Talk about hyped score. The way people raved about John Powell and Harry Gregson-Williams' score for the entertaining, computer animated film Shrek made it seem like this is the score of all scores. The fact that Dreamworks didn't plan to release the score on CD, instead deciding to market the film with the help of a song dominated soundtrack, made the score even better. You see, it's more interesting to long for a score you can't have, than for a score you easily can pick up in your music store. Or so it seems anyway. Luckily, Varése Sarabande came to the rescue, releasing a score only CD quite some time after the films premiere. Film music fans were drooling all over the place, of course. I, however, honestly don't understand what the fuss is all about. In fact, compared to the previous scores, Antz and Chicken Run (two scores I really enjoy), by the composer duo, Shrek is rather weak. At least on CD. Because in the film, Powell and Gregson-Williams' music works really well. Heck, in some scenes it even kicks serious butt. But that's the score as heard in the film. On CD, we get a score that revolves around some excellent material and ideas, but is far too schizophrene and presented in cues that basically are too short to be really good. There's nothing wrong with the actual music, but the way it's presented on the soundtrack CD makes the listening experience somewhat annoying.
But the themes... oh, they're good. The theme for Princess Fiona is probably what most people remember from the score. It opens the film, performed on flute, and is heard throughout the entire score, performed mostly by strings, woodwinds or choir. This theme was originally supposed to be Shrek's theme, but the directors found it too sweet and fairy tale sounding, so the composers' repackaged it as Fiona's theme instead. There's also a couple of beautiful themes for the more reflective and quiet moments in the film. Performed by guitar and cello, these can be heard in "Eating Alone", "Friends Journey to Duloc" and a couple of other cues as well. The more heroic antics of Shrek, Donkey and Fiona are often underscored by a brassy, fanfare sounding little ditty, that really is allowed to shine, performed by full orchestra and choir, in cues such as "Ride the Dragon" and "Escape from the Dragon", the latter, packed with electronics, being very reminiscent of David Arnold's music for the Bond films. Great stuff. There's also the dark and over the top march for Lord Farquuad, dominated by chanting choir and organ. So, when it comes to themes, the score is indeed very well equipped. But the short cues make it hard for the two composers to really develop the themes and other ideas. Annoying. You won't find cues such as the excellent "Building the Crate" from Chicken Run in Shrek. Mostly because the nature of the film doesn't allow it.
The CD also includes two songs from the film. There's "Welcome to Duloc" and "Merry Men", both really silly and quite entertaining, although quite distracting, actually, since they both interrupt the flow of the score.