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THE HURRICANE – Christopher Young

December 31, 1999 Leave a comment Go to comments

thehurricaneOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

Over the years, Christopher Young has continually found himself scoring the most dismal films Hollywood has the cheek to release, which makes it all the more gratifying to see him attached to a movie of such genuine quality as The Hurricane. Already, The Hurricane has garnered a Golden Globe for Denzel Washington for Best Actor, multiple nominations in other categories, and it tipped to be a hot property at the Oscars. Brilliant but under-appreciated composers like Young need this kind of exposure to ensure that they continue to score high-profile, worthy pictures which actually befit the excellent music Young is able to provide.

Based on a true story, The Hurricane is set in 1967 and charts the life of Rubin Carter (Washington), a boxer from New Jersey on the brink of breaking into the big time, who is wrongly accused of murder and imprisoned for a crime he did not commit. Over the course of several decades, Hurricane Carter embarks upon a quest to clear his name and fight the judicial system that failed him, and draws strength from the relationship he develops with a young boy named Lazarus, who idolizes the imprisoned pugilist. The Hurricane is directed by Norman Jewison, who previously made Fiddler on the Roof and Moonstruck, and co-stars Vicellous Reon Shannon, Liev Schreiber, Deborah Kara Unger and John Hannah.

If one were to give it the broadest possible overview, The Hurricane could probably be best described as Murder In The First meets Rounders, but to do so would be a great disservice to the music, and would overlook the time and effort Young invested in its creation. The Hurricane does bear several stylistic similarities to both these scores, but it is the seamless combination of the two styles that makes this score such a success. Having proved that he is more than capable of writing music in either arena individually, Young mixes and merges the two together into a score which, for better or worse, plays almost like a “greatest hits” CD – and that comment is in no way intended in a derogatory fashion.

People who only know of Young through his Hellraiser scores are often surprised when they discover that he is actually very good at jazz, whether it be the over-the-top antics of The Man Who Knew Too Little, or the subdued, earthy tones of Norman Jean & Marilyn, Rounders and his replacement score for Playing By Heart. A brass sextet accompanied brushed snare drums, strings, solo piano and the uniquely quirky Hammond B3 organ that Young favors so much feature prominently in cues such as ‘The Hurricane’, ‘Racial Motivation’, ‘Any Two Will Do’ and ‘John Artis’, depicting the tough, dog-eat-dog neighborhood where the teenage Carter grew up and learnt his trade. The sultry hoots of the muted trumpets and the enticing tinkles of the piano are occasionally complemented by some intriguing vocal performances, intoning velvety scat-like dooby-doo noises over the orchestra, adding an extra dimension to the music. It is perhaps unfair to say that the jazz sounds “dirty”, but I’m sure you know what I mean. Listening to this music is like watching the world go by through the bottom of a whisky glass.

As good as the jazz is, though, by far the best tracks are the ones in which Young pulls out all the emotional stops. Cues such as ‘Rube’, ‘You Have Transcended’, ‘Scream of Silence’ and ‘Shadows In The Dark’ are instantly identifiable as having the “Chris Young sound” that dates back to scores like Murder In The First, Copycat and Jennifer 8, creating gorgeous aural textures and intelligently weaving multi-layered strings behind several heartbreaking cello solos. ‘The Sixteenth Round’, ‘Still Life’ and the beautiful conclusive pair of ‘Lazarus and the Hurricane’ and ‘Hate Put Me In Prison, Love’s Gonna Bust Me Out’ are the strongest thematic cues on the album, and it is interesting to note that, in ‘A Place Called Hell’, Young uses his brass section in an unexpectedly manner by having them play much quieter than usual, adding a subtle ambience to the piece before concluding with several mournful wails that ache for Carter’s plight.

A commercial release of Young’s score is planned for later in the year, to complement the already-released song CD, but in order to catch the “buzz”, Universal Studios and Young’s agents at Costa Communications have pressed this Oscar promo CD in an attempt to generate interest in and awareness of his work, hopefully culminating in a long-due nomination for the composer. Also included on the CD is the uplifting gospel rock song ‘So Amazing’, written and performed by Clark Anderson, whose vocal style reminds me of R. Kelly, and which maintains an orchestrational consistency with the score through the continued use of a Hammond organ. The finale of the score is another song, ‘I Will Rise Again’, which Young wrote to be performed over the end credits, but which was ultimately dropped from the final cut of the movie.

It is somewhat ironic that the notion of sorrow is the one which inspires Young to write his most affecting music as, from all accounts, Chris is an outgoing personality with anything but a sorrowful outlook on life. But, for some reason, the plight of a wrongly convicted man battling an unjust system brings out the musical best in him. And, make no mistake about it, The Hurricane is one of the best scores of his career to date. I genuinely hope and pray that this movie is the one which catapults Chris into the upper echelons of the film music world, and that as a result he no longer has to score bottom of the barrel movies just to keep active.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • So Amazing (written by Clark Anderson and Summer Anderson, performed by Clark Anderson) (4:34)
  • The Hurricane (3:47)
  • Rube (4:15)
  • You Have Transcended (5:47)
  • Scream of Silence (5:11)
  • A Place Called Hell (4:20)
  • The Sixteenth Round (2:13)
  • Racial Motivation (3:22)
  • Shadows in the Dark (3:49)
  • Any Two Will Do (5:01)
  • Still Life (1:26)
  • John Artis (2:57)
  • Lazarus and the Hurricane (1:42)
  • Hate Put Me In Prison, Love’s Gonna Bust Me Out (3:43)
  • I Will Rise Again (4:09)

Running Time: 56 minutes 21 seconds

Promo (1999/2000)

Music composed by Christopher Young. Conducted by Pete Anthony. Orchestrations by Christopher Young, Pete Anthony and Jon Kull. Recorded and mixed by Robert Fernandez. Album produced by Konstantinos Christides, Flavio Motalla and Christopher Young.

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