Thomas Newman,
Road to Perdition
(DreamWorks, 2002)

When the soundtrack for the movie Road to Perdition starts with "Rock Island, 1931," you almost know -- without hearing anything more -- that the soundtrack is going to be worth the purchase price. This instrumental, composed and conducted by Thomas Newman, is a haunting Irish piece that sets the mood this Depression-era gangster flick.

For those of you unfamiliar with the movie (and I can't imagine there are too many of you out there), Road to Perdition stars Tom Hanks as Michael Sullivan. When his wife and youngest son are murdered by the Irish gang he is a member of, Michael goes on a revenge spree with his surviving son. Also starring in the film are Paul Newman and Jude Law.

Newman does an excellent job supporting the film with the soundtrack. Many of the tracks are subtle enough to set the mood, yet not intrude upon your viewing experience. However, several of the tracks, including the aforementioned "Rock Island, 1931," tend to jump to the forefront and make this an album worth consideration even if you are not into soundtracks. I really like "Road to Chicago," which is a poignant piano piece. At several points, stringed instruments join in touching an emotional level that must be felt rather than read about.

While many of the 27 selections might fit the stereotypical soundtrack role of filler, there are several period pieces that truly shine and you should take note of. One of these is "Someday Sweetheart" performed by the Charleston Chasers. Even though this tune was composed in 2000, you would almost swear that it must have been produced 70 years before. If you enjoy '20s and '30s style jazz, this will be a favorite selection from the soundtrack.

Another rather recent song recorded in the wrong time (1994) is "There'll Be Some Changes Made" performed by the Chicago Rhythm Kings. I'm going to have to look these guys up, because this is possibly the best jazzy piece on the CD. They play some awesome old time music (even if it is actually modern).

You don't have to worry about being fooled by Fletcher Henderson & His Orchestra on "Queer Notions." This selection really is from the 1930s. As is common with the jazz from the period, the horns take center stage inviting you to sit back, relax, and enjoy.

Newman, who was nominated for the score to American Beauty, has created a better than average soundtrack with Road to Perdition. There is a good blend of period pieces, interspersed with Irish compositions and standard soundtrack fare. He ends the CD on an interesting note. If you have seen the movie, then you might remember the scene where Tom Hanks and Paul Newman play a piano duet. I was surprised to find in the liner notes that they actually performed the piece!

While the Road to Perdition soundtrack certainly supports the film as it was intended to, I feel that it can almost stand on its own as a CD to put on your must buy list. This is assuming, of course, that you enjoy instrumentals, old style jazz and a little bit of Irish.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 26 October 2002

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