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ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE: SOUNDTRACK

From the opening brass fanfare flourish, James Newton Howard’s score is a banquet of whimsy. Imagine an exotic aquarium at feeding time, stirring with nimble shapes and colour; that’s a microcosm of the imagery evoked here. It may not be the most serious soundtrack of the year, but it bubbles with playfulness.

For sheer quality, Howard is a superbly consistent composer. And versatile. In recent times delivering a lush and atmospheric score for Snow Falling On Cedars, followed by the tuneful and popular Dinosaur soundtrack. Once again scoring for a Disney animation, he again surprises with the nuances of emotion to be found in simple sentiments. By turns romantic, heroic, adventurous and free spirited, the lack of gravitas in no way diminishes the achievement.

Howard infuses his arrangements with effervescence and tonal flavours. The instruments seem to be in a constant dialogue of jocular banter; and his use of woodwind in particular to take us on a magical aquatic journey is delightful.

In the latter half of the score, choral elements, both soprano lines and full chorus are used for majesty and drama to great effect. The use of electronic percussive elements also increases as the score progresses, and the blend of samples and orchestra is superior to Dinosaur. This time the orchestral timbres are embellished rather than alloyed.

The only disappointment is the obligatory pop song. Atlantis may have sunk, but this ditty has risen to the summit of the track list. Usually these orchestral based soundtracks will throw the theme or titles song in at the end, but the CD’s first track is Where The Dream Takes You, penned by one-woman hit factory Dianne Warren in collaboration with Howard. Notwithstanding Mya’s sweet vocal and the polished production, this is an average, jobbing effort from Warren. For the past couple of decades she’s churned out one radio-friendly tune after another, including an occasional gem such as Unbreak My Heart. Her prolific output affirms a great talent, but mostly the songs fall into the same category as this one: inoffensive, smoothly crafted, singularly unexciting, and always a conglomerate of clichés in the lyric.

However, such a trifle hardly mitigates against the wit and wonder of the score. An underwater-flight of fancy, overflowing with mercurial melodies and the lyricism of a symphonic poem, the sense of fun with which Howard has infused this soundtrack is simply joyous.
Brad Green

Published September 20, 2001

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TRAILER

TITLE: Atlantis

Disney/FMR

COMPOSER: James Newton Howard

PRODUCER: James Newton Howard, Jim Weidman

ADDITIONAL VOCAL ARRANGEMENTS: Lebo M

TRACKS: 16







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