Randy Newman,
Seabiscuit
(Universal, 2003)

I live in horse country. Although we live about a 40-minute drive from Texas, a country within itself, this part of Louisiana is not just gators and swamps. We are cowpokes, jockeys, farmers and interested non-participants. In this part of rural America, the people are a breed apart in that their horses are not commonly thought of when the Kentucky Derby or the Triple Crown are striven for, and lost, again. In a word, then, we are not always the champions. Thus, when Seabiscuit came out, both book and movie, and the story was told about its author writing the book while fighting the devastating effects of the Epstein-Barr virus, also known as "chronic fatigue," I had to do the review, because I also have Epstein-Barr, complicated by narcolepsy. Clearly, Seabiscuit is more than just a feel-good horse movie or score; it is an epic.

The composer of the score for Seabiscuit, Randy Newman is a gifted, prolific composer who has written lots of excellent music over a long career with elan and joy. The music for this movie, then, had to be high quality and, to use the language of a non-breeder, a score worthy of the genetic stock that produced the composer Randy Newman and his uncle, Alfred Newman, another composer of many fine movie scores.

The music begins with "The Main Title," which starts slowly and majestically, with a sweet, solemn feel of early spring, with colts and fillies gently nibbling the first shy shoots of grass, and then building to the magic of the birthday run the first weekend in May, where the youngsters' hoof beats meet the track for the first leg of the derby, and the 3-year-olds prove their sires and dams weren't just whistling Dixie when they were matched. Newman's use of horns, strings and metaphorical whimsy and irony within this CD allows the listener to be able to visualize the story within the saga of Seabiscuit. With the second piece, "Idea," one is reminded of the old Judy Garland/Mickey Rooney movies, as in "Let's put on a show," where the gang gets together and pools their talents and treasures to save the old schoolhouse from demolition, and learns how to make do with what they have for the greater good.

The music within this score allows its performance without the benefit of a movie. Thus, Newman has written a score that contains not only his trademark style, but also allows a story to be told. The music is a reflection of the spirit of horse-racing, as well as the ideals within the concept of being less of a traditional champion, but more of a Rocky Balboa or other mythic figure who achieves legend status as well as the status of a god. Throughout this piece, whether employing mariachi music or otherwise, this CD is a winner and deserves to enter the pantheon of Triple Crown winners.

- Rambles
written by Ann Flynt
published 17 July 2004



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