If like me you have been collecting soundtracks for a few years now (50 years), then when you here the title STEEL MAGNOLIAS you straight away think of composer Georges Delerue who penned a gracious and highly melodic score for the original movie. This latest version of the story is a made for TV movie which will air on the Lifetime channel on November 4th in the U.K. It is a contemporary reworking of the now classic tearjerker, directed by Kenny Leon and stars among others, Queen Latifah, Alfre Woodard and Phylicia Rashad, it tells the story of six outstanding and remarkable American Southern States women who support each other and are there for each other through what ever life throws at them, this truly moving romantic drama also stars Jill Scott, Condola Rashad and Adepero Oduyem. The music for this movie is the work of composer William Ross, now here is a composer who has worked steadily over the years and during this time has produced some wonderful scores for both cinema and television. STEEL MAGNOLIAS is certainly no exception to this rule, it is a highly emotive work that has many delicate and pleasing nuances that seem to start out as small but attractive pieces and then flourish and grow into even more beautiful and melodious themes that captivate as well as entertain the listener. The composer puts to effective use solo piano and supports this with strings that are lush, romantic, melancholy and comedic (when pizzicato is used) in their sound and style, he also makes effective use of little woodwind touches that further enhance and embellish the proceedings, and also includes woodwind as main instrumentation on a few of the cues. It is difficult to put Delerue’s score out of ones head, but I assure you if you can you are in for a wonderful listening treat. The compact disc opens with THE MAIN TITLE, this begins with solo piano that is underlined by plucked bass’s which punctuate and add depth to the theme that is being introduced by the piano, piano fades away as do the plucked bass‘s and are replaced by low strings that them selves act as a background to at first a fairly low key motif performed by woodwind, this acts as an introduction to the piano which re-emerges into the composition. Little woodwind flourishes are added as the track progress’s and although fairly brief it engages the listener and creates an atmosphere that is calming and faintly intriguing. Jumping forward in the track listings to cue number 5, SHELBY AND M’LYNN’S FAREWELL, strings introduce the cue slowly, as piano begins to pick out the 4 note central melody which is also slow but touching and poignant, strings then work their way back into the cue and lift the piece slightly in tempo and also make it much lighter and happier sounding. This is rather short lived as an air of sadness seems to return with piano once again taking centre stage supported by subdued strings.
In many ways I was reminded of Ennio Morricone’s central theme from LOVE AFFAIR with this cue and in fact there are a number of moments within the score when one could be forgiven for think that we were listening to Morricone. Ross uses the strings and also the woodwind in a similar fashion and whilst these are acting as a background the piano is performing a simple theme that just tugs at the heart strings and steals the show as it were. The core theme for the soundtrack can be heard throughout the work and it weaves its way in and out of various tracks creating this calming but at the same time pleasing and highly emotive atmosphere. Most of the tracks on the release are fairly short although there are a couple Track 15, SHELBY’S COLLAPSE which runs for over 8 mins, and is a musical exercise in how to create pure emotion, strings again along with piano and woodwind create a touching and affecting piece. Also there is, NEVER BE SORRY which is the final track on the disc which runs for just over 4 mins and is a fitting finale to the soundtrack, the composer giving more work to the woodwind within this cue. I suppose it is unfair to compare this score with the Delerue work but lets just say, this soundtrack by William Ross certainly holds its own and also has within it some beautiful themes and elegant tone poems that will I know melt a few hearts and bring a tear to a few eyes also.