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The Natural Soundtrack
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Randy Newman's score for director Barry Levinson's 1984 adaptation of writer Bernard Malamud's baseball fable remains, like star Robert Redford's turn as the film's Roy Hobbs, somewhat mystic and decidedly larger than life. Newman's music flawlessly fuses overwrought Wagnerian grandeur with the more plaintive strains of Aaron Copland, arguably forming one of the film's most crucial narrative elements in the bargain. Perhaps because it's a score with a scale so broad and bold--the antithesis of Newman-the-songwriter's often terse, internalized musical monologues--the composer himself has since expressed reservations about the potent cues he's since dubbed "heromusik." Nonetheless, The Natural remains an impressive tribute to Newman's musical professionalism, even if his masterful craftsmanship produced something he's always seemed a bit wary of: a bona fide crowd pleaser. --Jerry McCulley
Top Customer Reviews
With "The Natural," which he not only composed but conducted, Newman manages the pretty neat trick of stepping into the enormous shoes left by Aaron Copland. Newman takes the perfectly American pasttime of baseball and melds it perfectly with the American penchant for youth, sunshine, nostalgia, and happy endings--all without a single instance of treacle or falsity. He sounds Coplandian here without sounding slavish. He soars on wings of his own making and utterly enriches the film "The Natural" with his music.
"Prologue 1915 - 1923" opens the soundtrack and deftly sketches the career Robert Redford's Roy Hobbs character had in the minors and then briefly in the majors, limning the energetic youth of the new baseball player followed by the slower, more minor-key weariness Hobbs experiences as he seems to lose his touch. With "Knock the Cover Off the Ball," Newman somehow captures a sparkly, sunstruck afternoon out in the middle of a baseball field, the fierce concentration needed to do the deed demanded in the title, and the gathering speed of the ball itself. In "Winning," the big band, swinging tune says it all. You need brass balls to survive this ball game, son, and the music handily underscores that rule without the aid of a single lyric.
Had Randy Newman never written another film score beyond 1984's "The Natural," he could easily and justly have rested on these fine laurels. We are lucky that he didn't.