CUTTHROAT ISLAND. (de-luxe, expanded edition).


Cast your minds back to 1995, when a movie entitled CUTTHROAT ISLAND was doing the rounds at the cinemas, this for me was the ultimate pirate movie at the time and I still find it more entertaining than the Pirates of the Caribbean series, (sorry and all that, but I do). This not only goes for the movie but also the musical score by John Debney, the music in CUTTHROAT is robust, epic, jaunty and filled with adventure and romance, which is what a good Pirate movie score should be, don’t get me wrong here, I love what Klaus Badelt did on Pirates and then of course that was built on by Hans Zimmer, but CUTTHROAT for me has the edge musically and also cinematically. Debney’ s fast paced soundtrack underlines and punctuates meticulously all the action taking place on screen and the music is also highly listenable away from the images. The films storyline or plot is a simple one and one that we have seen so many times before, but do we tire of it, no we don’t especially when it is presented in such an entertaining way. A female pirate Morgan, played by Geena Davies and her companion Shaw, portrayed by Matthew Modine, race against their rivals led by an unscrupulous and sadistic character, played convincingly by Frank Langella who is excellent in the role of Dawg, to find a concealed island that has a fabulously rich treasure trove.



So, it’s the normal run of the mill Pirate adventure that we have been watching since movies like LONG JOHN SILVER, TREASURE ISLAND and CAPTAIN BLOOD etc, done in the time-honoured Hollywood tradition of swash and buckle with sword play, chases on land and sea and loads of villains and a fair number of romantic interludes. John Debney’s marvellous score lends much to the proceedings and becomes an important part of the overall film making process, it is fair to say that the film would have been poorer with Debney’s powerful and relentless action cues and would have struggled without his richly romantic and lush themes that underlined the scenes with Davies and Modine. The soundtrack was issued on Silva Screen records at the time of the films release as a one-disc set, then came a double CD set and more recently an extended version on a digital site. This is the version I have chosen to review, available on Spotify, it boasts 39 tracks, some of which are alternate takes or synth demo cues. The score is performed by, THE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA and the choral performances are courtesy of THE LONDON VOICES. The sound achieved by the composer is very Williams-esque as in John Williams, the film in fact was originally assigned to composer David Arnold, but due to scheduling problems, (they always say that don’t they) Debney got the call from Director Renny Harlin. I for one am so glad that Debney worked on the film, it is one of the most effective scores for a Pirate movie that I have heard in years, and as I say I have to be truthful and say I prefer it to any of the PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN movie soundtracks.


Arnold did start work on the score and in interview admitted to writing a few bits and pieces for the movie, which he re-used or arranged into his score for INDEPENDANCE DAY and maybe re-used in THE MUSKETEER a few years later., it also noted that the style employed by Debney in CUTTHROAT ISLAND does bare a striking resemblance to Arnold’s INDEPENDENCE DAY, but that is neither here or there, unless you want to analyse the scores and ask the question who influenced whom.
The film however did not do well at the box office, receiving negative reviews, the movie had multiple re-writes and actors such as Michael Douglas who were originally on board for one reason or another decided not to stay with the production, funnily enough at the same time it was being praised for its high quality production values as in locations, rich musical score and cinematography. It was to be the last film from Carolco Pictures before they ceased production in 1996, the company did relaunch in 2015. But like so many box office flops the movie has in recent years attained something of a following. It was to be one of the biggest flops of all time on paper.


The recording commences with MAIN TITLE-MORGAN’S RIDE, this is a perfect opener filled with wonderfully soaring strings and flyaway woods that are enhanced by brass and percussion, in a rousing and full-blooded working of the films central theme. This is however short lived as the composition, slows and moves into a more poignant and melancholy piece, but this too is soon edged to one side as we return to the thundering CUTTHROAT theme, with choir, strings, brass and powerful percussion. The composer adds so many elements to the piece it is almost as if he is throwing everything at the listener, and yes, its good. I can guarantee you will not be disappointed after hearing this commanding and theme laden opening, it will leave you breathless, literally, but wanting more. Debney’s use of choir is nothing short of stunning, and he supports and underlines it with timpani, brass and strings adding depth and a rich musical persona to the proceedings. This can be heard to great effect in track number 2, THE RESCUE, this is also the cue where I think you will be making comparisons with either INDEPENDENCE DAY, STARGATE, or even ROBIN HOOD PRINCE OF THIEVES. CUTTHROAT ISLAND is nothing short of magnificent musically, it is a tour de force of robust, powerful themes and infectious sounding musical motifs that ooze melodic excellence.


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It is a romantically laced work which also contains shades of comedic writing,  a style which we had already witnessed within Debney’s music for the movie HOCUS POCUS two years previous. To analyse each and every track on the recording would I think be wrong, let it be sufficient to say that I recommend this highly, you will not be sorry if you add this to your collection, in fact I guarantee you will be returning to it on a regular basis.


