4.5 / 5 Stars
Alan Williams' score for the Oscar nominated IMAX documentary "Amazon" has the natural habitat inspired seemingly obligatory choral shouts or ethnic woodwinds. To that end, it is a descendent of Ennio Morricone's "The Mission" and Jerry Goldsmith's "Medicine Man." But Williams' melodies often sound to my ears like the work of a new John Barry, as these broad themes and sweeping orchestrations lend themselves to an environmental consciousness. I really enjoy the windswept feeling the "Amazon" score provides.
From the beginning, the powerful title track, Williams pushes the orchestra through the series of wild percussion, native winds, the 'ah' and 'yah' of a choir, supporting brass, and wholesale strings that this overture comprises. He sets a mood precisely. Over the length of the score he follows-up on that mood with incredibly rich, propitiating thematic textures to conjure images of misty Amazon forests and waterfalls; tracks such as 'The River' and 'Journey's End' are a refreshing combination of contemporary tonality with the suitably rugged naturalistic backdrop of native instrumentation. The reason these clichés continue to regularly appear in film is because they tend to work beautifully and sound beautifully. Williams triumphs.
I do wonder why a few brief moments of contemplative or native or some other '-ative' (not necessarily 'imaginative') simplicity seem to overstate the conventions of rainforest flicks. Portions of the cues 'Animal Montage,' 'The Zoe,' or 'The Village' could easily appear as parody; woodland thumps and chirping choruses have their limitations. Yet this curiosity bends closer to issues of music theory, and on that point Williams promptly and spectacularly compensates for any minor irregularities between style and apparent intent. Indeed, that these are infinitesimal problems either emphasizes the overall excellence of a score that trivializes problems most scores exist of entirely or makes the experience more annoying by coming so close to relative perfection without exactly getting there! For the record, the last thought occurred to me just once. That it occurred at all is the sole reason for this paragraph...
There is enough drama, skill, and pure emotion in Alan Williams' "Amazon" to make the album a fantastic argument for the musical independence of documentary scores, which seem to fall behind music for cinema's blockbusters and weepy melodramas, which in turn fall behind so-called serious compositions. This is a thrilling soundtrack.
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