James Newton Howard - Blood Diamond

James Newton Howard - Blood Diamond soundtrack CD cover Blood Diamond is one hell of a score! Even the action cues are drenched in African instrumentation, xylophone keys, drumming, and chanting. In fact, the only traditional elements can be found in the string-works during the few action sequences, and that’s only covering 3 or 4 tracks out of 24. You will be able to feel the unique quality of Howard’s score as soon as the first soft and beautiful African voice comes floating in on the opening track. Without doubt, this score from James Newton Howard is one of the best and most original scores of 2006, alongside Clint Mansell’s The Fountain.

Opener “Blood Diamond Titles” pretty much sets the tone for the entire soundtrack, with a gorgeous and fluid African chant together with an equally poignant series of strings; a piece of music that strikes us as not just referential to the movie but also evocative of any emotion your heart desires to attach to it. The whole score can be said to operate on this level, with the exception of a few action-orientated tracks. “Village Attack” is highly original: it blends desperate African laments with high-octane violin cues, held together with intense African drumming. An electric guitar appears from time to time to provide an urban grisliness, used very wisely to express the dehumanisation associated with the armed militia groups killing their own blood via. machine-guns and machetes.

Tracks “Archer and Solomon” and “Maddy and Archer” introduce even warmer colours to the score, with an almost quixotic sense of style. These tracks never feel forced however, they contain restraint, pain, and understanding of the story that lies behind the music (genocide, torture, rape, and terror), unlike the actual movie. Another brilliant aspect of Howard’s soundtrack is its abrasive string sections in tracks “Village Attack” and “Fall of Freetown”: they sway between African folklore and hysterical avant-guard. “Archer Sells Diamond” even introduces a jazzy acoustic guitar into the score and “Goodbyes” is set to the quiet ballad of a piano, providing another level of musical interpretation and mood to Blood Diamond.

The most notable track has to be “Your Mother Loves You”, and can be said (all allusions to the movie aside) to belong at the heart of the soundtrack. It is an incredibly humane and heartbreaking piece of music, similar to other tracks like “Goodbyes” and “Thought I’d Never Call”. That being said, every single track on this score has something special about it, that is until we hit “Ankala”, “Baai” and “When da Dawgs Come Out to Play”. These pieces are non-original music designed to work with specific scenes in the movie, from which “Ankala”, a traditional African song, is definitively the best.

All in all, Blood Diamond is a profoundly beautiful, evocative, stand-alone, mesmerizing and powerful soundtrack. It comes highly recommended to both film enthusiasts as well as world music lovers, and can be found at the following links: Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com.

Reviewer: Robert Purvis

Blood Diamond by James Newton Howard - track listing


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