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Hail, Caesar! - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

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Album Review

The 16th film collaboration between the Coen Brothers and composer Carter Burwell, Hail, Caesar! tells the story of a few days in the life of a Los Angeles movie studio head of production (Josh Brolin) in the early 1950s. Its soundtrack contains a diverse score by Burwell, who, due to the nature of the movie's subject matter, provided music for not only the story's main setting but multiple films within the film. It also includes an original song by Broadway composer Henry Krieger (Dreamgirls, Side Show) and lyricist Willie Reale (A Year with Frog and Toad). The film genres covered by the score include a war-time musical, a western, a Biblical epic, an English living room drama, and a water musical à la Esther Williams that features an original performance of the barcarolle from Offenbach's opera Tales of Hoffmann. Outside of these movies in production at the studio, Burwell incorporates wistful strings and piano, Soviet hymns (segments are actual historical recordings by the Red Army Choir), and big-band tunes, among other styles, for the main narrative. The soundtrack's — and the film's — musical highlight is easily the show-stopping Gene Kelly-like dance number "No Dames!" led by Channing Tatum, about sailors returning to duty from leave ("We might even see a mermaid, but mermaids got no gams"). Another treat is the pre-existing western ballad "Lazy Ol' Moon" performed by Willie Watson, who sings for Alden Ehrenreich. (It was sung by Roy Rogers in the 1939 film The Arizona Kid.) The overly dramatic, brass- and percussion-heavy score for the Biblical Hail, Caesar! flick within Hail, Caesar! is both laughable and entirely accurate for the genre and era, and a score track like the penultimate "Behold" elegantly gathers themes and instrumentation from various characters and settings in the film. Ambitious and utterly accomplished, the soundtrack will likely delight at least Coen fans and classic-film buffs, especially those who can appreciate the music's comedy.


Born: November 18, 1955 in New York, NY

Genre: Soundtrack

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

Probably one of a very few soundtrack composers to idolize Iggy Pop, Carter Burwell is best known for his work with the Coen Brothers, having scored every one of their films through the year 2010. By turns haunting and dark or quirky and experimental, Burwell's eclectic music has graced films in a wide variety of genres, and he's used the occasional big-studio project to finance his work on a number of groundbreaking independent films. Born November 18, 1955 in New York, Burwell took piano lessons...
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