1. Never an absolution (3:03)
2. Distant Memories (2:24)
3. Southampton (4:02)
4. Rose (2:52)
5. Leaving Port (3:26)
6. Take her to the Sea MR. Murdoch (4:31)
7. Hard to starboard (6:52)
8. Unable to stay, unwilling to leave (3:57)
9. The Sinking (5:05)
10. Death of Titanic (8:26)
11. A promise kept (6:03)
12. A live so changed (2:13)
13. An Ocean of memories (7:58)
14. My heart will go on, Celine Dion (4:00)
15. Hymn to the Sea (6:26)
Titanic. By God, how do I begin? No film score has ever had this much of an impact on the mainstream. Neither the massive John Williams classics like A New Hope or Raiders of the Lost Ark, nor the Hans Zimmer smash hits like Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl or The Dark Knight have even come close to selling as many units as Titanic has. And yes, the two major reasons for this are James Cameron's uber-popular film (grossing nearly two billion dollars, a feat repeated only recently by the all-pervading Avatar ) and Cèline Dion's uber-popular, Oscar-winning song, 'My Heart Will Go On'. But it was composer James Horner who collected the statuettes and bucks for this album, and many bucks they were. Enough to give Horner financial security for himself (and his children too, most likely). Certainly enough to elevate him to the very highest echelons of the film music world, giving him leave to both to call upon renowned soloists for future scores (such as singer Charlotte Church for A Beautiful Mind or violinist Joshua Bell for Iris) and get away with a LOT of self-referencing bordering on laziness (Bicentennial Man, Deep Impact, Enemy at the Gates, A Beautiful Mind, Troy).
So Horner and Cameron got filthy rich, and millions of weepy-eyed, Leo DiCaprio-loving teenage girls were left to weep over the supposed masterpiece that is Horner's original score to Titanic. The trouble is...this music simply isn't all that good. Neither is it all that original. It is a solid, New Age romance-drama score with more than a hint of action thrown in for good measure. But Oscar material? The film floated (haha) the score's win, for sure.
The score starts off with 'Never an Absolution', and it starts out awfully. I mean, no offense meant towards Ireland, but Horner's beloved Uillean pipe has to be one of the most irritating instruments out there. It's nasal, it's penetrating and here, it's mixed so close to the forefront that I had to turn the volume down. Thankfully, the thing stops its caterwauling after a minute or so, moving into more tranquil, melancholic music led by the doubly soothing tones of Norwegian vocalist Sissel Kyrkjebø and a horn, accompanied by deep, resounding plucked tones. It's pleasant, harmonic stuff that should make Horner fans happy, but I can't help checking the front of the CD case to check and see whether I had accidentally bought Braveheart 2 rather than Titanic.
So - themes! I've got to admit, Horner has composed quite a few here, and he uses them in intelligent ways. While I was wincing and covering my ears, the Uillean pipe in 'Never an Absolution' was actually performing part of one of the film's two major identities, the theme for the doomed ship itself. The far more pleasant Sissel material, of course, was rendering the all-pervading love theme, and I have to admit that in itself this is one of the best themes Horner's ever composed. If it was given the same lush, romantic, John Barry-esque treatment that his material for Legends of the Fall received, it would stand as one of my absolute favorite Horner themes. But Cameron specifically didn't want a lush, romantic period score. He wanted a New Age effort that he felt would more effectively touch his target audience of hopelessly sappy teenage girls. Horner gave him just that, and the results were spectacularly successful. But I just don't like it one bit. Though I do have to admire the very subtle, difficult-to-notice doubling of the chorus of 'My Heart Will Go On' over the top of the main melody by some sort of distant echoing synth choir (more on that later...)
The second cue introduces a tingling, partially synthetic motif that represents the elder incarnation of the Rose (Kate Winslet) character. It's a pleasant, rambling idea that was extended in Horner's The New World eight years later. But otherwise it's a bit of a throwaway track. A bump on the road on the way to...
'Southampton'. Really, Horner? The highest grossing film of ALL TIME (until Avatar, and that only grossed more because of the extra bucks people were shelling for the 3D gimmick), and you couldn't afford a REAL CHOIR??? Seriously! My dated Yamaha keyboard from the early 90s produces more convincing 'Choir Aahs' than Horner's chorus in this awful, sickly-sweet third track! Not to mention the fact that Horner rips off his own electronic pulsing effect from Apollo 13, AND pretty much directly lifts Enya's Book of Days to boot for the first part of the aforementioned ship's theme. This track represents everything, no EVERYTHING that is wrong about James Horner. Irritating orchestrations and plagiarism issues. Skip this annoying bump in the road...
