James Newton Howard

Charlie Wilson's War [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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Like the Mike Nichols political dramedy it accompanies, James Newton Howard's score for Charlie Wilson's War journeys from the American Midwest to the Middle East and back again, juxtaposing homespun folk melodies and accents with colorfully ethnic instruments and rhythms. Howard is more effective at this kind of pan-cultural fusion than most, and his melodies sound as natural and evocative when performed on fiddle and pedal steel as they do when interpreted via wailing vocals and hand percussion -- of course, the orchestral sections are also far too ponderous for their own good, as Howard once again mistakenly equates scale with dramatic impact. But even if Charlie Wilson's War succumbs to the composer's usual weaknesses, it nevertheless sends his music in promising new directions. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi

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