Its an odd thing that at times you hear the latest score from a composer and you think, That’s his best yet, then the next release surpasses it, James Newton Howard is a composer I have followed from RUSSKIES onwards, and I have to say I think this every time I hear one of his soundtracks, one of his recent scores is for Terrence Malick’s A HIDDEN LIFE, and again the composer has created a work that is reflective, tranquil, emotive and affecting and one which underlines, punctuates and enhances perfectly. The story line is too a touching and thought-provoking piece which focuses upon the relationship between a husband and wife in small village in Austria during WWll, the husband being a conscientious objector. It’s a tale of love and morality, The composer has fashioned a beautiful score, which is laden with poignant and highly emotional compositions, the music is an important component of the story and the scenarios that are being acted out on screen, Newton Howard piecing together gentle and melodic nuances that are delicate and purvey a sense of fragility and melancholy, the heart breaking themes that run throughout the score are haunting and at times total consuming and mesmerising. Newton Howard is a composer of many colours musically and also, he has the ability to adapt to any genre of film giving each project a lasting and vibrant sound or musical personality. His score for A HIDDEN LIFE is I would say up ther with his best, it lays bare the emotional content of the story and underlines the dramatic content and also laces the romantic interludes wonderfully, this is a soundtrack that you will probably shed a tear or two over, its highly emotional content will sweep over you and infiltrate your mind, body and soul, tug at your heart strings and tantalise your senses. The low-key sound is appealing and although at times is sorrowful via the cello performances and also solo violin, and string section, it still has to it a shining and glinting aura, the music speaks of hope and also of loyalty and love. Certainly, one to check out.





THE NUTCRACKER AND THE FOUR REALMS, opens in cinemas soon. A Disney movie for all the family and just in time for the pre Christmas hype that whips up the kids into a frenzy about the season of goodwill etc. etc. The score for this latest Disney extravaganza is by revered and respected composer James Newton Howard. There is something about Newton Howard’s music that is particularly suited to this type of film. It has to it a magical sound and also contains so much sparkle and shimmer it is hard not to become attracted and mesmerised by it. This is a score that is brimming with that feel good sound that warmth and copious amounts of good cheer. When listening initially I was reminded of Henry Mancini? Dont ask me why, I just suddenly thought, Mancini, maybe it is the time of year r the lush strings that evoked memories of SANTA CLAUSE THE MOVIE not sure, any way, Newton Hoard’s score is a beautifully crafted one and has within it little trademarks that we now associate with the composer via his scores for films such as MALEFICENT, add to this little references to THE SUGAR PLUM FAIRY etc. and we have here a hit soundtrack.




Based upon the story by E. Hoffman where we see a young girl transported into a magical world of gingerbread soldiers and an army of mice. All Clara wants is a one-of-a-kind key that she hopes will unlock a box that holds a priceless gift from her late mother. She is presented with a Golden thread at her godfather Drosselmeyer’s annual holiday party, the thread leads her to the key, but no sooner has you got the key that it vanishes, disappearing into a magical and mysterious parallel world. Clarameets a soldier named Phillip, a gang of mice and the heads of State who preside over three Realms, these are The Land of Snowflakes, The Land of Flowers, and The Land of Sweets (my favourite). Clara and Phillip must be brave and go to the fearsome Fourth Realm which is home to the tyrant Mother Ginger, where Clara’s key is and hopefully when they retrieve it they will return harmony to the unstable world. So are you hooked already, I am. I suppose we could say that it was originally scored by Tchaikovsky, but that would be stretching the truth a little, although he did write the NUTCRACKER before the advent of film or at least film according to Disney.



The story has entertained and enthralled so many children and adults over the years and I am confident that this latest manifestation of it will be just as popular. Newton Howard’s music is perfect for the story and the movie, its fragile and otherworldly style underlining and elevating the storyline giving it greater depth and even more of a magical feel. The composer also references certain themes from THE NUTCRACKER and interweaves these elements into his original score. In a number of ways the music does evoke memories of his MALEFICENT score, it is bold, sweeping and Grandiose, Newton Howard utilising choir, strings and proud sounding brass throughout, the quieter moments of the score containing subtle tones for woods and strings, which are affecting and poignant. The work is filled with a vibrant energy that is powerful and commanding, the strings drive the work along at pace in the more upbeat sections of the score but also add melancholy and an emotive sound in the lighter or quieter sections.




