Composed By: Michael A. Levine
Distributed by: Lakeshore Records
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I love the CBS television drama, Cold Case. The show stars Kathryn Morris as Lilly Rush, a dedicated detective assigned to the Philadelphia Cold Case Homicide Division. Cold Case is unlike most cop shows to date in that we are dealing with old, unsolved cases. The murders have taken place anywhere from 50 years ago to a couple of years back and have remained unsolved, the killer still roaming the streets. Finding the killer after all of these years, using leads once considered to be exhausted, is definitely no easy task, but Lilly Rush and her team of detectives push hard to close these emotionally charged cases. I love the fact that the show relies heavily on flashbacks, showing each character related to the crime as they looked when the crime took place. Cold Case is one of the more unique cop shows on television and I try not to miss a single episode. When I was offered the opportunity to review the new Cold Case Soundtrack, I jumped at the chance.
The Cold Case Soundtrack contains music composed for the show by Michael A. Levine, winner of the ASCAP Film and TV Music Award for five years straight for his work on Cold Case. Born in Tokyo, raised in the Midwest and schooled in Canada, one could say that Levine’s music is as eclectic as his background. He began his music career by playing violin in the streets of New York City. By the mid-1980s, Levine was more widely known for his studio music. It was at this time that a writer for Yes magazine described him as “The Jimi Hendrix of the Violin.” Michael A. Levine eventually began composing music for advertising, combining high-tech sound design with music and earning his first Clio Award for his work for a Mistubishi Eclipse commercial in which he combined Japanese flute, an operatic solo, world percussion and electronically produced animal sounds. He’s also the genius behind music for the “Gimme a Break” Kit Kat candy bar jingle. By 1995, Levine was composing music for television and film. Since then, Levine has composed or assisted in composing musical scores for Cold Case, Close to Home, Shrek 2, Matchstick Men, Wonderland, Adrift in Manhattan and more.
The compositions found on the Cold Case Soundtrack contain a great deal of emotion. As Levine explains, “Every episode has a unique theme. As we get to know the victim, the them deepens emotionally, climaxing at the murder scene that takes place just before the final montage.” Cold Case is one of those shows that treats each victim’s death as the tragedy it truly is – a life snuffed out before its time is absolutely a tragic event no matter how anyone feels about the victim. Thus, the music composed for each death scene requires that the composer become the voice for the victim. In this aspect, Michael A. Levine does an excellent job. I agree whole-heartedly with Executive Producer Jonathan Littman when he says, “No one does death better than Michael Levine.”
The music created by Levine is the driving force behind the murder flashbacks on the show, adding emotion to the visual aspects of the crime. Some of the tracks found on the album are quite haunting in nature. The use of a duduk, a traditional Armenian woodwind instrument, in Park gives the track sorrowful and somewhat haunting feel. In 8:03 AM, Levine employs the use of vocals supplied by Carmen Twillie to achieve the haunting effect. Use of electronically produced noises such as bird sounds and wind achieve the same goal in A Good Death, while in Saving Sammy, Levine chooses to use reverb and disjointed sound to achieve the haunting effect. The rest of the tracks are very emotional, with music often supplemented by background vocals. One very expressive piece that stood out in particular from the rest was Sadie’s Blues, a track with an incredibly bluesy flavor with background vocals supplied, once again, by Carmen Twillie.
The Cold Case Soundtrack features a very definite nod to the fans of the show who visit the Look Again fan website. The last three tracks of the album were Look Again Fan Favorites on the site and I must agree with their selections. 300 Flowers, my favorite of the fan picks, is the only track on the album containing lyrics. The song plays like a 1950’s track and describes the sad journey one woman takes from a romance lost to a romance kindled with someone new.
The Cold Case Soundtrack is a definite have for fans of the show. You can’t help but picture the scenes that take place in the show as each song plays out on the soundtrack. Emotionally driven pieces are the norm for this soundtrack and any music aficionado would be able to appreciate the deep feelings that pervade each composition. All-in-all, listening to the Cold Case Soundtrack was a rather enjoyable experience, but I find myself wanting more. After all, I’m a tremendous fan of the show and I know for a fact that there are five seasons of music left to be explored. I also know that in addition to the emotional theme of the music found on the show, there is also a contemporary music theme attached to each episode. For the next soundtrack, I’d love to see some of these interwoven with some of the musical score, which I believe will add more substance to the emotional compositions. Check out the Cold Case Soundtrack – believe me, you won’t be disappointed.