Harry Gregson-Williams,
Spy Game
(Universal Classics, 2001)

There are basically two types of soundtracks for films: those in which the score is created for the film and those that combine a bunch of popular songs, essentially becoming a various artists' compilation CD with the same title as a movie. The former type often have a harder time standing on their own without the film to back them up. This is the case for Spy Game composed by Harry Gregson-Williams.

The soundtrack starts off with "Su-Chou Prison." There are no surprises with the music as to where it fits in with the quick paced action of the film. The music in this piece, which is typical throughout the soundtrack, will suddenly switch gears from slow to high speed with no transition to speak of. The induced adrenalin rush is palpable when accompanied by the visuals. Otherwise, the QUICK-s...l...o...w LOUD-soft POUNDING-quiet back and forth is a little annoying to say the least.

This soundtrack will appeal to only two types of listeners. For those fans of Robert Redford and/or Brad Pitt that simply have to own everything associated with their work, enjoy. If you are taken with scores in which you can tell the composer was "composing" as he watched scenes of the film attempting to enhance a certain emotional feeling that the movie was trying to project at any given time, then you won't be disappointed. But if you like your soundtracks with a little meat, you are mostly going to find gristle.

To be fair, I am taken with some of the techno-influenced selections. The beat, while repetitive, does have a certain pull. Unfortunately, just as you are getting in to the groove, the tempo is going to suddenly change and throw you off track.

There are a couple of selections, such as "My Name is Tom" and "Operatino Dinner Out" in which a young child, Timothy Washburn, provides a beautiful soprano. I similarly like the Middle Eastern vocals of Khosro Ansari in "All Hell Breaks Loose" and a few other songs. There is a definite aura of wild, heart-pounding danger that is quite engaging. Unfortunately, in the middle of the songs, the mood is killed as the music abruptly changes. This might work while watching Spy Game progress from scene to scene, but not when you are simply trying to listen to music for pleasure.

Other than a few select tracks, the music on the Spy Game soundtrack does not stand alone outside of the context in which it was originally played in the film. Unless you have seen the movie and like reliving it in your mind as you play the music, this CD is probably not for you. Yes, there are some very catchy pieces on the soundtrack, but are a handful of songs worthy of paying for a whole CD? That is a question you will have to answer for yourself. For me, those select songs would have to be awful darn good. I am just not so sure these are.

[ by Wil Owen ]
Rambles: 30 March 2002

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