Mikael Carlsson. of Movie Score Media.



Firstly. why film music? And when did first become aware of music in movies?


I became addicted to film scores in the late 80s when a good friend introduced me to the many brilliant scores of that era, primarily works by Williams and Goldsmith. Together, we started to collect. I remember going to the good old soundtrack store on 58 Dean Street in London, bringing home a dozen Horner LPs, while my friend bought an equally impressive amount of Silvestri’s… In fact, though, my father had already played his Close Encounters soundtrack for me many times before this, but it was only at the age of 15-16 I got really hooked. Before that, I had been interested mostly in classical music, exploring a lot of different composers. When I began to take serious notice of the music of John Williams, I realized his music had all the elements I was usually looking for in classical music: emotions, drama, melody, interesting harmony, colourful orchestrations.



What was your first record purchase if it was not a soundtrack what was the first film music you went out and paid for?

The first soundtrack I bought myself was the Cocoon LP, and shortly thereafter came Willow. The first film music CD I bought was John Williams compilation ’Pops in Space’.


Before the arrival of cds how many soundtracks did you have in your collection on vinyl?

Oh. I really don’t know, maybe a couple of hundreds? Is that even important? [laughs]





What was your most expensive soundtrack purchase ?

I have to say that this is a question I can’t answer because I don’t keep track of stuff like that. I do have a lot of rare soundtracks, but this is mostly because of gifts and promos sent to me in my role as a film music journalist (1993-2008) and soundtrack record producer (2006- ). Although I have thousands and thousands of soundtrack CDs, I would not consider myself an active collector anymore.


Do you still buy lp records and which do you or download?

I never buy vinyl and only on rare occasions do I buy CDs. I have transitioned into the digital era and is still digitizing and coordinating a huge digital library of film scores for both my own professional use and for my enjoyment.

Is there anything that you are looking for that maybe you have not been able to find.

Well, this question can be answered both from a label owners’ and a film music fan’s perspective. I know that I belong to a minority, but personally I am not a huge fan of the dozens of different limited, expanded, complete, definitive, etcetera, versions that exist of many of the big film scores we all love. I tend to go back to the original album cuts that Williams and Goldsmith created, and still find them to be the most rewarding musically. Some scores – in fact most of those written by the two composers I just mentioned – are so rich that they deserve a more generous presentation than the original LPs could offer, but in general I do think that the fourth album version of the same score is craziness. I love to spend my time discovering new works and new composers instead.

What composer would you say dominates your collection?


I do have a huge lot of Williams, Goldsmith, Horner, Silvestri, Broughton, Chris Young… and many others.


What is your opinion of song scores ?
That’s a strange expression. Do you mean musicals? Or soundtrack albums that are song compilations? Well… I am not interested.


What is your opinion of the state of film music in recent years. compared to the 40.s 50.s 60.s and 70s?

The quality of film music in general is very high, but I think that there is a conformity and lack of inventiveness in a lot of mainstream scores – but there are so many exceptions from that rule too. We tend to be very negative and bemoan the current state of film music – but in fact, this is nothing new. Like any art form, or genre, there is only a small fraction of what is put out that is really noteworthy, that is original and unique. Then there is a pretty large pile of stuff that is functional and can be a great experience – but it won’t last in your memory for long. Then there is an even bigger amount of content that simply is completely uninteresting. There is also a lot of talk about the lack of melody in today’s film scores in general – and while I agree to a certain extent, in my book the lack of interesting harmony is an even bigger consideration. The predictable harmonic formula for a lot of mainstream film scores is tiresome. That’s why composers like Thomas Newman – a genius when it comes to nearly bi-tonal ideas and a sense of harmonic ambivalence – are always refreshing. And look at John Williams: still, at the age of 86, he writes harmonies that are complex and interesting, even though the melodies themselves are easy to hum. I love that!


How do you store your cds ?

In boxes.



If you were asked by a soundtrack label to choose ten soundtracks to be released for first time or re-released in a complete version what would be on your list?


Ha ha. I don’t think this question is for me running a soundtrack label myself. But one of those scores that were on my list was Back to Gaya by Michael Kamen…







Composer Bear McCreary is known mainly for his work on popular TV series such as the re boot of BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA, OUTLANDER and of course THE WALKING DEAD. His music is innovative and original with the composer often fusing electronic elements with that of a more conventional symphonic line up to fashion and create surprising and positive results. His music for the show THE WALKING DEAD has become an important and highly integral component of the long running series, and it is true to say that THE WALKING DEAD without the music of McCreary would definitely not be the same. Right from the start, the score begins to conjure up an atmosphere and mood that is to say the least unsettling, as soon as one hears those opening bars of the central theme, a sense of tension, danger and chaos, begins to manifest itself. McCreary’s driving and mesmerising strings drawing the viewer into an uncertain and foreboding world filled with walkers and other even more virulent individuals who delight in causing pain and distress. The main titles theme actually begins to play before any titles appear on screen, so McCreary’s repeating sinewy motif for strings announces that an episode is about to start, thus the viewer is hooked even before any images appear.


