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LIBERTY HEIGHTS – Andrea Morricone

November 19, 1999 Leave a comment Go to comments

libertyheightsOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

I would imagine it’s very difficult being the son of a famous father, especially in the world of the soundtrack. It’s rather unusual that film music talent is often passed on through generations and between siblings. Of course, the Newman scoring clan (Alfred, Lionel, Emil, David, Thomas and Randy) have achieved almost legendary status, and the pairings of Jerry and Joel Goldsmith, Maurice and Jean-Michel Jarre, Harry and Rupert Gregson-Williams, and more recently Howard and Ryan Shore have all borne rich musical fruit. Unknown to most score fans, Ennio Morricone’s son Andrea has been supporting his father’s musical endeavors for many years, on scores such as Cinema Paradiso and Il Quarto Re. Now, with Liberty Heights, Andrea is finally stepping out of his father’s shadow and introducing the world to his own musical voice.

Liberty Heights is a film directed by Barry Levinson, and stars Adrien Brody, Bebe Neuwirth and Joe Mantegna in a tale about three young friends growing up in a Jewish neighborhood in 1950s Baltimore. As he proved with the excellent, underrated, similarly-themed Sleepers, Levinson is a man eminently capable of producing captivating slice-of-life dramas which capture the sights, sounds and ideals of a timeframe. While not as gripping as Sleepers, Liberty Heights is nevertheless an interesting and engrossing examination of the Jewish community, using that microcosm as a benchmark for the mindset of America at the time.

As one might expect, Andrea Morricone’s style is not too dissimilar from that of Ennio, but where Andrea’s music succeeds is in its simplicity. Less experimental, and therefore less abrasive than his father, Andrea’s score is a delicately-hued romance which eschews the unconventional attitude that often mars Ennio’s work, and is received by me at least with generally greater enthusiasm than anything by Morricone Sr. since Love Affair. However, the influence of Ennio is stamped all over Liberty Heights in many subtle ways. It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly what it is about the music that reminds one so much of Ennio, but the similarities are immediately apparent. Maybe it’s the timing, or the orchestrations, or in the recording. Whatever it is, it’s definitely there.

As the first track began, and I heard the voice of narrator Ben Foster stating “We grew up in a suburb of Baltimore…”, I suddenly had flashbacks to Angela’s Ashes. Aaahhh!!! Dialogue tracks mixed over the music!!! Fortunately, though, dialogue only appears in the first and last tracks, leaving the rest of the 40+ minute album dedicated solely to the music. Strings, harp, solo guitar and woodwinds are the driving forces throughout Liberty Heights, lending the entire score a sense of consistency. Unusually, though, recurring themes do not play a great part of the score’s development, focusing more on interesting orchestral textures and generally ear-pleasing phrasing in an attempt to win over the listener.

Gently throbbing percussion and quietly dissonant piano chords lend a note of urgency to cues such as ‘Ben Denies Melvin’ and ‘Down a Baltimore Street’, and there are two majestic viola solos in ‘Nate With His Boys’ and ‘Youth Theme’ that will melt your heart. The music ebbs and flows in a gently romantic fashion during the wistful ‘Graduation’, introduces a faintly exotic-sounding bass flute element into ‘Inside The School’, features a lyrical piano solo in ‘Patterson Park Story’ and ‘Walking to the Club’, and builds to big finish in ‘Liberty Heights’, presumably the end credits track. The whole score is a relaxing, undemanding, beautiful treat that demands to be heard by a wide audience.

As a debut American score, Liberty Heights is a highly impressive introduction to the work of Andrea Morricone, and one which surely will see him go on to complete more scores in Hollywood. I certainly hope so. As the man most likely to follow in his father’s footsteps and carry the torch for Italian film music well into the 21st century, Morricone undoubtedly has the pedigree and talent to succeed. In fact, the only thing wrong with this CD is the icky green color of the disc itself. Fortunately, though, you won’t be able to see it when it’s whizzing around the innards of your stereo.

Rating: ***½

Track Listing:

  • Opening (2:08)
  • Ben Denies Melvin (2:37)
  • Down a Baltimore Street (4:20)
  • Graduation (2:47)
  • Nate With His Boys (2:02)
  • Going to a Party (2:51)
  • Inside The School (4:07)
  • Patterson Park Story (4:03)
  • The Swimming Pool (2:21)
  • Youth Theme (2:14)
  • Van and Trey (1:50)
  • Walking to the Club (3:13)
  • $100,000 Phone Call (1:44)
  • On the Stage (1:58)
  • Liberty Heights (5:11)

Running Time: 44 minutes 17 seconds

Warner Sunset/Atlantic 83271-2 (1999)

Music composed and conducted by Andrea Morricone. Performed by Roma Sinfionetta. Orchestrations by Andrea Morricone. Featured musical soloists Monica Berni, Paolo Zampini, Antonio Salvatore, Fausto Anzelmo, Rocco Zifarelli, Lucia Bova and Gilda Buttá. Special vocal performances by Ben Foster and Judith Knight Young. Recorded and mixed by Fabio Venturi. Edited by Suzana Peric. Mastered by Gene Paul. Album produced by Andrea Morricone.

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