...and go to 'Rose'. This is one of those tracks that will have the teenagers weeping. It's basically a drum- and Cèline-Dion-less version of 'My Heart Will Go On', a souped-up piece of New Age schmaltz that shamelessly tugs at every single heartstring Horner manages to grasp. He doesn't exactly manage to grasp mine - that bleep! synth choir and electronics are still there, albeit thankfully toned down a bit to let the much more graceful tones of Sissel and an admittedly beautiful flute solo take the forefront to perform the, yes, admittedly beautiful love theme.
...OH, YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME, JAMES!!! I...look, if you, like me, hated 'Southampton', don't even bother listening to 'Leaving Port' or 'Take Her to Sea, Mr. Murdoch'. Both are practically IDENTICAL in construct and, unfortunately, orchestration. Synths and fake choirs. There's even some attempt to fake low, male choral chanting in 'Leaving Port.' Was Horner going for a The Lion King effect? If so, he failed on an epic scale. It just doesn't work. Skip this pale Enya imitation...
...and dive (more bad sinking jokes) into to the score's second act. 'Hard to Starboard', despite an inauspicious beginning that sounds just like 'Rose', soon moves into action territory after a minute or so, with a tapping piano-wire noise that, though Horner has used it before, works well to create a nervous atmosphere. There's a lesser motif consisting of two brass chords - representing danger and death - that works equally well, despite it coming from Braveheart (AARGH, Horner...). Action music has never been one of Horner's strong fields in my opinion, but this material is actually decently exciting, if a bit unstructured. It's closest cousing would be the Apollo 13 action. But wouldn't it be nice, just once, for me to write a paragraph about Horner's music that didn't end in me pointing out a bit of music that references an earlier work? In this case, there's a suspenseful, timpani-pounding bass motif straight out of Jerry Goldsmith's Capricorn One at about 3:05. Oh, while we're at it, there's a little repeating trumpet call towards the end of this cue that originates from Horner's own Jumanji.
I mean...COME ON, FOLKS!!! This isn't even one of Horner's more blatant scores, and STILL there's just so much self- and other-people-referencing to point out.
Let's go on to 'Unable to Stay, Unwilling to Leave', which might just be my favorite cue, though considering how much I dislike this score that's a case of damning with faint praise. It provides the most dramatic statement of the love theme at 1:38, complete with echoing Chariots of Fire-type synth percussion. The little segment of action music that follows is also a pleasant surprise, being much less random and flailing than Horner's usual fare.
The next pair of action cues ('The Sinking' and 'Death of Titanic') deal with the disastrous sinking of the ship. Having, of course, seen the movie (who hasn't?), I can't honestly remember a huge amount of music beneath these scenes, but on the album Horner provides over thirteen minutes of orchestral mayhem into which he rather intelligently integrates the synth choir, battling with the orchestra in duelling segments. Sometimes, the love theme makes an appearance, but is usually cleverly twisted into dissonance by Horner to foreshadow the tragic end this romance is fated to have. Unfortunately, a theme sounding SUSPICIOUSLY like John Williams' Schindler's List enters at 6:15 into 'Death of Titanic' (a theme Horner had already ripped off for Apollo 13 and would again for Enemy at the Gates) By the end of the 'Death of Titanic' cue, though, the synth choir has evolved into a brilliant musical representation of the thousand-plus victims of the Titanic sinking - a multitude of voices crying out in fear and pain, twisted together with the music to provide one last massive, dissonant crescendo before the ship sinks...
...into the murk of the album's final act. The cue 'A Promise Kept' is a numbingly downbeat, funereal cue that might just drive you over the edge if you're hedging suicidal thoughts...It's depressing to the max, with aching little hints of Sissel's voice and the love theme never breaking free of the weighty sadness - the closest it comes is 3:40. And it's, well, beautiful. At the end, there's a little swelling-up of strings as Rose is rescued from the icy sea (leaving poor Leo DiCaprio to his blue and watery death...sniff).
'A Life So Changed' is basically a recap of 'Never an Absolution', minus the Uillean pipe (thank God!). After the powerfully sad previous cue, hearing the gentle love theme in full is a real treat. 'An Ocean of Memories' is a lovely extended version of the CD's second track ('Distant Memories') and therefore renders the first one a bit useless. It rambles a little, but that's one of the more pleasant features of Horner's music - it's more of a stream of consciousness than a structured, 'limited' piece of music, and features some nice solos for trumpet among others.