Given the gory and violent subject matter of THE WALKING DEAD one would not think that the composer would not have any time for romantic or soft toned themes, but there is within the scores for the series a number of haunting and beautiful tone poems, these although few and far between certainly make their presence felt at key points within the series, at times the composer utilising a softer approach to underline a moment of violence, so that when it happens it is even more shocking and impacting upon watching audiences, simply because subconsciously they are not expecting it, the music has not pre-warned them, but just the opposite has lulled them into a false sense of security. The less atonal action cues are also used to great effect within the series to highlight the desperation and the isolation of certain characters, as in the melancholy infused cue, SOPHIA, which although superbly rich and lush is also tinged with traces of apprehension and nervous tension.


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McCreary’s music is superbly orchestrated throughout the series, sometimes the composer introducing instruments or sounds that would not ordinarily be combined in conventional scoring, but when he merges them they seem to fuse with consummate ease. The composer’s musical talent and prowess shines through on each outing, with both symphonic and electronic elements intertwining to create powerful and memorable musical statements and moments, which not only underline, punctuate and support the action, drama and desperation, but also can stand alone away from the images and scenarios as just music to be listened to.


There are also several scenes and sequences within the series that are un-scored, where there is no music, and this too is a sign of a talented composer. Knowing when not to swamp a scene in music is just as important as supporting it with a score, thus allowing the images, action or dialogue to create the drama and impact. McCreary, is not only talented and innovative, but is a composer that for me constantly experiments with sounds and instrumentation, whilst at the same time re-invents his style and sound, which means he remains fresh and original.



Bear McCreary, was born in Fort Lauderdale Florida, on February 17th, 1979. His Mother Laura Kalpakian, is an accomplished author and his Father Jay McCreary, is a professor based at the University of Hawaii. The composers Brother Brendan is also involved in music and they often collaborate, and in the early days Bear often directed and produced videos of Brendan’s band Young Beautiful in a Hurry. Bear graduated from Bellingham High School in 1997, and then went on to study music at Thornton School of Music and The University of Southern California, gaining a degree in composition and recording arts. He is a classically trained pianist and taught himself to play other instruments such as the Accordion. McCreary studied under the iconic film music composer Elmer Bernstein, and at times one can hear certain nuances and phrases that evoke the great composers style and works. It was McCreary who worked with Bernstein on the re-construction and reworking of the orchestration for the 1963 film score KINGS OF THE SUN, the fruits of their labours allowing the full score to be released on a recording for the first time in forty years, much to the delight of hundreds of devoted Bernstein fans.


In 2003 the composer worked under the guidance of composer Richard Gibbs on the reboot of BATTLESTAR GALLATICA for TV, the three hour mini series acted as a pilot for a planned series and when the show was selected for screening composer Gibbs found that he could not dedicate his full attention to scoring it, it was at this point that McCreary was asked to become the composer on the series. McCreary stayed with the series for six years scoring over 70 episodes, his music is featured on six soundtrack albums that were released by LA LA LAND records, which have received much critical acclaim and are held in high regard by fans of the composer and series, in fact the soundtracks for seasons 2 and 3 of the series attained the title of top selling soundtracks in Amazons top 30 music sales on their first days of release. The composer also provided the score for CAPRICA, a prequel spin off from the Battlestar Gallactica series.

McCreary, has worked on numerous TV series, these include THE CAPE, AGENTS OF S.H.I.E.L.D. and HUMAN TARGET, the latter going down in history for having the largest orchestra ever utilised for a television score, and it was for his work on this series that garnered the composer his first Emmy nomination, however when the series was aired new in 2010 the producers did not ask him to return as composer. It was also in 2010 that the composer made his feature film score debut on STEP UP 3D, since then he has scored movies such as KNIGHTS OF BADDASSOM, THE BOY, COLOSSAL, REBEL IN THE RYE, EVERLY, 10 CLOVERFIELD LANE and HAPPY DEATH DAY, as well as working on a handful of direct to video/DVD features which include, WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END, REST STOP and REST STOP: DON’T LOOK BACK.


His most recent movie scoring assignment is THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX which contains an epic sounding score for full orchestra. Whichever way you look at it, the music of Bear McCreary has made an impact upon the world of TV and Cinema, whether it be via his threatening and uneasy themes for THE WALKING DEAD or his powerful music for THE CLOVERFIELD PARADOX or indeed his Barry-esque, poignant and melodic work on REBEL IN THE RYE, McCreary is HEAR to stay. Which is something I am rather pleased about.