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TUCK EVERLASTING – William Ross

October 11, 2002 Leave a comment Go to comments

tuckeverlastingOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

William Ross has had a busy 2002. As well as assisting John Williams in writing and adapting the score for Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, he was afforded scoring duties on the sweet and sentimental Disney movie Tuck Everlasting. Adapted from the popular novel by Natalie Babbitt, and directed by Jay Russell, the film stars young Alexis Bledel as Winnie Foster, a privileged young woman in 1900’s upstate New York who, after running away from home, meets and falls in love with Jesse Tuck (Jonathan Jackson), the youngest son of the reclusive Tuck family, headed by mother and father Mae and Angus (Sissy Spacek and William Hurt). However, the Tucks harbor a secret – one hundred years previously, they unknowingly drank from a fountain of youth and attained immortality, leaving them blessed (or cursed?) to remain at their current ages until the end of time.

Basically, there are two types of music in Tuck Everlasting: low-key, pastoral, almost flighty passages for a small and deliberate orchestral complement, which occasionally rises to great thematic crescendos; and fast, lively, homespun country whirls featuring fiddles, guitars, ethnic flutes, and all manner of effervescent and exciting percussion. The only problem with this is that most of it sounds like it was written by Thomas Newman, such was the case of temp-track love that Ross faced on this project.

The three scores Tuck Everlasting resembles the most are Phenomenon (Thomas Newman), The Last of the Mohicans (Trevor Jones – listen to ‘Jailbreak’) and, most of all, The Horse Whisperer (also Thomas Newman). Having now listened to this score several times, I find myself feeling supremely frustrated with director Russell, having forced a composer with William Ross’s talent to endure such professional restriction due to his lack of vision and trust. Throughout his career, and despite scoring successful movies such as Tin Cup and The Evening Star, Ross has always been better known as an orchestrator for others and a “jobbing” composer. As such, he could hardly cry “artistic integrity” and give up a lucrative Disney contract when he found one heading his way, so he obviously bit the bullet and did as he was told; still, having worked together before on My Dog Skip, the director should  have given Ross a much greater degree of leeway to use his skills to greater effect.

Nevertheless, as pure music, Tuck Everlasting works on several levels, and if nothing else is a highly rewarding listening experience. The main theme, indicative of the growing relationship between Winnie and Tuck, is a gentle and romantic full-orchestral effort, and is relayed several times throughout the course of the score. It’s most impressive performances come during ‘The Wheel’, ‘Eiffel Tower’, at the end of ‘Finding the Tucks’, and during ‘Good-Byes’ and the conclusive ‘Love Everlasting’ (which also recalls Randy Newman’s Pleasantville). An attractive secondary theme appears in ‘Winnie and Mae’, where it acts as an establishing theme for Winnie’s relationship with the matriarch of the Tuck family – an homage to love and loss by way of American folk music.

The country tracks, personified in cues such as ‘Treegap’, ‘Tuck’s Place’, ‘Finding the Tucks’ and ‘Jailbreak’, are superbly effervescent, and feature a number of excellent solo performances – not least from regular Newman collaborator George Doering on guitar, and Michael Fisher’s occasionally show-stopping percussion work. The latter is most noticeable in one of the score’s few action cues, ‘Kidnapping’, where he combines some large-scale booming and banging with string phrases Chris Young would be proud to call his own. ‘Winnie and the Tucks’ is also superbly impressive in its own right, but again highly derivative – to the extent that its impact as a solo cue is lessened by its familiarity.

Other tracks are notable for their unusual qualities. The whistling effects in ‘Main Title’ and ‘Graveyard’ are unexpected, but at least original; some of the sound design is innovative, especially the water droplets and unnerving rattling in ‘Winnie Runs Away’; and ‘Cave Dance’ features a loud and frenetic tribal rhythm straight from the Peter Buffett book which, although it stands at odds with the rest of the score, is effective in its use of ethnic percussion.

If a degree of “homages” lessen your listening experience, then Tuck Everlasting is likely to frustrate you a great deal. However, to say that this is William Ross’s fault would be a misnomer. It is well written, well performed, and in parts is highly attractive and entertaining. It is, however, the best score Thomas Newman never wrote.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Main Title (0:39)
  • The Wheel/Treegap (2:24)
  • Reunion (1:06)
  • Tuck’s Place (0:49)
  • Winnie Runs Away (2:13)
  • Kidnapping (2:36)
  • Winnie and Mae (1:03)
  • Graveyard (1:48)
  • Eiffel Tower (1:33)
  • Elegy (1:07)
  • Winnie and The Tucks (1:59)
  • First Swim (2:06)
  • Cave Dance (1:32)
  • Miles’ Story (4:57)
  • Winnie and Tuck (3:08)
  • Finding The Tucks (1:55)
  • Jail Break (2:13)
  • Back Home (1:13)
  • Good-byes (2:39)
  • The Funeral (1:25)
  • Winnie’s Choice (1:59)
  • Love Everlasting (1:34)

Running Time: 41 minutes 58 seconds

Walt Disney Records 60063-7 (2002)

Music composed and conducted by William Ross. Orchestrations by William Ross. Featured musical soloists George Doering, Michael Fisher, Neil Stubenhaus, Sid Page, Jon Clarke and Nico Abondolo. Recorded and mixed by Armin Steiner. Edited by Lesley Langs and Brian Bulman. Album produced by William Ross.

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