We are treated to a musical pallet of colourful thematic passages and an abundance of moods that are light, dark foreboding and richly romantic and filled with melody. Many may say that this is sugary sounding score, but I recommend it to you, two bonus cues include a performance of THE NUTCRACKER SUITE by Lang Lang accompanied by choir and orchestra which is stunning and a vocal performance by Andrea and Matteo Bocelli, who sing FALL ON ME.







The latest offering from composer James Newton Howard is RED SPARROW, which is a score that I will recommend to you even before you read my review, it is a work that in my opinion is one of the composers best so far in his ever expanding and ever surprising Canon of work for the cinema. Year, with the sound achieved in the golden age of Hollywood Newton Howard has been known in the past to employ synthesised sounds and electronic instrumentation, and I thought given the films content and settings he might again turn to these for support in creating the score, however, I am pleased to say that RED SPARROW contains a predominantly symphonic score, and one which in my ever so humble opinion fuses the styles of classical as in the great musical Masters of yester-year such as Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich with sounds and styles created by the Hollywood greats of the golden age such as Korngold, Waxman, Steiner and most noticeably Bernard Herrmann, in fact there are definite nods in the direction of Herrmann within the score, which of course is no bad thing. Newton Howard fashions a soundtrack that is filled with apprehension and overflowing with uneasy sounding melodies, that trick the listener into a false sense of security, initially putting them at their ease, but then slowly but surely begins to unnerve and unsettle them as the score progresses. The composer does also enlist the aid of synthesised sounds within the work, but manages to mix both synthetic and symphonic elements together without jarring or making it obvious. This is an attractive and a foreboding score, which relies upon the brass, Percussion and string sections in the main. When the composer is not underling the action on screen with ominous sounding edgy layers of sounds he is elevating and giving support to other scenarios with a pulsating and vibrant work that has a somewhat troubled romantic side to it. In many ways I was reminded of Herrmann’s CAPE FEAR or VERTIGO, as the music is one-minute quiet and even understated, then suddenly it rises and becomes turbulent and driving. One of my favourite cues on the soundtrack is ARRIVING AT SPARROW SCHOOL, this is low key at the offset and has to it an almost serene and celestial choral sound, underlined by strings and supported by a sorrowful cello solo this however is soon overwhelmed and replaced by an anxious mood that is conjured up by the composers use of the same instrumentation, but obviously utilised in a differing fashion. RED SPARROW is dark and threatening, apprehensive and edgy, but is also throughout laced with a rich and lusciously lavish presence that is romantic and delicate. Little touches of fragility complimenting and acting as a pre-cursor to the more robust moments.




This style of scoring is more pronounced in cues such as BLONDE SUITS YOU, TICKET TO VIENNA and CAN I TRUST YOU? The crowning glory of the score is the end titles track, which runs to nearly ten minutes in duration, the composer returning to a classical sound which could be from any of the works of the aforementioned Russian Master’s which he arranges and segues into a powerful Herrmann-esque piece for full orchestra. Complete with rasping brass, booming percussion and urgent surging strings, before he returns to a low key and calming approach again sounding similar to Herrmann’s VERTIGO, which brings the cue and the recording to an end. Highly recommended.



Let’s go back a few years to 2008, to a movie entitled THE HAPPENING, and a score that was the work of James Newton Howard. I recently watched the movie again on TV and was still struck by the suspense and the sense of apprehension and uncertainty that just oozed from this movie, the musical score had a lot to do with creating this thick and foreboding atmosphere. Newton Howard again providing us with a soundtrack that was haunting in a nice way and unsettling in so many other ways. THE HAPPENING, is an energetic, swift paced, blood pumping and heart racing thriller. It is about a family who are on the run from an unexplained and it seems an un-stoppable entity or occurrence that not only threatens their existence, but also is putting in jeopardy the future and survival of the whole of human kind. Stylishly directed by M.Night Shyamalan, this is one of many collaborations between Newton Howard and the director. In recent years their collaboration has earned respect from not only fellow film makers and composers but from fans and critics alike. The directors obvious gift for creating icy and fearsome thought provoking sci-fi horrors being enhanced by the highly talented and gifted Newton Howard. Although THE HAPPENING is not as hard hitting as SIGNS or SIXTH SENSE dramatically or musically but it comes very close and I must say that I enjoyed it a lot when revisiting the film and the score.



