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Soundtrack review: The long road home (Jeff Beal – 2017)

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Soundtrack review: The long road home (Jeff Beal – 2017)

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“The Long Road Home” is an American drama miniseries created by Mikko Alanne. The series stars Michael Kelly, Jason Ritter, Kate Bosworth, Sarah Wayne Callies, Jeremy Sisto, Noel Fisher, Jon Beavers, E. J. Bonilla, Jorge Diaz, Ian Quinlan, Darius Homayoun and Patrick Schwarzenegger.On April 4, 2004, the First Cavalry Division from Fort Hood was ferociously ambushed in Sadr City, Baghdad– a day that later came to be known as “Black Sunday.” Based on Martha Raddatz’s best-selling book, THE LONG ROAD HOME chronicles their heroic fight for survival, as well as their families’ agonising wait on the home front back in Texas. Jeff Beal wrote the score.

In the past few years Jeff Beal has become on of my favourite TV composers and his musical range continues to impress me. After politics, drama and documentaries now it’s time for his to score a war miniseries and once again this presentation is two CDs worth of music and for a Jeff Beal score, it has become a must. It seems lately the Hollywood trend has finally shifted in war stories from WWII to the War on terrorism. This score opens with “The mission”, a tense piece which the right dose of military and ethnic sound to ease me into the story. This first cue take me through a lot of states with it’s sound ranging from heroic to melodic emotional and I believe everything it tells me. If the first cue is sort of a preview of what I will encounter in this score, I am happy. There’s also a touch of sweet Americana at the end to make me think of “home”. Jeff Beal has gotten to a point where writing and controlling a complex cue like this is daily business and I couldn’t be happier. I also welcome a dear friend, the evocative trumpet motif from “House of cards” playing hide and seek in “The long road home”.

The score is developing quite nicely with reflective and lovable slow piano motifs like “Israel and Lupita” and I already find myself caring for these characters just from the music. For me ambient piano pieces like this one or “Last rites for Chen” are reasons enough to get this score. I always knew this composer could write emotion well but a classical wonder like “Last rites for Chen” goes beyond what I thought I knew and it echoes back to the many classical concerts I’ve attended with its warm, pastoral, feel. I know the sweetness will end once the fighting starts and intelligent composer that he is, Jeff Beal makes sure I care enough before starting the tension with a massive 10 minutes long textural cue “The ambush begins”. The suspense is built up very carefully with percussion and jumpy strings and a fragmented pace that suggest the idea of motion, of things constantly changing.

The reason why Jeff Beal’s “House of cards” scores have always drawn me irreversibly in their dark, complex world is that just like in a spider web, the more I move, the more tightly it grips me; there are sneaky motifs around every corner, coming for me from every direction and if on the surface his music seems simple and mostly quiet, what lies beneath is gripping and addictive. I get the same feelings when I listen to “The long road home”; the music always is more than it appears and if I peel a layer of woodwind instruments I find the ghost of a trumpet or something else lurking, just as worthy, just as meaningful. Jeff Beal is the master of constructive deception, a magician, a composer who seems to be fanatically micromanaging his orchestra, every cross of a bow, every touch of a key, every blow of a brass instrument. He constructs musical puzzles that make sense in the combination he chooses and that’s why his scores, “The long road home” included, work even better as a whole listening experience, from beginning to end, just like a bigger picture constructed from dozens of smaller ones that you see separately at ground level but if you climb a set of stars make sense as one single, majestic image.

If you enjoy the music of “House of cards” especially you will discover here an evolution of the sound, a deepening of the mystery and a new favourite score. The music is build like a spiral that invites you to climb it and descend it and experience it wholly. A Jeff Beal score is one of my favourite place to get lost in and wonder in. I remember an anecdote Hans Zimmer told about his “Crimson Tide” score: he said that Steven Spielberg called him and told him that he listened to the score and when he stopped it, 8 hours had passed. “The long road” is that kind of score for me. I am just grateful that I am able to enjoy hours of music like this every year and I am also more confident now, after hearing “The long road home”, that even if there’s just one more season of HoC, the sound that I’ve grown to love so much will live on under in the capable hands of a craftsman like Jeff Beal.

Cue rating: 100 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 97 / 97

Album excellence: 100%

Highlights:
The Mission
The Long Road Home
Israel & Lupita
The Ambush Begins
Last Rites for Chen
Riddell’s First Kill
Leann & Gary Volesky
Just a Boy
Faith
The Rescue Begins
Narrow Streets
Start Making Calls
It’s Too Late
A Gathering Of Ravens
Jassim
Kids Moved Forward
Darkest Hour
Young In Iraq
You Can Tell Them
Rescue Misses
Eric Enlists
Miltenberger’s Ghost
Crying Doesn’t Help
Finding The Soldiers
Here We Go
Dreaming of Coming Home
Hope
A Thousand Steps
Dream Of Me
Another Mission
Roll Call Of The Dead
Taps — End Credits
Brothers In Arms

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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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