And then, after the treacly Cèline Dion ballad (with truly despicable, saccharine lyrics by Horner's usual collaborator Will Jennings), we get 'Hymn to the Sea', a bit of an unnecessary piece that does little but recapitulate material from 'A Life So Changed' and 'Distant Memories' (with the Uillean pipe...).
So, let's sum up. I'd like to first of all state that I'm not just giving this score such a curmudgeonly rating because I'm trying to be 'different' from the rest of the world. James Horner and James Cameron probably knew when they made the decisions about this score that it would be polarizing. They took a huge gamble by not creating a sweeping, romantic score, and instead choosing an atypical New Age approach that, by rights, shouldn't work in a movie set a century ago. But this score works absolute wonders in the film - even I have to admit it. The score takes otherwise merely solid acting from DiCaprio and Winslet and transforms their onscreen romance into a powerhouse of emotion.
Unfortunately, this score simply doesn't work well on album - not in its first act, anyway, which is where the most treacly synth-choral New Age music is presented. The action music is entertaining by Horner's rather low standards, and there are plenty of absolutely beautiful standalone moments, especially in the score's third act, mostly courtesy of Horner's great love theme and Sissel's beautiful vocals. But this material isn't any better than what Horner's already given us - with orchestrations that are actually bearable - in Glory, Legends of the Fall or Braveheart, and here (unlike in those scores, with the possible exception of the bad action cues in Braveheart ) there are plenty of awful cues to sift through in order to reach the good stuff. The only bits you really need, in my most humbly cynical opinion, are the six cues between 'Hard to Starboard' and 'A Life So Changed'. Of course, if you are one of those billion or so fangirls in love with the film, or DiCaprio, you'll want every last manipulative tear-jerking minute of it.
All in all, this score is HIGHLY overrated. If you buy it with high expectations (as I did - it was my first Horner score and soured me towards the man for a long, long time), you may be disappointed. And let's face it, enough people have bought this commercial juggernaut anyway without you contributing your two cents as well.
Yeah, excellent, it has finally been released. I have been waiting for this score, well, since forever I think. Was it worth the wait? Well, yeah, it probably was really. It is not quite what I was expecting, at least in places. The leaving port music isn't the majestic music I had imagined, but the alternative that Horner has composed is certainly very good, although rather reminiscent of one Irish, female artist. The Celtic flavour is introduced right at the start with a solo pipes rendition of one of the main themes which then moves into an orchestral rendering. Starting with Southampton, the choral/Enya type thing is started as everyone boards the boat. The theme is driving and upbeat, although I would have expected some hint of something bad being going to happen, although in Rose, the love theme is introduced and it too has the Celtic lilt to it with a kind of romantic sadness and wistfulness that is absolutely perfect. I felt the key change during the love theme is very inventive and it seems to be doing something different to what it actually is, but without actually sounding wrong. Leaving Port starts with what sounds like an ethnic, metallic sounding, guitar-type instruments being plucked very rhythmically that sounds kind of like Morse Code, if that is what it is meant to be, what a clever idea! The choral, ship theme crops up again with delicate synths and the occasional orchestral moments, although these tend to recall Legends of the Fall to some extent, but the feeling is just right and balances the very upbeat choral theme superbly. I would have liked the choral theme to be re-orchestrated sometimes as the synth/choral thing is perhaps excessive, although Horner manages to put it through just about enough different styles to keep it fresh.
The second third of the album is mostly exciting, loud and well composed action music. Many have commented that it is like Courage Under Fire, but since I've not heard that, to my mind most of the music is quite new to the Horner canon, which, although a few trademark ideas crop up. The crashing pianos from Apollo 13, among others, makes a welcome appearance a few times. I always thought that was a fantastic invention, it is so wild sounding, but always controlled within the music itself. The rumbling, growling piano figure also appears several times, yet another idea I like. Much of the action is more Goldsmith-inspired than anything else, but it never actually sounds like something Goldsmith has written. One small calm moment occurs in Unable to Stay, Unwilling to Leave where the love theme appears in a quite beautiful version as the two lovers must abandon their sinking vessel. Of course, it doesn't stay quiet for long and the pulsing action music with dissonant brass chords as well as the twanging Morse-code motif. Another impressive moment of this track is when a huge glissando moves up through the entire orchestra, as though something huge (the sea I guess) swallows up the ship, this produces an incredible effect. The track ends with an almost Michael Nyman like piano figure which is unbelievably haunting and it's a shame that it doesn't appear again. The rest of the action music is more of a continuation and perhaps begins to outstay its welcome, although it never becomes unbearably untuneful and the Legends of the Fall style theme crops up several times along with the love theme to add some humanity to the disaster that is going on.