Newton Howards score is just perfect for the movie, the composer underlining the action and moments of violence wonderfully with blasts of sound and dramatic percussive and brass stabs. But there is also the more subdued side to the score via the sober but almost icy cello performances which literally make one tingle. In many ways, this is a score that can be likened to styles of both Jerry Goldsmith and Thomas Newman, with maybe a nod or two in the direction of Herrmann? There is an almost delicate touch throughout the proceedings and key points which in fact adds more of a menacing atmosphere than any amount of booming percussion, urgent string performance or jagged sounding brass stabs could ever do, plus we have the action material in cues such as SHOTGUN.


Then there is the dark and sinister piano laced with strings and punctuated with brass in YOU CAN, T JUST LEAVE US HERE, the score purveys a sense of tension and evokes a mood that is filled with uncertainty and at times panic and dread. The composer relaying these emotions via sinewy strings and solo violin in certain areas. With a calming but malevolent sounding piano in the background on many of the cues it is hard to feel assured or easy whilst listening to Newton Howards music.



The END TITLE SUITE on the recording runs for just over 8 minutes, within this piece we get a chance to relish the quality of the composers score, with the track containing key phrases and thematic material from the soundtrack. With some emotive Cello and viola performances included. The momentum of the movie I felt waned slightly mid-way through, but the score continued to be strong and above all interesting, adding much to the proceedings. One to look out for if you have not already got it within your collection.




One of the most anticipated movies of 2016 is soon to hit screens in the UK and U.S. FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM is yet another addition to the already popular and fantastical HARRY POTTER franchise. Well its the story of Newt Scamander and is set some seventy years before Harry Potter reads his book at school a book that tells of a secret community of Wizards and Witches who frequent New York. Written by J.K. Rowling (who else) and directed by David Yates the movie stars Johnny Depp and Eddie Redmayne as Newt and it set to become one of the biggest box office attractions this Christmas. The musical score which has also been awaited by film music collectors with baited breath is the work of one of cinemas most talented composer, arranger, conductors James Newton Howard. It was many years ago when I first encountered his name on a soundtrack release RUSSKIES was I think my first JNH score on long playing record. This was followed by several others that included, SAIGON, THE MAN IN THE MOON, DINOSAUR, MALEFICENT, PRETTY WOMAN, MY GIRL, THREE MEN AND A LITTLE LADY, FALLING DOWN, WYATT EARP and FLATLINERS to name but a few. His talent as a composer is immense and his ability to adapt to any genre of film and create wonderfully melodic and dramatic compositions which compliment support and enhance each motion picture he is involved with is second to none and that is why he is in such demand. His music can be grand and lavish, poignant and subtle, delicate and mesmerising as well as powerful and hard hitting. FANTASTIC BEASTS is in my humble opinion one of the composers best scores to date, it is a veritable powerhouse of rich and lush thematic material. The score opens with the familiar strains of the principal theme that composer John Williams created all those years ago for the first Harry Potter adventure, HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERERS STONE in 2001. But this is short lived as Newton Howard launches into a highly dramatic and pulsating central theme that is of his own creation. The theme soon establishes itself and does have that Newton Howard trademark sound, it is vibrant and romantically laced but also has to it an underlying aura which can be unsettling and this lends a touch of apprehension to the proceedings. The composition is led by strings that are fleetingly given more power by choral support, the brass section also take a major role in the piece with thundering percussive elements adding weight to the cue giving it a commanding and powerful musical persona.



