The Express: The Ernie Davis Story

Composed By: Mike Isham

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


          The Express is a movie based on the true story of Ernie Davis, a football player who became the first African American to win the coveted Heisman Trophy.  The movie follows Davis’ (Rob Brown) early beginnings as a young boy raised in poverty in the coal-mining district of Pennsylvania to his days as a running back for Syracuse.  Davis faced economic and social obstacles on his journey to becoming one of the greatest running backs in college football history.  His rise to greatness took place in one of the most tumultuous times in our history – the 60s, a time of racial divide and prejudice.  But Ernie Davis persevered meeting various challenges with strength of conviction and honor, joining the likes of Jackie Robinson and Jim Brown and inspiring a movement that crushed the barriers of race both on and off the field.

            The soundtrack of The Express was composed by Mark Isham, a composer whose illustrious film scoring career began in 1983 with his first film, Never Cry Wolf.  Isham’s unique style and willingness to try new things earned him notoriety among the film scoring world.  His resume includes the creation of musical scores for films such as Crash, Reservation Road, Men of Honor, A River Runs Through It and more.

            For the musical score of The Express: The Ernie Davis Story, Isham used very simple orchestral instruments such as violins, violas, celli, bass, clarinets, oboes, horns, trumpets, trombones, tubas and percussion – all instruments that can be found in marching bands.  Much of this movie takes place on the football field and marching bands are a great part of the sound during a football game.  Much of the album consists of short musical compositions, but when we hit the football scenes, the tracks are noticeably longer.  Football scenes being primarily action scenes, Isham uses drums, percussion and horns to create a sense of heightened intensity and action.  Tracks for heroes, such as Jackie Robinson and Ernie Davis, are inspirational.  For Track 2, Jackie Robinson, Isham used light strings and piano that gradually rise in crescendo.  For Track 11, Ernie Davis, Isham employs the same effect, using horns and strings that rise in crescendo with percussion and cymbals added to create an even greater effect on the listener.

            For such an inspirational story, The Express: The Ernie Davis Story needed an equally inspiring soundtrack, one that Mark Isham perfectly delivered.  Those knowing the football history of Ernie Davis can imagine the events taking place on the field as the soundtrack progresses.  Those knowing the complete history of Ernie Davis will find the soundtrack as inspirational as the man himself.   The Express: The Ernie Davis Story Soundtrack is an uplifting musical experience that aids perfectly in telling the uplifting story of a man who faced seemingly insurmountable odds and not only survived, but helped a generation move forward in their search for equality.


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