The Prisoner – music by Rupert Gregson-Williams

The PrisonerThe soundtrack from AMC’s recent remake of The Prisoner is very much like the show itself: it starts out sounding as though it might go to some interesting places, and ends up plodding along into territory that’s largely pointless and meandering. I’ve tried to give every remake of late a fair shake; V and Battlestar Galactica were probably due for a rethink, and Galactica certainly delivered the goods. The problem with Galactica being so wildly successful is that it’s probably prompted more studio suits to green-light reboots of existing franchises that just don’t need a revisitation. The Prisoner is certainly in that category: while certain elements of the original 1960s series are signal flares for the era during which the show was made, those elements were far outweighed by themes both timeless and troubling. The original show is still universally hailed as a milestone of TV storytelling – as the original DVD releases said on the box, “television’s first masterpiece.” With all of that praise, who was bucking for a remake?

The answer is simple: the studio that still held the copyright on Patrick McGoohan’s original concept and 17 episodes. Surely a modernization of the story would find ample material to dramatize in a post-9/11 world, with the themes of identity, staying in lockstep with the popular majority and bucking the system havingly only gained incredible significance in the intervening years. Instead, what emerged from the new Prisoner was a muddle of half-baked ideas with little or no resonance, failed attempts at fan-pleasing callbacks to the original series that more often than not seemed grafted on at the last minute, and murky vagueness standing in for the original show’s symbolism and mystery. Replace the original Number Six’s seething, barely-able-to-keep-it-from-bubbling-over rage at his predicament with a new Number Six who just really didn’t want to be in the Village (but can’t remember why), and the new Prisoner is just an ill-thought-out mess that isn’t remotely a patch on McGoohan’s show. Hopefully the new show won’t poison the ongoing mystique of its vastly superior forebear.

One of the few things I did find to like about AMC’s Prisoner was its frequently-trippy musical score. Just about every note of original score and library music used in the ’60s version has been released, re-released, stamped, filed, indexed, numbered and critically dissected, and it’s well known that the disorienting near-elevator-muzak tone of the original show’s music was intended as part of its overall unsettling effect. Rupert Gregson-Williams opts for a more modern tone, but keeps some of that unsettling feel in many tracks by layering in backward elements that intertwine with the main melodic and harmonic ideas. Early tracks on the soundtrack CD are quite interesting to listen to, and demand more than one listening to really catch how all the sounds, both forward and backward, fit together.

Sadly, many of the later tracks are bogged down in a kind of non-specific, quasi-Mediterranean millieu, with the appropriate meandering string instruments that have been all the rage of late with non-orchestral scoring. There are still occasional orchestral elements, but the latter half of the CD is quite frankly not really relaxing, but just plain sleepy. The main theme for the series as a whole is a strange mix of ’70s keyboard sounds and modern electronics – and it barely breaks out from the score itself to do what a main theme should (i.e. provide a sonic signature that lets you know, even from the TV in the next room, that The Prisoner is on, and you need to report to the Village immediately).

Ironically, it’s only a couple of source cues which turn out to be the closest that this score comes to the tone of the original show; several songs appeared in the AMC series which aren’t included here, such as selections from Brian Wilson’s Smile.

I can’t muster much more than a 2 rating for this soundtrack; there’s simply too much of it that, rather like the show, loses its way and goes off into the desert, never to return. I can’t even really fault the 2 out of 4composer, as I can’t imagine the scripts and footage providing enough inspiration for anyone to create music that salvages the entire endeavour (see also: the Star Trek: The Motion Picture effect). Sad to say, this soundtrack is probably the most worthwhile thing to come from the 2009 remake of The Prisoner.

Order this CD

  1. Explosion (1:42)
  2. Everybody Knows Everybody (2:29)
  3. The Ocean (5:03)
  4. Two (5:58)
  5. Shadows And Nightmares (3:05)
  6. 909 (3:36)
  7. Tour Bus (0:57)
  8. Walk With Me (2:25)
  9. 313 (2:58)
  10. Lucy (6:17)
  11. Six Investigates (1:30)
  12. Wonkers (0:59)
  13. The Ruins (3:03)
  14. Blackmail (3:28)
  15. Escape Resort (1:21)
  16. One Night Together (4:39)
  17. Wedding Day (3:23)
  18. Waking Up (2:16)
  19. Helen (6:36)
  20. In The Church (5:53)
  21. Suicide (2:48)
  22. I Am Not A Number (3:15)
  23. The Prisoner Titles (0:37)

Released by: Varese Sarabande
Release date: 2009
Total running time: 74:18

Over The Hedge – music by Rupert Gregson-Williams

Over The Hedge soundtrackA pleasant selection of Rupert Gregson-Williams’ lively orchestral score combined with about an EP’s worth of material both new and familiar from Ben Folds, the CD from Dreamworks’ Over The Hedge may just be 2006’s most underrated soundtrack.

The score tracks are unapologetically bold and colorful, but it’s not without subtleties. Instead of going for the usual Carl Stalling-esque tendencies (not that there’s anything wrong with Stalling) for scoring a movie aimed at kids, Rupert Gregson-Williams delivers a rather in-your-face dramatic underscore. It’s fun and full of action. It seems like movie and TV music has tried to get away from this sort of full-blooded orchestral treatment in recent years, in favor of electronics or techno or ethnic/exotic music. There’s room for all of those styles on the same music shelf, and I can honestly say that I just don’t hear enough music like this these days – my compliments to the maestro.

Ben Folds’ contributions are a little more varied; I find myself shrugging a bit at the watered-down remake of “Rockin’ The Suburbs” (though I’d say it’s still worth it for the William Shatner rant that takes the place of at least one whole verse), but “Family Of Me” and “Still” won’t disappoint Folds fans. The latter rambles on a bit, so naturally, it’s on the album in two forms. “Trapped In The Supermarket” is another track that one has to be in the right mood for; its lyrics are a bit repetitive, so its strongest appeal lies in Folds’ relentlessly good musicianship and vocals.

Rating: 4 out of 4Rather than being yet another piece of tie-in merchandise for a massively-marketed kids’ movie, Over The Hedge makes for good listening material. I originally picked it up for the Ben Folds songs, but have wound up playing the whole thing quite a few times over the past several months – it’s all worth a listen.

    Order this CD in the Store

  1. Family Of Me – Ben Folds (1:28)
  2. RJ Enters The Cave (4:37)
  3. The Family Awakes (2:33)
  4. Heist – Ben Folds (3:02)
  5. Lost In The Supermarket – Ben Folds (3:30)
  6. Let’s Call It Steve (3:40)
  7. Hammy Time (2:28)
  8. Still – Ben Folds (2:38)
  9. Play? (1:49)
  10. Rockin’ The Suburbs (Over The Hedge version) – Ben Folds & William Shatner (4:57)
  11. The Inside Heist (7:38)
  12. RJ Rescues His Family (4:18)
  13. Still (Reprise) – Ben Folds (6:07)

Released by: Epic
Release date: 2006
Total running time: 48:45