About the Soundtrack: "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep" is the type of opportunity that the fan base of James Newton Howard thrives on. It's a fantasy based film that provides the composer an opportunity to write music in the vein that he's best at. In addition, the soundtrack offers performances by Sinead O'Connor and The Chieftains, so obviously, there is a lot of talent associated with this score. And, if you haven't guessed by now, the music relies heavily on an Irish influence, as indicative by the artists brought in to contribute. At over 58 minutes of music, the length is above average and the additional music doesn't harm any of Howard's score material (it helps that it's all relatable fare). There isn't a commentary from the composer, who seems to be an enigma when it comes to speaking to his fans, but there is a note from the director about the music.
As far as availability, the soundtrack seems to be a rare find at commercial retailers but is easily available for order online at web sites like Amazon, Rhapsody, etc. Just thought that tip might help you in case you were going to a friendly neighborhood FYE and were expecting to see this title there.
What You Need to Know: The beauty of this score lies in its simplicity and color. To that end, I'll note that to really appreciate the music from "The Water Horse," you'll have to listen to it a couple of times. You see, the score isn't one that will initially impress you in the manner that other works from Howard's do. There aren't any signature themes that will stick with you nor is there any sense of mythic fantasy to delve into. Instead, there is a steady, consistent flow of music that is pleasant to engage in and its with this level of consistency that the score works.
While there isn't memorable main theme, there sure is a lot of melody here. The Irish ears, in this case, are not only smiling but must be overjoyed. Howard develops an Irish influence for the soundtrack of this film and it's truly a delight. Not since his brief "Building the Rails" track from "Wyatt Earp" has there been such distinct use of Irish melodies from Howard. Together with his traditional orchestral styling, the soundtrack springs to life with many colorful tracks. It's because of this that he can get away from not having a memorable signature theme.
The score bounces between Irish tones and a warming underscore as it builds to a big finish. The final set of score tracks on the album are action oriented and deliver a brand of excitement that makes for a big finale. For those who are seeking to hear Howard bounce back from the synth heavy, "Michael Clayton," then tracks 16 onward are for you. Preceding this sequence, however, there is also another noteworthy track on the album entitled, "The Dinner Party" that I think many of you will enjoy for its big band styled expressions. This cue is something different from the composer and its a lot of fun to listen to. The music of the track actually expresses a humorous tone that makes you think some goofy mishaps might be taking place over dinner! Again, the charm of tracks like this is where the score gains it success.
Final Grade: To me, I think James Newton Howard should always seek out projects like "The Water Horse." He pretty much nails it every time out of the gate when composing works for fantasy, adventure, or science fiction. It's in these genres where he flourishes and deep down I suspect he knows that. With this particular soundtrack, you won't be overwhelmed by it, but you will find that its simplicity and charm will win you over.