The final third after the Death of Titanic is more downbeat and sombre and forms an extended elegy to the lives lost. After the happiness of the first section, the horror of the second section, this part almost seems anticlimactic, which I suppose is what it is supposed to be. The song version of the love theme is excellent indeed and well sung by Dion in a rather restrained performance and containing a lovely backing by the orchestra and pipes. It would be nice for Horner to write some more songs as his good ones are superb and this is certainly one of his best. The Hymn to the Sea is a continuation of the same kind of music as heard before the song and forms a sombre climax to an epic score.
I wouldn't say this the best Horner score ever, but it is probably the only long Horner score which maintains the interest all the way through, the others such as Willow and Legends of the Fall all have their slower moments. Although this does have its slower moments, I never get tired of hearing it. Another score to recommend.
This has to be one of the most eagerly awaited scores in a very long time. Many have hopes that Titanic will be Horner's return to his "former" greatness. In the last years it seams like he's had problems coming up with something unique and new. He has often been blamed for stealing, and reusing, stuff from his earlier works. Titanic has certainly been worth the wait, because James Horner's music for James Cameron's Titanic is fantastic. Horner has really succeded in capturing the sad and tragic in the story about Jack and Rose and the ships grandeur, and this is done without big orchestral "Hollywood music", you know, big orchestra, lush, sweeping strings, and brass. Instead Horner uses a lot of synths, combined with the instruments of the traditional orchestra. And believe it or not, but it sounds really terrific. In addition to this Horner uses the voice of Sissel Kjyrkjeboe, a Norwegian singer, as an instrument, to create a very haunting and beautiful sound.
The soundtrack opens with the uilleann pipes, letting us no that "Hey, Horner is back!", whereupon one of the themes is performed by Sissel and french horn in unison. This is the first theme we hear in the movie, and it puts us in the right mood. Track number three is full of synths. Many people think that "Southampton" is very reminiscent of Enya, especially her song "Book of Days". (Cameron listened to Enya when he wrote the script, and he wanted Enya to sing on the soundtrack, but she wouldn't and instead Sissel was hired.) This really is a magnificent piece of music. When listening to this track one really feels how big, new and luxurious the ship is, and the peoples expectations and wonder.
Track #4 is one of the most beautiful themes I have ever heard, escpecially when it's performed by Sissel. Horner used the same theme when he wrote "My Heart Will Go On". This track is played in the movie when Jack and Rose are standing in the bow of the ship. Listen to the harp in the background (when we in the film flies over the ship). Wonderful music! "Take Her to Sea, Mr Murdoch" is a great track. It's played in the film when the Captain orders full speed ahead, after leaving the port. This is filmmusic as its best. One can really hear the propellers spinning faster and faster. Track number 7 opens very quietly and romantic, when Jack and Rose is standing on deck in the middle of the night, but then the iceberg shows up, and all their dreams and hopes are shattered. This is actionmusik that rocks! Very powerful chords and different themes pops up. Especially in track 10 I think one really can feel the fear and horror when the ship goes down. These tracks should be played loud, to have the right effect.
Number 8 is one of the sadest songs on the whole album. The title, "Unable to Stay, Unwilling to Leave", says it all, I think. It's played when Rose takes place in the lifeboat, with Jack standing at rail of the sinking ship. When Cal starts shooting at the couple, the music gets more active. Action again. "A Promise Kept" is played when Jack and Rose are lying in the water, after the ship's gone down, and Rose discovers that Jack is dead. I don't think I have ever heard sadder, more despair music. It's very beautiful. "A Life so Changed" is played when the old Rose is standing at the rail, dropping the necklace into the water.
I really don't know if track #13 was used in the movie. (At first the movie was much, much longer, and when they shortened it, there was much music that got lost. 6:49 and on is the best of the whole soundtrack, if you'ld ask me. It's counterpoint; the strings play one melody and Sissel sings another one.
"My Heart Will Go On" is actually very good. I'm not a big Celine Dion fan, but I think she does a great job with this song. I have the feeling it is going to be a major hit. The last track is very good, with Sissels voice, but then the Uilleann Pipes takes over the entire stage. And, if I should be honest, I am really growing tired of hearing Horner's Uilleann Pipes. This track wasn't used at all in the movie, except the very end, that ended the end credits.
As I have already said, Titanic is a wonderful score. James Horner is well worth the two Golden Globes and his Oscars. Horner is back!