Danny Elfman is one of the most recognized composers in Hollywood today. But though his name is recognizable, it’s also his style of composition that feels familiar. Audiences tuning into a Tim Burton movie (from Pee-wee’s Big Adventure to Batman to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) have come to expect Elfman’s unique (but familiar) stylings as part of the backdrop of Burton’s films – including the upcoming Alice in Wonderland. And though Elfman ventures away from Buron films at times, his music is typically found in more darkly adventurous films (Terminator Salvation, Hellboy II: The Golden Army, and the upcoming The Wolfman, for example). But Elfman is no one-trick pony. With such variant films as Nacho Libre, Milk, and Notorious under his belt, tackling a Woodstock-themed film is no stretch for this accomplished composer. And Elfman has indeed managed to nail down an impressively simplistic, down-to-earth rock score with his work on Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock.
Though the album is only half an hour long (featuring 20 tracks), it’s an enjoyable musical ride, and the stripped-down style of Elfman’s compositions lend themselves to the era that the film attempts to capture. Many of the tracks (such as “Groovy Thing (Office #1)”) are reminiscent of songs from the ’60s, while others sound almost like a combination of popular music and guitar jamming. Elfman’s relaxed style here is a perfect presentation of the vibe of the ’60s, and sets up the comedic take on the organization of the festival that Ang Lee’s film presents. But Elfman hasn’t earned his composing credibility through creating themes and repeating them throughout a film. In slower, more emotional tracks (such as the guitar solo “Groovy Thing”) Elfman delves into the more dramatic elements of the film and gives his listeners more to appreciate about his work.
This may be a short collection of music, but it’s an inspired and impressive bit of work for a well-known composer. Taking the risk of embarking on a stripped-down musical adventure such as this, when he could easily be working on the next big budget action flick shows Elfman’s true skill and dedication to his craft. Definitely a score to listen for.
Zach’s Rating: B+ (for being only 30 minutes long)
Perfect For: A brief tour through the ’60s as seen through Ang Lee’s lens
Stay Away if: You’re searching for actual music from the ’60s
To purchase the score for Taking Woodstock, visit Amazon