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Concussion by James Newton Howard (Review)

posted Feb 21, 2016, 7:11 AM by Michael Hollands

James Newton Howard has been one of my favorite composers for such a long time now and it is easy to see why. The man is simply a genius. Just look at his expansive credits, listen to his music and you will know what I mean! His long list includes for instance: Pretty Woman, The Prince Of Tides, Wyatt Earp, Signs, The Village, King Kong, The Fugitive, Blood Diamond, The Devil's Advocate and so many more. This man should be an inspiration to every composer and fan out there.

2015 was a great year for every fan of James, since three new scores written by him were released: Pawn Sacrifice, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 and last but not least Concussion starring Will Smith.

Now let's talk about the score. In the first track “Concussion” James creates a great atmosphere with a nice string theme. He combines organic instruments with superb synth effects. The album opens and continues nicely when James uses more strings and the piano to create a very fluent listening experience. “Strzelczyk Visits Webster” starts off with a great synth part which then turns into a more menacing sounding piece of music.

The music never sounds too intrusive. James supports the images on screen very effectively. His score is reflective, elegant and emotional. In “Jacked Up” James once again combines piano, synths and string instruments in a great way. Percussion and choir add more depth and character to the whole piece. This is the best track of the album so far! The music has a soul and also moving moments as heard in “The Head As A Weapon”. The score seems really well crafted. “Strzelczyk Loses It” shows a more unsettling side of the album, when James hits us with somewhat hard sounds. The longest piece of the album is the nine-minute “Published - Marry Me”. Despite the length it never feels drawn-out at all. It stands as yet another well balanced track. For “We Used To Be Warriors” James incorporated an nice trumpet sound, which gives the whole piece a nice dramatic element and a human component. Howard's elegant writing is simply unique and the wonderful "Concussion End Titles” simply provides further proof of this statement!

The album as a whole never really feels too long or boring for my taste. Even the quietest parts are elegant and provide a nice listening experience. The score fits like a glove. James is a brilliant composer and a consummate professional. Concussion is a nice addition to the collection of every James Newton Howard fan. The album, which was again co-produced by the great Sven Faulconer, features moments of beauty, elegance and sadness. Some might argue about the lack of big highlights, or thematic material. Some might not like the thriller writing of James Newton Howard. Others, including myself, will find this score very appealing, enjoyable and well executed. I mean this is clearly not the best score of James' long and impressive career, but it clearly stands as a further proof of James' ability to provide the right score for any given genre and this is what the best composers do!