Freedomland/James Newton Howard

April 23, 2006



James Newton Howard


Sony decided correctly not to release this film in November 2005 for Oscar recognition but fast forwarded the premiere to February of 2006 putting it in that "twilight zone" time frame where a film is released but is likely never going anywhere. While the film stars Julianne Moore and Samuel L. Jackson, the best-selling Richard Price novel just doesn't translate to the screen very well at all. It was quite a reversal in film styles for director Richard Roth who had previously done "Christmas With The Kranks" in 2004. He just didn't seem to make the transition from comedy to drama very well at all. With racial tension and doubts of what really happened this carjacking story just misses the mark. The scenario of could anyone be that stupid comes into play so at least gives some parts of the film have tension and excitement.

This is the second soundtrack in less than a year that Howard shares the composing duties, this time it is Mel Wesson who is credited with the additional music. Freedomland is a nice listening track! It begins with something like an Amazing Grace style music with some electronics, switches to the soft easy listening style and then shifts into a guitar solo quite country western like in flavor. On other tracks there is quite a blending of the low key mono note strings with all kinds of weird electronic sounding noises. A good example of this is Unrest a 4 plus minute track that had some vibrating noises that made me think my speaker was broken! While this track was likely effective in the film itself, it is not a good stand alone example of film music. Cues like Unrest and Rafik is Arrested are what Stravinsky calls "filler material" for the screen. There are very small sections of music that comes through with the "Howard Sound" attached to them. Motifs that will be forgotten in a rather short period of time but pleasant enough to listen to. Tracks such as Riot, I'll Come See You and Little Angel while not melody memorable do feature the piano, clarinet, and soft strings we are accustomed to hearing from James. The harmony chords from the strings are there to give it that "Howard Sound." There is just no melody at all, only some soft and warm cues. While the mixing of the electronics was evidently necessary and important to Roth, I found it more like combining pickled beets with applesauce. They just don't mix too well! Listen to Did They Arrest Someone with the blend of synth, electronic noise, and strings. In the background of this track it sounded like airplane noise! Sometimes names for tracks can also be misleading and one should be careful. Riot is actually one of the softer cues on the CD!

These days sound, mixing, editing, and recording do not seem to be a problem anymore, especially with the Hollywood Studio Symphony Orchestra. It might be a hit or miss with the City Of Prague Orchestra but never with the likes of the professionalism the Studio Symphony has to offer. They are top notch and can always be recommended to give a fine performance, which they do on this recording. The problem is not them but the music itself. If you are a fan and admirer of Howard, likely there is a completeness of having to have everything so you will get this regardless. Keep in mind this is not "Signs", "The Village", or "Wyatt Earp", not even close. This has to be put into the category of "Some music I just don't understand" category. Now one could choose to download just the Freedomland track and have something from the soundtrack. Just a thought. Not recommended.

Score Review Rating **

Track listing


Main Title (03:43)


The Lie (02:58)


Brenda's Apartment (02:27)


Unrest (04:26)


Did They Arrest Anyone? (02:17)


Rafik Is Arrested (02:08)


Freedomland (06:01)


Inside Freedomland (03:02)


You're In The Wrong Park (04:01)


Burning (04:26)


Riot (04:25)


I'll Come See You (02:21)


Little Angel (02:48)

Total Duration: 00:45:03

Varese Sarabande # is 302 066 717 2

Produced by James Newton Howard and Jim Weichman

Performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony conducted by Pete Anthony


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