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MY DOG SKIP – William Ross

January 14, 2000 Leave a comment Go to comments

mydogskipOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton:

First of all, let me say that My Dog Skip has possibly the cutest CD cover in Varèse Sarabande’s long history. Is there anything better at making you say “aaah!” than a picture of a little doggie sitting on a rug, gazing dolefully up at a toilet bowl? I have no knowledge about how this image fits in with the movie, as I have not yet seen it, and have not read Willie Morris’s “classic true story” on which the movie is based. I can make an educated guess about the film’s plot (lonely young boy makes friends with stray dog and gets into lots of adventures?), and I know the film is directed by Jay Russell and stars Diane Lane and Kevin Bacon. Best of all, though, is the fact that My Dog Skip has a truly delightful score by William Ross.

William Ross is another one of those composers who should really get more work. The biggest hit of his career to date has been the Kevin Costner romantic comedy Tin Cup, which was never commercially released on CD but has become a highly prized promo in recent years. The rest of the time, Ross has been consigned to writing great scores for inconsequential movies such as The Little Rascals, Black Sheep and My Fellow Americans, never once receiving any recognition for the vast talent he has. Ross is a composer with a musical style similar to that of Bruce Broughton and Marc Shaiman, whose scores thrive on old-fashioned orchestral beauty. It’s certainly not subtle, and it doesn’t pull any punches on the audience manipulation front, but as a listening experience it takes some beating.

Essentially, My Dog Skip is a monothematic score, structured in a themes and variations fashion, with just three or four of the album’s 14 cues existing as completely unique pieces and not featuring the theme at all. The first performance of theme appears in the first bar of the first cue, ‘Main Title’, with a solo piano slowly giving way to resonant oboes, and then eventually the full orchestra. You don’t need me to describe what the theme from My Dog Skip sounds like – cast your minds back to The American President, Patch Adams, Rudy and Powder, and you’ll have a good idea of what I’m talking about. Scores which exude pure, uncomplicated orchestral beauty.

In many cues thereafter, notably ‘Hometown Hero’, ‘A New Friend’ and ‘Crossing Over’, the Skip theme is the score’s driving force, receiving numerous rapturous recapitulations. By the time the 8-minute finale, ‘Will Grows Up’ comes around, you think you’ll have grown tired of it, but Ross manages to eke a superb final performance from his orchestra, resulting in a conclusive cue that somehow exceeds the level of excellence in the previous thirteen tracks and leaves the listener on a marvellous high.

There are several other cues which catch the ear: the lively, daintily comedic ‘Driving with Skip’ features a great Rodeo-style tempo and wonderful work from the trombones and tubas; the unnerving ‘Greenwood Cemetery’ features mock-horror overtones, superb brass fanfares and frantic string lines; the gently dissonant ‘Sad Homecoming’ incorporates lonely, echoing martial horn calls and a repetitive piano ostinato; the gorgeous ‘Opening Day’ includes some lovely woodwind interplay and a light, jazzy conclusion; and ‘Will Strikes Out’ introduces a warm and inviting acoustic guitar into the mix before climbing to epic proportions in the cue’s finale, which once again embraces the style of Aaron Copland.

Surprisingly, the score which My Dog Skip resembles mostly is actually Forrest Gump, especially in the way in which Ross uses pianos, string harmonies and strategically-placed cymbal rings, and it wouldn’t surprise me if that score hadn’t featured heavily on the temp-track. However, it could be argued that My Dog Skip actually makes for a superior listening experience than Alan Silvestri’s Oscar-nominated classic, in that the cues are longer, it is less choppy, and is sequenced more sensibly than the Gump score album. It also helps that the CD only runs for just under 40-minutes – it is long enough for consumers not to feel short changed, but short enough not to outstay its welcome.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (3:21)
  • Hometown Hero (1:56)
  • A New Friend (1:37)
  • Driving With Skip (1:01)
  • Rivers (1:10)
  • Greenwood Cemetary (3:24)
  • Crossing Over (1:17)
  • Sad Homecoming (2:47)
  • The Deer (2:54)
  • Opening Day (1:12)
  • Will Strikes Out (2:19)
  • Searching For Skip (3:00)
  • Dad’s Advice (1:53)
  • Will Grows Up (8:57)

Running Time: 37 minutes 29 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6106 (2000)

Music composed and conducted by William Ross. Orchestrations by William Ross. Recorded and mixed by Robert Fernandez. Edited by Jim Harrison. Album produced by William Ross.

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