Home > Reviews > AGNES BROWNE – Paddy Moloney

AGNES BROWNE – Paddy Moloney

agnesbrowneOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

The second film directed by Anjelica Huston (following the acclaimed 1996 TV movie Bastard Out Of Carolina), Agnes Browne is a comedy-drama based on the novel “The Mammy” by Brendan O’Carroll about a working class mother of many from Dublin (Huston) who, upon becoming a widow, finds her life becoming increasingly difficult. Faced with the possibility of poverty, she makes a wrong move by turning to a ruthless local money-lender (Ray Winstone) for help. With the bailiffs closing in on Agnes and her family, a single dreams keeps her on an even keel: the possibility of attending an upcoming Tom Jones concert. Then, when a French baker (Arno Chevrier) arrives on the scene, Agnes’ life finally seems to take an upward turn.

For the music, Huston turned to Chieftains front man Paddy Moloney who, after contributing music to John Williams’ Far and Away amongst others, is composing his first solo score here. They may be stereotypical, familiar, and oh-so-predictable, but Moloney’s melodies are as wholesome as they come, effortlessly conjuring up romantic notions of the Emerald Isle, with its sweeping hillsides, rocky cliffs, and ebullient rosy-cheeked inhabitants.

Traditional flutes, pennywhistles and accordions combine with the lush-sounding Irish Film Orchestra to open the score with the beautiful ‘Opening Theme’, a light and airy melody which bears a superficial resemblance to Trevor Jones’ “For Roseanna”, but with a more authentic aspect. The two other orchestral tracks, both of which were conducted by composer Edward Shearmur, maintain a consistent tone throughout. The two renditions of the lovely ‘Marion’s Lament’ pick up where Braveheart left off with their evocative combination of strings and Uilleann pipes, proving beyond doubt that Moloney has a talent for writing emotional, affecting themes – and indicating that he may also have a future in the film music world.

The rest of the time, Moloney is offered the opportunity to engage in the music for which he is best known: rollicking Gaelic jigs that pulsate with energy and life, in that thigh-slapping, Guinness-drinking way only the Irish seem capable of achieving. ‘Banish the Blues’ is a peculiar but successful combination of reels and rock ‘n roll, and features an unexpectedly funky electric guitar element, while ‘Grab The Money’ and ‘Tripping Up The Stairs Reel’ just go for broke in the speed stakes, ending with self-congratulatory whooping-and-hollering from the members of the band, who were obviously relieved to get to the end of the track without breaking anything or keeling over with exhaustion.

Welsh rock legend Tom Jones, as well as having an important cameo in the film, plays a major part in the music, belting out the classic hit ‘She’s A Lady’, the charmingly murderous ‘Delilah’ and the immortal ‘It’s Not Unusual’ in his familiar throaty, sexually-charged style. Other songs, by Laura Smith, The Fleadh Cowboys and Spanish opera singer Montserrat Caballe, do little other than pad out the running time, and although the impressively-built Madame Caballe’s collaboration with The Chieftains is certainly admirable in vocal terms, it is certainly not as stellar as her work with Freddie Mercury on the 1990 Queen anthem “Barcelona”.

It’s an eclectic, somewhat eccentric album for a film which did very little at the box office and which, unfortunately, will have very little appeal to the mass market, fans of Irish music notwithstanding. The odd hotchpotch of artists that make up the album’s complement have plenty of drawing power, and are undoubtedly fine performers in their own right – it’s just that the bringing together of their talents on this soundtrack dilutes their individual impact. Tom Jones fans will already have all the songs included, and while Moloney acquits himself well as a fully-fledged composer, and despite the attractiveness of the orchestral parts, I doubt whether Chieftains fans will be flocking to the stores to buy it either.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Opening Theme
  • Banish the Blues
  • My Bonnie (Harp Version) (traditional, performed by Derek Bell)
  • She’s A Lady (written by Paul Anka, performed by Tom Jones)
  • Paddy’s Mazurka
  • Marion’s Lament
  • Faith of Our Fathers (traditional)
  • Delilah (written by Les Reed and Barry Mason, performed by Tom Jones)
  • The Last Rose of Summer (traditional, performed by Montserrat Caballe and The Chieftains)
  • Grab the Money
  • My Bonnie (traditional, performed by Laura Smith and The Chieftains)
  • Puttin’ on the Style (traditional, performed by The Fleadh Cowboys)
  • Tripping Up the Stairs Reel
  • Marion’s Lament (Reprise)
  • It’s Not Unusual (written by Les Reed and Gordon Mills, performed by Tom Jones)

Running Time: 38 minutes 31 seconds

Decca 289-466-939-2 (1999)

Music composed by Paddy Moloney. Conducted by Edward Shearmur. Performed by The Irish Film Orchestra. Orchestrations by Edward Shearmur. Traditional arrangements by Paddy Moloney. Featured musical soloists Mairtin O’Connor, Ray Fean, Dave Mullaney, Ger Kiely, Kieran Hanrahan and John Feely. Recorded and mixed by Brian Masterson and Paddy Moloney. Edited by George A. Martin. Mastered by Greg Calbi. Album produced by Paddy Moloney.

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