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Seabiscuit

Randy Newman

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Album Review

Someday, perhaps in a doctoral thesis or a book on film scoring, someone is going to address the question of why it is, given the sardonic character of Randy Newman's songwriting for himself, that his film scores are so warm and sweet. When this study is done, Newman's soundtrack to Seabiscuit, writer/director Gary Ross' film biography of the legendary racehorse of the 1930s based on Linda Hilllenbrand's book Seabiscuit: An American Legend, will stand as a prime example (but then, so would practically any one of Newman's soundtracks). Those slow, melodic passages for French horn, those swelling string lines, and the small sections for a single flute or trumpet, all contributed to a characteristic sound redolent of the heartwarming and the homespun. In the case of Seabiscuit, Newman responds to the time and place of the setting by adding bits of big-band swing and, especially, Mexican folk music (with one tune played by Mariachi Reyna de Los Angeles), but the overall approach is easily recognizable as his own. One might suggest that Newman's scores, as the scores of any good film composer, serve the movies for which they are written, and it may be that the assignments he gets are based on what he's done before. Clearly, filmmakers go to him for a certain kind of score, and they get it. Maybe it's time for him to try something more challenging (say, an action picture), just for variety. But if he keeps writing scores as beautiful as this one, it's hard to complain, even if you wonder how the author of "Short People" could do work apparently so sincere.

Biography

Born: 28 November 1943 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Soundtrack

Years Active: '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

An anomaly among early-'70s singer/songwriters, Randy Newman may have been slightly influenced by Bob Dylan, but his music owed more to New Orleans R&B and traditional pop than folk. Newman developed an idiosyncratic style that alternated between sweeping, cinematic pop and rolling R&B, which were tied together by his nasty sense of humor. Where his peers concentrated on confessional songwriting, Newman drew characters, creating a world filled with misfits, outcasts, charlatans, and con men....
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