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Soundtrack Review: Blood Diamond

Blood Diamond
(Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Composer: James Newton Howard
Running Time: 60 min.
Released: 2006

J.N.H. is one of my favorite composers for a number of reasons – not the least of which is his ability to craft tight, memorable scores that stand well on their own apart from their film counterparts. Blood Diamond is no exception; and at the risk of sounding cliche, I’ll even call it a gem. Fusing elements of a traditional orchestra with a bevy of African instrumentation and choral effects, Howard has produced one of the best works of his career – a marvelously rich musical tapestry full of poignancy, depth, and excitement.

The album opens with Blood Diamond Titles, a quiet piece underscored by the vocals of Senegalese musician Youssou N’Dour. The second track, Crossing the Bridge, gives us a taste of the haunting and tuneful main theme, reiterated throughout the rest of the album. Village Attack is propulsive and intense thanks to an effective use of throbbing percussion and electric guitar; Goodbyes, one the other hand, is soulful and reserved, highlighted by a soft piano melody. With Diamond Mine Bombed, we’re once again treated to a smart, action-oriented cue that kicks into high-gear around the 1:10 mark. The climax of Howard’s score comes with Your Mother Loves You and Thought I’d Never Call?, crowned by the breathtaking London, in which the main theme is fleshed out to its fullest. Also included on the album (separate from Howard’s score) are three African songs – Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars’ Ankala, Emmanuel Lai’s Baai, and Bal Burea’s When da Dawgs Come Out to Play. The first two are decent enough and fun to listen to, but the third (as you can probably tell from the title) is just plain obnoxious, sticking out like a sore thumb on an otherwise perfect soundtrack.