Monday , February 26 2024

Music Review: John Powell/John Williams – ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

The soundtrack to Solo: A Star Wars Story includes the original Han Solo theme and Star Wars music by John Williams. John Powell (How to Train Your Dragon) then takes over the composing duties, writing new music and adapting Williams’s work as well. This exciting, high-quality 20-track soundtrack enhances familiar themes while offering new melodies within the same musical vein.

(Note: I saw the movie before reviewing this score. Also, some of the track titles noted below might act as spoilers. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, go see it soon.)

Williams combined two of his works to compose and conduct “The Adventures of Han” theme, which he recorded with the Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles at the Newman scoring stage. The horns predictably shine here as the driving force, complemented well by the strings. The horn arrangement grows stronger as this thrilling track progresses and the strings grow more complex and dense. It’s a perfect theme song for the star character.

Powell’s musical score really enhances the action and emotional team-ups, especially when the Millennium Falcon appears. Powell recorded his tracks with a 98-piece orchestra at London’s Abbey Road studios and with a 36-voice Bulgarian women’s choir who really shine on tracks like “Marauders Arrive” and the very unique “Chicken in the Pot,” which is featured in an interior sequence on a yacht-like spaceship. This work is the only one with lyrics (not English, but a French-like tongue emanating from Star Wars creatures). It’s a delightful addition that injects some nice variety into the overall listening experience.

The unique “Meet Han” slowly builds with great chords at the start and strings that drive the epic emotion. Powell also accentuates the driving percussion here, and indeed utilizes it well throughout the score without overwhelming the other orchestral and choral elements.

“The Good Guy” also starts at a low volume then quickly settles into emotional woodwind scoring. The strings and horns bring in great melodies in this showcase that lasts over five minutes. Another nice dramatic build occurs in “Spaceport,” a solid four minutes of ebbing and flowing strings and driving horns.

The powerful “L3 and the Millennium Falcon” gets some nice marching snare drum percussion, then a pleasantly exuberant motive of Williams’s familiar themes, before transitioning to effective string passages and awesome choral arrangements at the end.

Powell’s love theme comes through well in “Lando’s Closet” and “Testing Allegiance.” Then he ramps up the thrills again for “Break Out,” “Train Heist,” and “Corellia Chase” which never lets up and showcases the eclectic string writing. The playful but too-short “Dice and Roll” is the only letdown, thought it too has some nice moments thanks to the percussion arrangements and familiar themes. The “Reminiscence Therapy” reuses elements of “The Asteroid Field” from The Empire Strikes Back, while the boisterous orchestration of “Into the Maw” matches the epic, tense action sequence it enhances and contains the most powerful adaptations of Williams’ classic Star Wars theme.

Walt Disney Records’ Solo: A Star Wars Story (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack) is recommended (***1/2 out of four stars), proves composer John Powell’s prowess, and helps keep this popular film franchise intact.

The previous Star Wars spin-off soundtrack, 2016’s Rogue One, was completed by Pixar mainstay composer Michael Giacchino. Could Powell’s turn here be yet another possible audition of sorts to see who takes over the overall franchise for John Williams? Time will tell.

John Williams is currently in pre-production work on the musical score for Star Wars: Episode IX, while Powell is working on the score for the third How to Train Your Dragon film installment, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.

Board the Millennium Falcon and journey to a galaxy far, far away in Solo: A Star Wars Story, an all-new adventure with the most beloved scoundrel in that galaxy. Through a series of daring escapades deep within a dark and dangerous criminal underworld, Han Solo befriends his mighty future copilot Chewbacca and meets the notorious gambler Lando Calrissian, in a journey that will set the course of one of the Star Wars saga’s most unlikely heroes.

The film stars Alden Ehrenreich, Woody Harrelson, Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Thandie Newton, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, and Paul Bettany. Ron Howard directs and Kathleen Kennedy, Allison Shearmur, and Simon Emanuel are the producers. Lawrence Kasdan, Jason McGatlin, Phil Lord, and Christopher Miller serve as executive producers. Lawrence & Jonathan Kasdan wrote the screenplay.

Track List:

1. “The Adventures of Han” – John Williams
2. “Meet Han”
3. “Corellia Chase”
4. “Spaceport”
5. “Flying With Chewie”
6. “Train Heist”
7. “Marauders Arrive”
8. “Chicken In The Pot”
9. “Is This Seat Taken?”
10. “L3 & Millennium Falcon”
11. “Lando’s Closet”
12. “Mine Mission”
13. “Break Out”
14. “The Good Guy”
15. “Reminiscence Therapy”
16. “Into The Maw”
17. “Savareen Stand-Off”
18. “Good Thing You Were Listening”
19. “Testing Allegiance”
20. “Dice and Roll”

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