely enjoy. Unfortunately, there is no real originality in terms of the orchestrations or build-ups — the music is very predictable.

“Battle at Aslan’s How” again showcases some of the Media Ventures’ style parallelisms mentioned before. Still, this track is one of the best in this score. We get to hear most of the themes Harry Gregson-Williams composed for this movie, which are powerful and very exciting but not particularly memorable. More noticeably in this track, however, are the string lines which mimic some of the ones Stu Phillips composed for his TV scores. Although used sparingly by Gregson-Williams, they do remind you of the latter composer. Ultimately, “Return of the Lion” and “The Door in the Air” can be categorized as the most thematically driven tracks of this album. In these tracks, the themes become more apparent and recognizable. It goes without saying that these last tracks have the most emotion and sentimentality attached to them.

The last four tracks on this album are all songs by different artists. Not surprisingly, these songs are nothing more than money-making marketing gimmicks. Having said that, “The Call” is a nice song that has the beautiful and interesting voice of Regina Spektor. The music is very simple, but the song is equally pleasing. It is hard to see this song as appropriate for the film, but on this album the song is a nice addition. “A Dance ‘Round the Memory Tree”, however, is nowhere near as enjoyable as “The Call,” nor is it a good song for the album. Of course, “This is Home,” by Switchfoot, is a well-constructed song; but again, its place on the album is purely commercially motivated. Finally, “Lucy” is the last song and last track of the soundtrack. This song is extremely boring, dry, and monotonous. It is a shame that this CD had to end with this track.

On the whole, the score by Gregson-Williams is a solid musical effort. Neither the overall score nor the themes within it are exceptional or brilliant, but the consistency throughout the CD is excellent — making it a very enjoyable listening experience. Even though at times we identify Zimmer’s and Powell’s influence on this score, the overall tones, harmonies, and orchestrations are all very particular of Gregson-Williams. The songs at the end of the CD do harm the general listening experience but, fortunately, one can listen to tracks 1 through 12 with no disruptions by any type of song. Harry Gregson-Williams is sure to please those fans that were disappointed with the score for The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Expect a handful of interesting motifs and themes, action-packed orchestrations, and overall solid musical compositions.

Read other recent reviews by Oscar Flores: These Amazing Shadows, Paul, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole

Review of Tom Daish, submitted at , score: 6/10
It's surprisingly prescient that the second Chronicle of Narnia is released the same month as John Williams' long awaited fourth Indiana Jones score and relate back to comments I made in my review of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. In it, I noted how fortunate it was that certain composers - Williams, in particular of course - had made their mark on some of cinema's most venerated film serials. With that in mind, it's perhaps not terribly surprising to note that I still honestly remember more or less nothing about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, indeed I recall Geoffrey Burgon's music for the BBC TV version far more clearly, but listening to Prince Caspian, I rather imagine it's fairly similar. I should check, but frankly I don't expect to be too surprised doing so. However, I am quietly confident that Prince Caspian is rather darker in tone, but Gregson-Williams, like most ex-Media Ventures composers, can't quite translate dark, minor chords and loud choir into genuine musical drama. The Zimmer factor is very much in evidence. It all sounds like it's of the utmost importance, but somehow, it's hard to care.

Whereas the first installment ended on an action blowout, Prince Caspian has a considerably larger proportion of action music; Raid on the How (the what? No, the how. What? Never mind), The Duel (which drones on in the background rather than giving any sense of lively swordplay), The Armies Assemble and Battle Aslan's How (what? No, we've done that one. Why? Shut up). The latter two are full of typical durm and strang, but Gregson-Williams' aimless melodic content carried on low brass, seemingly endless MV style percussion, bouncing and/or racing strings, don't really move the music anywhere fast. Yes, it all sounds perfectly impressive enough and with a huge choir chanting its way through the background, it's nothing if not conceived on a grand scale. Yet, the minute it stops playing, it disappears from the mind. I was whistling The Adventures of Mutt after the first listen (and that's far from Williams' most original or memorable melody) but Prince Caspian is low on anything resembling memorable thematic material and is distinctly drama-lite. All of the epic flavour with none of the nutritional content.

Lighter moments are in short supply, indeed everything seems to have been taken just a bit too seriously. Cues that promise hope and spectacle, such as Return of the Lion, ring largely hollow, ultimately giving way to more routine action music. The Door in the Air is a nice finale although seems to just drift off at the end. The songs are actually quite pleasing bunch that are of a slightly more low key and folksy persuasion. Indeed, Hanne Hukkelberg's enchanting Lucy sounds like a lost Sigur Ros b-side (which is no bad thing). While it's perhaps unfair to make such a point in this review, scores like Prince Caspian are half the reason Soundtrack Express isn't what it once was. There's nothing terribly wrong with Gregson-Williams' writing, but one can't help but chuckle when director Andrew Adamson describes the themes from the first chapter as 'beloved' - I doubt even a film music fan could pick them out of a lineup, let alone a casual cinema goer. When film music is this bland and uninspiring (especially given what should be such ripe subject matter and makes me feel like rather a shit for being a bit harsh on of Shore's Lord of the Rings scores in my summary of the complete editions) then it's hard to care either way. I'm sure Gregson-Williams will keep visiting Narnia, but I doubt - unlike in the case of the Raider's March, as a timely example - anyone will be whistling his Narnia themes round the office in 28 years.

Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Andromeda

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