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NED KELLY – Klaus Badelt

nedkellyOriginal Review by Peter Simons

Now here’s a composer who has shot to stardom at rocket speed: Klaus Badelt. Whether or not he really deserved all the projects he’s worked on remains a hot issue on many a forum. I, for one, have yet to hear a soundtrack by Badelt that is not remarkably derivative of other scores. That is not to say his albums aren’t enjoyable, no siree! His music for The Time Machine, albeit severely “inspired” by many other scores, was one of last year’s highlights. Badelt’s latest, Ned Kelly, is no exception. It too shares so many similarities with other scores that I’ve had to look at the cover to remember which CD I put on. Not that the score isn’t enjoyable, though. It is in fact quite beautiful, if you can get past the obvious influences.

Ned Kelly is an Australian film directed by Gregor Jordan and starring Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom and Geoffrey Rush, which tells the story of a young Irish immigrant who has a brutal childhood behind him. After serving four years in jail for stealing a horse, he is hardened but devoted to build a new and honest life for himself. But society is prejudiced against Irish immigrants and, after several assaults on the Kelly family, Ned is forced to go on the run. The now outlaw Ned Kelly forms a gang and is determined to avenge his family and to strike back at society. He becomes a hero for the masses, but for the establishment he is the most wanted man in Australia.

Judging by the soundtrack album, Badelt focused on the emotional hardship Ned and his family have to endure rather than on Ned’s adventures as an outlaw robbing banks and participating in gunfights. With an emphasis on strings, with an occasional solo for trumpet, violin or even Uilleann pipe and what sounds like a dulcimer, the score is reminiscent of Zimmer’s Pearl Harbor, Morricone’s Once Upon A Time In The West and Horner’s Braveheart and Titanic. I could swear I recognized Conti’s North and South theme in a couple of tracks too.

So, is Ned Kelly an original score? Hell no. Is it worth getting? Absolutely, especially if you enjoyed this score’s obvious influences. Fans of Pearl Harbor and Titanic will find similar thematic beauty in abundance here. ‘Saving A Life’ is particularly noteworthy for its use of haunting vocals, something that appears to be a specialty of Badelt’s, considering he arranged ‘Now We Are Free’ for Gladiator and used some very peculiar vocals in The Time Machine. The appropriately entitled ‘The Light’ is this score’s lightest and happiest track. A soft theme is performed by clarinet, pennywhistle and strings, while staccato strings and woodwinds dance in the background.

The album opens with a song by Bernard Fanning, the lead singer/songwriter from the Australian band Powderfinger. Arranged for slow strings, a piano and Fanning’s raw voice the song is pleasantly melancholy if not somewhat generic. It’s quite effective in its emotional purpose, though, and it mixes well with Badelt’s score, unlike the traditional banjo-driven song ‘Moreton Bay’ which sticks out like a sore thumb because of that banjo.

Overall, Badelt manages to create a beautifully melancholy, and dare I even say hauntingly beautiful, atmosphere. As a reviewer, this score’s unoriginality prevents me from giving it too high a rating. As a sucker for sad string music, though, the score makes me explode with pleasure.

Rating: ***

Track Listing:

  • Shelter For My Soul (written and performed by Bernard Fanning) (4:51)
  • Saving A Life (3:17)
  • Ned Kelly (5:37)
  • Destiny (4:24)
  • The Light (2:01)
  • Julia (1:21)
  • Stringybark Creek (3:21)
  • Back Home (6:24)
  • Moreton Bay (traditional, performed by Bernard Fanning) (2:50)
  • Doomed (5:12)
  • Outlaws (5:31)
  • The Jerilderie Letter (2:08)
  • Father (1:29)
  • The Glenrowen Inn (7:02)
  • Remembering Ned Kelly (1:24)

Running Time: 56 minutes 55 seconds

Decca 473 995-2 (2003)

Music composed by Klaus Badelt. Conducted by Rick Wentworth and Gavyn Wright. Orchestrations by Blake Neely. Additional music by Ramin Djawadi and Geoff Zanelli. Recorded and mixed by ???. Album produced by Klaus Badelt.

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