Review: Cotton Mary
3 / 5 Stars
Merchant Ivory regular Richard Robbins' score for Cotton Mary, a film portraying the machinations of the power-hungry title character during the Indian political evolution of the '50s, is the musical equivalent to a journey to a neighboring city... it is different, yet so much is the same.
It is a tough call. A considerable amount of Robbins' contribution is generic dramatic techniquethe harp ostinatos, the halting staccato string passages, the wistful violin, and the mysterioso chorus. Aside from the more graceful tracks ("On the Ferry", "Searching for Abraham", and the "End Credits" being my personal favorites, the central track featuring a priceless interpolation of "God Save the Queen" [heard earlier in a sensible arrangement for church organ]), the score offers just enough innovation or affability to keep it interesting. That interest provides a sturdy atmosphere deserving of some sort of recommendation, but bearing these many reservations in mind one can construe that as being rather mild praise. It does perhaps become purely background material more often that it ought.
The additional music by Subramaniam is actually the more commanding, as he ventures past the typical Anglo-Saxon fare of this production to give appropriate reference to his own musical heritage. The integration of South Indian classical music is colorful, percussive, piquant, and almost mesmerizing. It is a key addendum to the overall sound of the release.
Covered on the soundtrack are a few songs from India, as well as "Mr. Sandman" and "That's Amore". Their inclusion adds an ambiance of place and period, but on disc could easily have been placed at the beginning of the disc to prevent barging in on the direct flow of the underscore. The album could benefit from some re-programming.
Between the presence of Dr. Subramaniam and a few morsels of exceptional musicality from Robbins & orchestrator Geoff Alexander, the Cotton Mary album is definitely worth a listen or two. Whether it is worth owning is not quite as clear. As often spoken, "Try before you buy."
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