The Guitar

Music By: Various Artists

Musical Score By: David Mansfield

Distributed by: Lakeshore Records

Reviewed by Melissa Minners


            Melody Wilder (Saffron Burrows) is a young, uninspired office worker living in a loft in Lower Manhattan having a very bad day.  All in one day, Melody is fired from her job, dumped by her boyfriend and told that she has inoperable throat cancer leaving her with only two months to live.  Forced to confront her own mortality, instead of wallowing in self pity, Melody realizes that she is now free of all responsibilities Ė she has no job holding her down and, with only two months to live, who is going to forcer her to pay the bills?  So, Melody moves into a vacant lot with a view of the Hudson River and maxes out her credit cards on a seemingly endless shopping spree.  She decides to pursue her lifelong passion for the electric guitar, determined to learn how to play the instrument she has craved since childhood in the two months she has left.  Based on a true story, The Guitar is written by Amos Poe and directed by Amy Redford.

            The Guitar Soundtrack features six tracks of music written and performed by various artists.  These songs are found at the very beginning of the soundtrack and feature music by Jonny Savarino, Phoebe Jean Dunne, Alap Momin, Deb Montgomery and two songs performed by The Everyothers.  The first song, Glancing Lovers by Jonny Savarino, sounds like the light and airy music one might hear in an elevator or while on hold waiting for a customer service representative.  I canít understand the point of Cold Hands by Phoebe Jean Dunne, which consists of a little bit of soft guitar playing thatís interrupted (just when you start to enjoy it) by some talking.  Itís almost as if this was a recording gone bad.  The real standouts in this portion of the soundtrack are the songs by The Everyothers, an alternative rock band with a David Bowie sound (one song, John, Iím Only Dancing is actually written by David Bowie) and Fly Free by Deb Montgomery, a song containing lyrics that are very pertinent to the movie.  Montgomery has a sound like that of Tori Amos or Fiona Apple that fits perfectly with the lyrical content.

            The musical score of The Guitar was composed by David Mansfield, a New Jersey-raised violinist, mandolin player, guitarist, and composer.  Mansfield was signed to his first record deal at the age of sixteen as part of a group known asQuacky Duck and His Barnyard Friends.  Two years later, he received an offer to join Bob Dylanís band and appeared on three of Dylanís albums.  In 1986, David Mansfield became a founding member of Bruce Hornsby and the Range, but he left before they went on their first tour.  It was in the 80s that Mansfield began scoring for feature films with the movie Heavenís Gate.  Since then, Mansfield has created musical scores for Transamerica, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Songcatcher, The Apostle, Year of the Dragon, Truman and more.

            Mansfieldís compositions for The Guitar Soundtrack begin somewhat darkly, reflecting the mood of Melody after being hit with so much bad news.  The guitars finally come in during the tenth track entitled First Flashback.  One can assume that Melody is thinking back to her childhood obsession with the electric guitar.  Most of the 31 tracks that make up the musical score of the film are very short, consisting of some electric guitar riffs.  Some of the compositions sound carefree with electric guitars mixed in with a banjo-like sound in a somewhat fast pace.  These light-hearted tracks seem to represent some sort of theme for Melody, perhaps signifying the freedom she feels in pursuing her dreams.  Sad scenes are made up of elongated chords played in a much lower register than the carefree tunes.  A really standout track is found in Phantom Band which contains guitars and drums.  The track is a rocking jam session and rather cool if you enjoy the raw sound of an impromptu music session.

            I was anxious to listen to The Guitar Soundtrack as soon as I heard its name.  I had yet to learn about the movie and so I was expecting some lengthy soft guitar tracks such as those found in Into the Wild.  Once I discovered what the movie was about, I expected some hard rocking lengthy electric guitar riffs.  What I actually got was an album filled with very short tracks with electric guitars, but no full length songs.  One track, entitled Guitar Practice, is just that Ė someone practicing on a guitar.  There is also a track called No Amp which is basically someone playing an electric guitar without an amplifier.  I expected a lot more from The Guitar Soundtrack than I actually got and so I have to say that I recommend passing up this soundtrack in favor of seeing the movie as I plan to do as soon as it hits the video stores.  The movie premise sounds promising and worth spending money on.  The soundtrack is simply disappointing and not worth it.


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