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Impressions of America by Patrick Doyle

Impressions of America

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Impressions of America (Soundtrack) by Patrick Doyle
Impressions of America (Soundtrack) by Patrick Doyle










Impressions of America (Soundtrack) by Patrick Doyle

Impressions of America
Composed by Patrick Doyle
Lakeshore Records (2012)

Rating: 7/10

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“DOYLE’s perspective is that of an outsider looking in on America, restrained and respectful rather than proud and patriotic. For an album about America, there isn’t a whole lot of Americana on display here.”

Doyle'd Landscapes
Review by Edmund Meinerts


In 2012, the Scotsman PATRICK DOYLE voyaged back to the land of his ancestors, musically speaking, with his Gaelic-flavored score for Pixar’s BRAVE. Simultaneously, it turns out, he was working on a tribute to the land to which many of his ancestors migrated – not in a film score, but rather in a concept album of sorts containing fifteen different IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA. This piece was originally written to be performed by the National Schools Symphony Orchestra and has now been released a year later by Varese Sarabande to coincide with the composer’s 60th birthday. Of course, when it comes to film composers writing concert pieces celebrating America, JOHN WILLIAMS is the first name that comes to mind, but don’t expect to hear much resembling the maestro’s bright and brassy fanfares here; DOYLE’s perspective is that of an outsider looking in on America, restrained and respectful rather than proud and patriotic. For an album about America, there isn’t a whole lot of Americana on display here.

That being said, the opening track does hit the listener over the head with a bold fanfare; unfortunately, it doesn’t have the same complexity of WILLIAMS’ similar pieces and therefore feels slightly thin. This feeling of thinness, restraint, almost of sparsity continues throughout the album; though DOYLE has never been a composer who writes overly complicated music, there has always been an extremely appealing “fullness” to his music, for lack of a better word; broad melodic lines and straightforward, but lush harmonies. Even his recent pair of unfairly-derided blockbuster action scores, THOR and RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, were built from that same, unmistakeable musical language (despite whatever the nay-sayers claim). With a few exceptions, that sound is largely and disappointingly absent from IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA.

Despite this, the album does manage to keep your attention from beginning to end. A part of this is due to the fact that each cue is presenting an “impression” of a distinct place, thing or concept, and it is interesting to see the emotions and atmospheres DOYLE tackled them with. Therefore, we have a piano-driven “Pumpkin Pie” (2) cue that is folksy and whimsical, a portrait of “The Great Depression” (5) rooted in somber strings and a desolate soundscape of strained, slightly dissonant string chords and rattling percussion for “Death Valley” (11). Though some cues are more musically satisfying than others, all of them do feature something interesting for the ear and the variety keeps the relatively brief album from ever becoming dull or too slow-paced. Two cues do come off as somewhat stagnant, however; after introducing a promising, almost THOMAS NEWMAN-like rhythm for piano and tapped percussion in “Transcontinental Railroad,” (4) DOYLE fails to really take it anywhere interesting. The same goes for “Winter in Alaska” (8); the sparkling atmosphere at its outset is beautifully evocative, but the short melody that occupies the rest of the cue is stubbornly, almost maddeningly repetitive (the same chord is held for over three minutes!).

Fortunately, the album is not without its highlights. “Christmas in New York” (3) is both pastoral and playful at turns, with a pretty melody at its heart and plenty of seasonally-appropriate chimes. The midsection of “Yosemite” (10) contains an impressive flurry of activity from the strings. “Rushing Rapids” (12) expands on this style throughout its four minutes and is full of busy, rushing, descending patterns to musically portray the rivers. Both of these cues are slightly reminiscent of the style of constant movement heard in DOYLE’s score for LA LIGNE DROITE, though with less of a PHILIP GLASS influence.

Easily the most satisfying cue on the album, however, is “The Great Plains” (13). Curiously, it contains several probably unintentional reminders of other scores: the acoustic guitar and string rhythm that drives the cue is similar to HANS ZIMMER’s SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON, a melodic phrase at 0:34 will remind DOYLE fans of his “Harry in Winter” theme from HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE and there’s even a snippet of MARK MANCINA’s theme from SPEED at 0:47, of all things. But this cue is one that finally allows DOYLE to spread his wings and present a grand and noble theme that proves that the Scot might, one day, have a solid Western score in him. The “fullness”, the rich melodicism that is largely absent otherwise returns with a vengeance and this is easily the most “DOYLE-ish” piece on the album.

Whenever film score composers try their hand at “pure” music, the results are often highly anticipated by score collectors because it is a chance for the composer to escape the constraints of film and write unimpeded. It is strange, therefore, that the majority of IMPRESSIONS OF AMERICA actually feels more constrained than many of DOYLE’s film scores. But it’s not a bad album for that, far from it; the album holds your interest from beginning to end, has a good flow to it and passes some excellent music on its journey through America. Just don’t be too disappointed if you find it easy to like, but difficult to love.

Rating: 7/10


Track Title Track Time  Rating
1 Washington D.C. 2:08  ****
2 Pumpkin Pie 1:42  ***
3 Christmas in New York 3:16  ****
4 Transcontinental Railroad 3:09  ***
5 The Great Depression 3:13  ***
6 Mount Rushmore 2:28  ***
7 Prairie Sunrise 3:00  ***
8 Winter in Alaska 3:43  ***
9 Decaying City 1:57  ***
10 Yosemite 3:53  ****
11 Death Valley 4:03  ***
12 Rushing Rapids 3:56  ***
13 The Great Plains 2:47  *****
14 Old Glory 1:23  ***
15 Thanksgiving 2:31  ***
  Total Running Time (approx) 43 minutes  


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