As the title kind of hints this is the third in the KUNG FU PANDA series, KUNG FU PANDA 3, is another action filled comedic animated romp with the voice talents of Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman. Music again is provided by composer Hans Zimmer with piano solos courtesy of Lang Lang. As you are aware I am no Zimmer fan, well that’s not exactly true because I do have the utmost respect for what he does and what he creates and achieves as far as film music is concerned, but I do feel that he receives far too much publicity, which I understand he is also uncomfortable with. Well I have to say that I have enjoyed the scores that he and also John Powell have worked on and KUNG FU PANDA 3 in my opinion is probably the best so far, it is a score that obviously has a lot of action cues and is also filled with various light hearted musical references but it also has within its framework some beautifully romantic and ethnically haunting sounding cues. The composer utilising the string section, the aforementioned piano solos of Lang Lang and some heartrending cello performances to purvey an atmosphere that is poignant and emotive. There is also present some nice woodwind solos and the work also contains its fair share of proud sounding brass and horn performances which are inspiring and have a full and rich stature to them. In many ways I have to say that the more robust action pieces did at times evoke the style and sound of Jerry Goldsmith, especially his work on the animated feature MULAN, but there again Goldsmith was a master at creating music that had to it an oriental flavour and aura. What I like about Zimmer’s score for KUNG FU PANDA is that although it is quite action led it never is far away from being comedic and light the composer being able to switch at what seems to be a moment’s notice from big serious and strong too cheeky, impish and fun. The track HALL OF HEROES for example is one such piece the composer infusing a mood of apprehension but then the track more or less erupts into a somewhat madcap affair with Chinese sounding references being enhanced and pushed forward by ample amounts of what can only still be referred to as MICKEY MOUSING, but it works so well. I am not familiar with all the oriental instrumentation that Zimmer employs within this score but there are a number of Chinese sounding passages that range from flat out action in their sound too romantic and highly emotional, the kind of emotional I would like to add that make the hairs on the back of one’s neck stand up. Every track for me was a delight and was also a listening experience that I thoroughly enjoyed.
Zimmer also employs a heavenly sounding choir on occasion which is laced with lush and luxurious sounding strings and dreamy faraway horns which are in turn bolstered by triumphant brass, this can be heard more prominently in the cue THE PANDA VILLAGE (track number 8) which also has to it a touch of the melancholy, which is purveyed by the use of subtle underlying strings and a delightfully melodic woodwind solo performance, but this is brief and the track soon returns to a more upbeat scenario with the string section carrying brass and percussion through to its conclusion. I also enjoyed track number 9, MEI MEI’S RIBBON DANCE which is quite fast paced and filled with Chinese musical references. Then we are straight away treated to a more robust adventure filled theme JADED (track number 10) which has to it that Goldsmith sound I mentioned earlier. Track number 11, PORTRAIT OF MOM is a heart-breaking cue, piano and woodwind pick out a simple but affecting theme which is then taken on by a mournful but attractive cello solo that is underlined initially by the string section before being overwhelmed by it to bring the cue to its end. No doubt about it KUNG FU PANDA 3 will entertain greatly and it’s one of those soundtracks that I know one will never tire of hearing. New versions also of KUNG FU FIGHTING are included on the compact disc, which too are enjoyable. Recommended. I Can’t wait for number 4, and yes it’s on its way.
I think everyone in the world of film music is still in a state of shock on hearing of the death of composer James Horner. They have also been waiting with baited breath for his score to the western THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN to be released, well the wait is over and the score is here. Yes of course many will be comparing both the movie and the score with the original but this I think is not the right way to go about it and I hope that I can review it without saying where is the original theme, sorry just said it but you know what I mean, I think we have to listen to the new score with open minds and fresh ears although there is a hint of that famous theme in track number four VOLCANO SPRINGS, I say a hint because Horner resists the temptation of going into a full rendition or arrangement of it, he teases us a little with a short burst of strings then dilutes the theme into something that is similar but also at the same time different. I love the way Horner and co-composer Simon Franglen have made use of various percussive elements and also an inventive inclusion of a pan pipe sound which at times is calming but then alters direction become more sinister and aggressive, these sounds are fused with soprano voice giving the work something of a connection with the spaghetti western score, al’ a composers such as Morricone, Nicolai and Baclov, but I have to say because of the pan pipes it is also somewhat reminiscent of Horner’s WILLOW and at times Goldsmith’s UNDER FIRE. The soprano is heard from the offset of proceedings in track number one, ROSE CREEK OPRESSION this opens with Horner’s trademark echoing trumpet flourishes which are embellished by both percussion and strings, with pipes being added as the track progresses, with two soprano voices performing in unison. This deployment of instrumentation is heard more prominently and in a sustained outing in track number five, STREET SLAUGHTER where Horner and Franglen successfully create a powerful and also a melodic piece that evokes both Italian and American westerns scores of days past, mixing a grand sound with a more unconventional approach to scoring a western. Track number two SEVEN ANGELS OF VENGEANCE, is a powerful addictive listen, driving strings are punctuated and supported by brass and percussion, with horns returning and taking on a core theme but soon being overwhelmed by percussion that is interspersed with bells, pan pipe stabs a wailing if but fleeting harmonica and then eventually the strings which give a short but effective rendition of the theme originally introduced by the horns, it is an interesting cue that also includes strident sounding guitar strumming and Hispanic sounding nuances. At times when listening to the score one forgets that this is a western, but there again define what music is western etc., it’s what works for the movie in the end, in my opinion this works well away from the movie.
I found it enjoyable and yes I admit to listening out for similarities between it and Elmer Bernstein’s scores for the MAGNIFICENT SEVEN cycle of movies, but I was not disappointed when it did not explode at every opportunity into arrangements or different takes on those scores and their central and secondary themes. This is an original score no doubt of that as in the way it is orchestrated, it contains some surprises and also a number of moments when one could say Oh yes typical James Horner, but is that a bad thing. For the many devoted fans of the original films score there is a snippet at the end of the compact disc in THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN and its credited to Mr Bernstein, but this is the only direct reference to Bernstein’s slice of classic sounding Americana, and even this is different it’s a more subdued version or arrangement but one that still hits the spot. One of the highlights for me is track number, twenty-one, FARADAYS RIDE, this is a full working of what can I suppose be called the scores central theme, complete with vocal backing and those proud sounding horns that are carried along by strings and supported by timpani and strumming guitars, its proud, hopeful and anthem like and a compulsive listen, by this I mean as soon as cue finishes you want to go back and listen again. Overall a good score and entertaining listen and another reason to mourn the loss of such a gifted composer. Just go buy it……….