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October Sky (Soundtrack) by Mark Isham

Tracksounds Rating = 9/10

October Sky (Soundtrack) by Mark Isham

Composed by Mark Isham
Conducted and Orchestrated by Ken Kugler
Released by Sony Classical 1999

Track Title Time Rating A Dream of a Score
by Christopher Coleman

October Sky is one of those scores that, prior to seeing the film, can be extremely disappointing, but given time and adequate opportunity, a very satisfying score.  Such was the case with me.  After seeing the wonderful trailer filled with the epic Apollo 13 score by James Horner, I had high hopes for Mark Isham’s effort.  The only thing that matched my anticipation for both film and score was my initial disappointment with the score.  The film is a wonderful, heartfelt work by director Joe Johnston and in the context of the film, Mark Isham’s score seems to be a perfect match.  Many fans do not gravitate to the understated style of a Mark Isham, but sometimes understated is just what the director ordered.

October Sky is a very unimpressive score on the surface.  After listening to it just once, you may think it isn’t worth your time or money.  Sometimes; however, scores like October Sky or A River Runs Through It provide the longest lasting listening enjoyment.  Most of the humorous and upbeat moments of the film were left to period rock and roll cuts, while Isham took on the most serious and inspirational scenes.  Such a combination worked well for the film, but having Fats Domino or The Coasters interject their little diddies after very melancholy pieces of music really destroys the flow of the CD.  I have given each of the rock and roll tracks a star-rating of *** just because they fit well in the film and because…well…they are classics. 

The simple courage and determination of the film’s young “hero,” Homer Hickam, is stated early and often throughout most of the score tracks released by Sony Classical.  Coalwood, track 1, musically tells the listener of the simple, little mining town of Coalwood but it also tells of the heart of a young man who knows he is destined for more than coal mining.  Track 9, It’s a Thing of Glory, takes this main theme and really puts a sunrise-sort of optimism to it, which really makes this a beautiful track.  Track 17, Splitting the Sky  is also a more positive version of the Homer’s theme as the tempo is a bit faster and the string section beams of hope and accomplishment as opposed to hopeless abandon.  The latter half of track 5, The Search for Auk 13 and Range and Altitude (track 20) share what is the most upbeat score of the CD and provides some needed contrast within the score.

Track 2, Sputnik and track 15, Cape Coalwood contains the best pieces of music of Sony's release.  They are very short, soft pieces- very heavenly as strings, woodwinds, and an unearthly harp communicate the awe of the earth’s first man-made satellite and the very simple hopes of a few young men who want to build a rocket.  My only wish is that these two tracks were longer.

This score can seem a bit depressing at times, for there is a sense of hopeless that permeates the town of Coalwood- that things will always be the way they have been.  In addition there are some very sad moments in the film that Mark Isham has little trouble communicating through his music.  The best examples of this can be heard in track 6, I Was Lucky to Know Him, and track 16, Miss Riley.

The film’s conclusion is recorded in tracks 22,This One’s Yours and 23.October Sky.  These two tracks compose the film’s emotional finale, where there is a reuniting, a tribute, and the epilogue depicting real footage of the story’s main characters.  Here, Mark Isham is able to bring a very triumphant ending to the film without abandoning the style and feel to governs the entire score. 

Not much has been made about this movie or its score, but I must give it an extremely high mark.  While other directions might have been taken by other composers for this film, Mark Isham has hit the mark with one dream of a score.



2:02 ****


1:09 *****

The Rocket Book

0:55 ****
4 Ain't That A Shame by Fats Domino * 2:24 ***

The Search for Auk 13

3:28 ****

I Was Lucky to Know Him

2:34 ****

My Prayer  by The Platters *

2:46 ***

That'll be the Day by Buddy Holly

2:16 ***

It's a Thing of Glory

1:32 ****

I Won't Shed a Tear

3:14 ***

The Black Phone

0:45 **
12 The Dreams of Boys 2:34 ****

Searchin'  by The Coasters *

2:40 ***
14 Yakety Yak by The Coasters 1:50 ***
15 Cape Coalwood 0:55 *****
16 Miss Riley 2:23 ****
17 Splitting the Sky 1:21 ****
18 Speedo by The Cadillac's * 2:19 ***
19 I'll Be Gone Forever 0:57 ***
20 Range and Altitude 1:38 ****
21 Rocket Boys 3:52 ****
22 This One's Yours 1:47 ****
23 October Sky 4:29 ****
24 It's All in the Game by Tommy Edwards * 2:37 ***
  Total Playing Time 52:28    

*  pop track



Film Continuity 10  
Originality 9  
CD Length 9  
Track Order 7  
Performance 10  
Final Score 9  

Other reviews:

I thought that it was a very touching score and a very touching movie. I cried the 3 times I saw it. Mark Isham composed, what I think, is a highly underrated and ignored soundtrack.  ****

Ben Hayden

Mark Isham
Mark Isham

October Sky (Soundtrack) by Mark Isham
Also See:

The Special Feature: To Boldly Go!

- Track 17 - Splitting the Sky


Purchase this CD at


All artwork from October Sky  is exclusive property of Sony Classical (c) 1999.  Its appearance is for informational purposes only.

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