The composer then begins to gradually build his central theme with playful driving strings which although not overpowering are affecting and soon establish themselves as the main stay of the MAIN TITLE alongside subdued brass flourishes. Track number two, THERE ARE WITCHES AMONG US/THE BANK/THE NIFFLER, is as one might expect a rather mystical and magical sounding cue, in many ways I was reminded of the style employed by James Horner in his score for WILLOW, the use of choir is stunning and beautiful with the string section supporting to great effect as the track begins to develop, the composer creates a mesmerising and haunting sound in the opening stages of this cue, this however soon alters as the music shifts into a more comedic sounding piece, with woodwind, strings and subdued use of percussion and brass which act as punctuation rather than taking on the leading role.
Track number three, TINA TAKES NEWT IN/MANCUSA HEADQUARTERS is another delight and certainly oozes with a sense of mischief and grandeur with the composer combining and Elfman like choir with highly melodic strings and jaunty brass. Jumping forward to track number seven INSIDE THE CASE which I think is one of my favourite cues on the release, we are treated to a slow burner at first with Newton Howard opening with a magnificent and lush theme performed by strings and brass and elevated into a crescendo by shimmering and powerful percussion, this then evaporates momentarily with the composer building again until the lush and fully lavish theme returns, but again this is just a brief manifestation of the theme as the composition dips and returns to a more subdued state, with a solo trumpet underlined by rich but low sounding strings and further embellished by faraway sounding horn and a delightful meandering piano solo that seems to skip in and out of the strings and brass in an impish or mischievous fashion. Further woodwind and celeste are brought into the piece as it segues into a rather cheeky sounding theme which although has a somewhat light and comedic atmosphere is also rather unsettling as in the calm before the storm or in this case however, it is the quiet before the full-on eruption of the composition, with the theme raising its head once again, in a very similar fashion to the soaring theme that the composer produced in MALEFICENT FLIES. This is a wonderfully inventive score that is overflowing with a majestic, rich and highly vibrant style and sound, there is something here for every taste and if you listen to this score and say you do not like it, then you cannot be listening to the same recording that I am.



Just sit and listen to the magnificence and the magical nuances and musical passages in track number 14, RELIEVE HIM OF HIS WAND/NEWT RELEASES THE THUNDERBIRD/JACOBS FAREWELL or track number 15, NEWT SAYS GOODBYE TO TINA/JACOBS BAKERY and tell me you are not inspired, moved and thrilled. The END TITLES too are quite wonderful and contain a sound that evokes the style of Korngold and other Golden age composers. It’s a must have, an essential purchase, so come on you Muggles go get it. It is already a classic.




Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Music by James Newton Howard.

1. Main Titles – Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (2:54)
2. There Are Witches Among Us / The Bank / The Niffler (6:53)
3. Tina Takes Newt In / Macusa Headquarters (1:56)
4. Pie or Strudel / Escaping Queenie and Tina’s Place (3:05)
5. Credence Hands Out Leaflets (2:03)
6. Inside the Case (9:08)
7. The Erumpent (3:28)
8. In the Cells (2:10)
9. Tina and Newt Trial / Let’s Get the Good Stuff Out / You’re One of Us Now / Swooping Evil (7:59)
10. Gnarlak Negotiations (2:57)
11. The Demiguise and the Occamy (4:06)
12. A Close Friend (1:51)
13. The Obscurus / Rooftop Chase (3:48)
14. He’s Listening To You Tina (2:05)
15. Relieve Him of His Wand / Newt Releases the Thunderbird / Jacob’s Farewell (12:33)
16. Newt Says Goodbye to Tina / Jacob’s Bakery (3:26)
17. End Titles – Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (2:21)
18. A Man and His Beasts (Bonus Track) (8:31)
19. Soup and Leaflets (Bonus Track) (2:19)
20. Billywig (Bonus Track) (1:31)
21. The Demiguise and the Lollipop (Bonus Track) (0:58)
22. I’m Not Your Ma (Bonus Track) (2:04)
23. Blind Pig (Bonus Track) (1:29)
24. Newt Talks To Credence (Bonus Track) (2:13)
25. End Titles Pt.2 – Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (Bonus Track) (1:22)
26. Kowalski Rag (Bonus Track) (5:12)