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Soundtrack review: Blood diamond (James Newton Howard, 2006)

JNH Thursday

Soundtrack review: Blood diamond (James Newton Howard, 2006)


“Blood diamond” is a very good movie about the atrocities of the Sierra Leone civil war and how the blood diamond trade influences it. It’s directed by Ed Zwick and starring Leonardo di Caprio and Djimon Honsou. Each of these three names has at least a couple of my favorite scores ever attached to them, so the combination here was already a winner. Edward Zwick movies almost always have marvelous scores (I’ll just mention “Legends of the fall” and “The last samurai”), and when I heard that James Newton Howard was going to score this one, I knew I was in for another classic.
 This is one of those strange scores for me where the listening experience and memory of my favorite tracks actually exceeds the actual value of the score. It seems that I love this score way more when I’m not listening to it then when I am. This speaks of the lasting power of the simple and tender main themes and how they are actually flowing through the entire score, giving it an identity and covering its flaws. The overall sensation I get from and after listening to “Blood diamond” makes me forget all about some of the action cues which are not that brilliant. Thankfully they are few and don’t hurt the score very much.
“Blood diamond” is all about the emotion of Solomon Vandy and Archer’s themes and their variations. The sprout from the “Main titles” blossoms further during the score. The African prayers inserts are a very nice touch and fit the struggle of the main character. “Goodbyes”, “I can carry you” and “Your mother loves you” are sensible and heartbreaking cues, and James Newton Howard made them sound touching enough to get to us, but not overly dramatic or exaggerated. The character didn’t need more. I feel his pain listening to these tracks; they are compositions of quiet desperation.
The other main character of the movie, the one played by Leonardo Di Caprio, gets his spotlight in the longest cue of the score (4 minutes), “Thought I’d never call”. The stem of this theme is the same that runs through the entire score, minus the African instruments. It’s one of those James Newton Howard gems that won’t ever go away, the lonely and peaceful ending of a man sitting on top of a rock, looking into the sunset of his native land…
“Thought I’d never call” is part of the perfect ending of this score. It’s followed by “London” and “Solomon Vandy” which for me actually make one single 6 star cue that has as much emotion and intensity as it needs to make it rank among my favorite James Newton Howard compositions. The poignant African choir, Youssou N’Dour’s haunting voice, the duduk and other African instruments, everything gets to me and make listening to this track especially a beautiful and rich experience.
“Blood diamond” is a warm and tender score that found a place inside me and curled in there for good. I know it will always be there, and I usually name it among my 5 favorite James Newton Howard scores. I don’t need to listen to it all the time to know it’s there, just like I don’t need to see and feel the summer sun every day to be certain that it exists and to know how good it feels on me…
My ratings:
Cue rating: 93 / 100
Total minutes of excellence: 42 / 49
Album excellence: 86%
Cues to listen to:
Blood Diamond Titles 
Crossing the Bridge 
Village Attack 
Archer & Solomon Hike 
Maddy & Archer 
Solomon Finds Family 
Fall of Freetown 
Did You Bury It? 
 Your Son is Gone 
 Diamond Mine Bombed 
 Solomon’s Helping Hand 
 G8 Conference 
I Can Carry You 
 Your Mother Loves You 
 Thought I’d Never Call? 
 Solomon Vandy 
Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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