Thomas Newman

Thomas Newman

Music From the Motion Picture Road To Perdition


A movie soundtrack should do two things: It should draw the listener into the world of the movie and it should be able to stand alone as a musical work. Thomas Newman’s score to Road To Perdition almost works on both counts.

On the whole, the score is quiet with some forte and allegro interludes. Newman’s works are beautiful and relatively spare • piano solos with small strings and horns. His theme, flowing through “Ghosts,” “Road To Perdition,” “The Farm,” and “Just The Feller,” captures that perfect sense of hushed reflectiveness.

Newman, whose credits include American Beauty, Desperately Seeking Susan, and The Shawshank Redemption, is not afraid to draw upon many influences. He colors pieces with Irish influences (“Rock Island, 1931”), plays with a subliminal Indian feel (“Cathedral”), and uses some mildly jazzy horns on “Mr. Rance.” The modern “Murder (In Four Parts)” is probably the most atypical piece on the album, and yet doesn’t break the flow.

Newman’s music gives the listener a sense of dread, loneliness, excitement and foreboding, all telling the story at hand. However, they do not stand well on their own, nor are they standout examples. Together, the pieces make a better whole, and truly work best as background. Movie scores that make the leap into the popular consciousness seem to have a particular melody or bombast that doesn’t come through here. Not that this is a problem, because I like to have beautiful music playing in the background. This album is perfect for that purpose. Or it would be, if it flowed properly. The insertion of three period jazz pieces into the album has the subtle transitioning effect of shifting your car from drive to park.

While great in their own right, they just don’t fit into the context of Newman’s orchestral theme. Which is too bad because these are premier bands from the late ’20s. The Charleston Chasers was a studio name for Red Nichols and his Five Pennies, the Chicago Rhythm Kings track features Eddie Condon on vocals, and Fletcher Henderson and His Orchestra performing a snappy Coleman Hawkins tune — all of them jazz greats shoehorned into a quiet corner. Perhaps they would have been better left out or relegated to the end of the album.

The album ends with a beautiful piano duet by Paul Newman and Tom Hanks. “Perdition • Piano Duet” is probably the best and most moving John Williams piece you will hear this year. Although I should say, it’s not that John Williams. So program your CD player for the score or the jazz, and let the music pull you into another world.

Universal Records:

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