Soundtracks are the evolutionary heirs to the symphonies and operas of the past centuries. Some are good, others are bad, a rare few are timeless masterpieces. Water for Elephants is one of those rare cases when the music that accompanies and compliments a movie manages to escape the silver screen and stand on its own.
James Newton Howard manages to capture an era and an atmosphere; the desire and the desperation; the hope and the apprehension. I have not seen the movie yet (I will definitely do so now) but this mesmerizing music is able to create an endless imagery in my mind, an imagery composed from a full set of emotional colors.
The album sets off with the romantic Did I miss it which defines the theme and the pace. In between, the instrumental pieces pay around the theme, using it as a spring board to complete their own dive into our soul.
I disagree with the notion that the five Big Band and Gospel period songs are out of place. I found most of them to fit nicely and give a reprise from the instrumental narration.
The very last track, The Stampede - I 'm coming home, ends in a majestic note.
This is one of the best soundtracks I have ever owned - and that is neither an exaggeration nor a small feat.