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Soundtrack review: Outlander (season 3) (Bear McCreary – 2018)

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Soundtrack review: Outlander (season 3) (Bear McCreary – 2018)

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“Outlander” is a British-American television drama series based on the historical time travel Outlander series of novels by Diana Gabaldon. Developed by Ronald D. Moore and produced by Sony Pictures Television and Left Bank Pictures for Starz, the show premiered on August 9, 2014. It stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire Randall, a married World War II nurse who in 1945 finds herself transported back to the Scotland of 1743, where she encounters the dashing Highland warrior Jamie Fraser (Sam Heughan) and becomes embroiled in the Jacobite risings. Bear McCreary wrote the score and this is a review for the music of the third season.

Now alongside 80s synth, the Celtic traditional music is the other sound that never fails for me and that is closest to my heart; it’s very close to Bear McCreary’s heart as well since his Scottish heritage is strong and he proves it with the passion and authenticity he poured in the already three volumes of music from “Outlander” we got, all three with a perfect score in my index. Expectations are high for this album as well. As soon as the main titles are out the way the first new theme of the season is introduced, “John Grey”; it opens with a melancholic trumpet motif, the kind that makes me think of either a military or heroic scene. The dramatic sound of “Outlander” takes over midway through the cue as the music turns into a sweeping and inspirational melody that pulls me right back into the universe of this show.

I noticed this in the score for the second season as well: as the show progresses the music moves a bit further away from the pure Celtic sound and into dramatic territory with no ethnical allegiance. The music is still good and shows once more the incredible range of Bear McCreary, who can right anything he wants and for any kind of story and it would still be great. The Celtic strings are still present to bring the haunting melancholy the story needs. “Rupert is next” sounds as if taken from traditional Irish music.

I like to hear music from later seasons of TV shows because the composer had time to develop his sound, to build his world and now he can focus on different emotions and explore the depth of the musical universe instead of the width. A cue like “The promise of John Grey” wouldn’t have made sense in the music for the first season, when people are not yet invested in both the story and the music but now it’s a wonderful dramatic piece that simply works. “Wind and rain” gives me the inspirational Celtic fix I needed.

Revisiting the musical world of “Outlander” is always a pleasure and for me it’s one of Bear McCreary’s most important and complex works. I am happy that for sure there will be a fourth season because it means at least one more album. As far as dramatic orchestral TV scores go, it’s really hard to find any better.

Cue rating: 94 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 47 / 70

Album excellence: 67%

Highlights:
Outlander – The Skye Boat Song (After Culloden) (feat. Raya Yarbrough)
John Grey
Rupert is Next
The Promise of John Grey
A Car Accident
Willie
Wind and Rain
Willoughby
The Crocodile’s Fire (feat. Joel Virgel)
Abandawe
Eye of the Storm
The Liberty Song

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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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