Decca Records, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/06/2000
Being at least partly Irish, I have always had a special place in my heart for the music of Ireland - even if the song only had Celtic influences and went in another direction. (The first time I ever heard "new age" music, the song opened up with Celtic-influenced flute work.) It's not always been the easiest passion for me to follow; I had difficulties getting through Boil The Breakfast Early by The Chieftains. But for the most part, it's been one that has been overall satisfying to me.
How does the soundtrack to Agnes Browne, the latest Angelica Huston film, fit into this scheme? With Chieftain Paddy Moloney composing all original music, you're sure to get your recommended daily dose of Irish music on this one - and just in time for St. Patrick's Day, too! And while this disc is worth the effort, it does have some drawbacks.
Let's talk about one of these drawbacks right off the bat: what's with the reliance on the music of Tom Jones on this soundtrack? Now, I like Jones and his music as much as the next person, and I can understand the use of these songs to fit the time frame the movie is supposed to take place in. But devoting 20 percent of the soundtrack to Jones's music is a bit of a stretch... and if I hear one more movie feature "It's Not Unusual," I'm going to throw up. (Admittedly, it's a nice touch to hear "She's A Lady," one of his hits that's been pushed to the side of late... but I've never been a fan of "Delilah".)
Oh, what the hell... let's get the other drawbacks out of the way while we're on a roll. "Banish The Blues" is an interesting take on Irish music, with the song going from a mournful flute to a rather upbeat rockabilly-type rhythm. It works surprisingly well - that is, until the sudden ending of the track, leaving the listener without any closure on this particular piece. Moloney would have been wise to have thought up a decent ending to this one.
Drawback three, I'll sum up in three words: Brevity, brevity, brevity. The whole disc - all 15 tracks - clocks in at under 35 minutes. Frankly, I would have been much happier had Moloney provided more music to enjoy on Agnes Browne, 'cause the bulk of the music is very enjoyable. (For that matter, how's about hearing more than a smidgen of Derek Bell's harp work on "My Bonnie (Harp Version)"?)
Most of Moloney's original score is hauntingly beautiful, with tracks like "Opening Theme," "Marion's Lament," "Paddy's Mazurka" and "Grab The Money" standing out among the crowd. Worth noting is the duet between The Chieftains and Montserrat Caballe, "The Last Rose Of Summer," a track which should definitely pull at your heartstrings. Likewise, Laura Smith's duet with The Chieftains, "My Bonnie," helps to bring new life to a well-worn track, even though I thought they stretched this one out a little too far.
Just a thought - Irish cowboys? Checks out The Fleadh Cowboys with "Puttin' On The Style," a track which isn't bad in retrospect. But it is a little surprising to hear such a song mixed in with the rest of the soundtrack. (Having not seen the movie, I don't know how it fits into the context of the action... and until I take the little one to see The Tigger Movie, chances are I won't see the inside of a theatre soon.)
If you're not very familiar with Irish music or the work of The Chieftains, this might not be the best place to start your education. However, in general, Agnes Browne is a disc of solid music with only a few questionable inclusions and omissions.