Gods and Generals

Sony Classical (0696998789128)
Sony Classical (5099708789138)
Movie | Released: 2003 | Film release: 2003 | Format: CD

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# Track Artist/Composer Duration
1.Going HomeMary Fahl4:56
2.Gods And Generals3:42
3.You Must Not Worry For Us2:09
4.Loved I Not Honor More3:13
5.Lexington Is My Home1:23
6.The School Of The Soldier3:58
7.Go To Their Graves Like Beds2:24
8.My Heart Shall Not Fear1:46
9.These Brave Irishmen2:51
10.To The Stone Wall3:41
11.You'll Thank Me In The Morning3:20
12.The First Crop Of Corn3:26
13.My Home Is Virginia4:24
14.No Photographs2:54
15.VMI Will Be Heard From Today2:42
16.Too Much Sugar1:56
17.Let Us Cross Over The River2:48
18.The Soldier's Return2:02
19.'Cross The Green MountainBob Dylan8:12
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Gods and Generals - 08/10 - Review of Andreas Lindahl, submitted at
Gods and Generals is the newly produced prequel to the successful Gettysburg. Both films, directed by the same director, deals with the American Civil War, of course, with Gettysburg focusing on... well, the Gettysburg battle, while Gods and Generals bases its plot on the events leading up to the battle. Randy Edelman wrote the music for Gettysburg - a score heavy with synths that owes much of its popularity to the grand and powerful main theme. Despite the fact that my lousy review of it, here on this site, gives it four shiny stars, Gettysburg is actually not a very good score, something I re-discovered when listening to it for the first time in several years, doing some research for this review. It's rather cheesy, actually.

And John Frizzell has previously mostly written scores for horror films, such as "Ghost Ship", "Thirteen Ghosts", "Alien: Resurrection" and "I Still Know What You Did Last Summer". Not exactly the type of composer one expects to get hired to do a score for a big Civil War film. So, I wasn't expecting much of these gentlemens' joint effort for Gods and Generals. Which probably is one of the reasons I love it as much as I do. It took me completely by surprise. One should point out that this above all is Frizzell's score. Edelman has only contributed a small number of cues. And although they are quite good, Frizzell's parts sort of beat the crap out of Edelman's, similar to how Trevor Jones' material for The Last Mohican ran in circles around Edelman's music for the same film.

The score is mostly very somber and restrained, with noble strings and brass. And occasional guest apperances by a medium sized choir makes the music even more elegiac. And dramatic. Because even though Gods and Generals isn't one of those typical war scores with heroic brass fanfares and pounding percussion it's brimful with dramatic music that will sweep you away. As will the wonderful main theme. Very sad and mournful, this is the scores' center piece. It crops up in a large number of tracks, in various disguises and shapes, but is mostly performed by slow strings, like in the absolutely gorgeous "You Must Not Worry For Us", or by brass, in "To the Stone Wall", where a proud French horn takes charge. Or by full orchestra in many other cues. It will knock your socks off.

Frizzel, and Edelman, also makes use of traditional instruments associated with the time of the events, such as the fiddle (performed by Mark O'Connor), tin whistles and uilleann pipes (the two latter instruments performed by Paddy Moloney). I must admit that this feels somewhat like a tired cliché, although a necessary cliché - what would a film about the Civil War be without some fiddle solos? And the sound of a lonely tin whistle is always something worth a big shiny gold star in my book. "The first Crop of Corn" is a perfect example. Damn, I'm getting all teary eyed listening to it... There's also some excellent piano solos heard in a couple of (Edelman) tracks and as we all know - piano solos equals good music (that's a simple equation to remember: piano solos = good). Nuff said.

Although the choir above all is used as a supporting "instrument", humming in sotto voce, it is allowed to really shine in one track, "VMI Will Be Hear From Today". Think Glory and then think "Charging Fort Wagner". Which is a rather good comparison, I must say, since both Glory and Gods and Generals are two rather somber and restrained scores, with one I'm-gonna-sweep-you-off-your-feat-with-this-choir piece each.

So, that's it really. Gods and General's is one of the best scores of 2003 so far and as close to a five star rating that it's actually a little silly that I am not giving it five. But even though it is a damn fine score, it lacks that one tiny special ingredients that would have turned it into a masterpiece. So four stars it is.

I won't mention the two songs included that much. "Going Home", performed by Mary Fahl, is an OK song, as is Bob Dylan's "Cross the Green Mountain". It's Bob, after all. The soundtrack CD also comes with a "limited edition" bonus DVD, which features music videos (the two songs, of course) and some footage from the film. Nice.
Gods and Generals - 07/10 - Review of Tom Daish, submitted at
I think it would be fair to say that Randy Edelman isn't one of the more subtle of composers, even by the standards of modern film music. However, his best scores are usually tuneful and worth a listen; Gettysburg is certainly one of those. My original review made a considerable point about the pro-active, noble heroism of Edelman's main theme, which really did push too hard and compared to genre classics such as Horner's Glory, Edelman's music seems a little simple minded. For whatever reasons, Edelman was unable to score all of the follow up, Gods and Generals and so John Frizzell was brought on board to co-compose and it's his work that takes up the greater proportion of the album. Given his past assignments, Frizzell doesn't seem an obvious choice, but the results are pleasing and somewhat less simplistic than Edelman's original. The album is bookended by songs and opens with Mary Fahl's husky voice performing Going Home, sort of an Enya on steroids ballad, which fits in nicely with the rest of the score, although is credited to Fahl, Glenn Patscha and Byron Isaacs.
Frizzell's music starts with a grandiose treatment of the main theme for full orchestra and large chorus. It is more complex than Edelman's tune for Gettysburg, but it's still very bombastic and also rather unmemorable. It's one of those big, noble themes that sounds to me like Elgar-lite and not, as might be expected, steeped in American music tradition. Only the occasional folksy fiddle - much like Williams' score to The Patriot - gives a feeling for location and period. The more subdued presentations of the theme are more affecting, but too often there is a distinct bombast; strings and ripe horn chords rise majestically on a frequent basis. The results are stirring, but invariably leave the listener feeling a little beaten about the head. Even the James Horner styled Irish pipes of These Brave Irishmen turns from slightly wistful into a full on orchestral track, which just doesn't seem necessary. Horner hasn't been producing many scores of note recently, but was often left missing his more gentle and dramatic touch, especially when the theme swells with full chorus, yet again.

The final few tracks are perhaps the finest, the gorgeous chorale, Let Us Cross Over the River and intimate finale, The Soldier's Return, both being beautiful and filled with a genuine emotion the score so often lacks. However, the album concludes with Bob Dylan's bloated and atrociously performed, Cross the Green Mountain. As a frequent defender of Randy Newman's rough voice, I'm staggered that nobody ever criticises someone like Dylan (or Van Morrison, for that matter), at least Newman's more or less in tune, Dylan sounds almost entirely tuneless much of the time. Gods and Generals isn't quite the great score it wants to be, but as with an increasing number of scores these days, is enjoyable enough and has few dull moments. However, its main theme sums up the entire work, indistinct. Edelman's original might not have been subtle, but it was memorable and had Edelman's musical personality. Gods and Generals ultimately sags under its own earnestness to be dramatic, serious and heroic, but because the core material isn't quite strong enough, doesn't pull it off and the results are often somewhat hollow. The score's closest antecedent is probably Williams' The Patriot and this is less of the same.

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Gods and Generals (2003)

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