Full Length Jewel Case CD
Unlike the beginnings of many Zimmer scores - Gladiator, Spirit, Pearl Harbor - The Last Samurai does not open with a powerful main theme performed by the French horns. Rather, the first track, "A Way of Life", starts almost inaudibly with gentle ethnic instrumentation on flute and strings. Halfway through the track - the longest on the album - we hear a set of chord progressions similar to the renowned "Journey to the Line" from Zimmer´s Thin Red Line, but here it is only played on the strings and sets a very different tone. Toward the end of the track, lower strings and bass come in with a darker tone and the theme for Tom Cruise´s American character, Nathan Algren, makes its first appearance. It is used here in a slow, dramatic variation before being played in full, backed by the Japanese flute (fue), reminiscent of Zimmer´s Beyond Rangoon.
The most impressive aspect if this score is its authenticity. Most notable are the use of Taiko drums. These instruments were used on the battlefield to send out orders and only recently (mid-1900´s or so) have developed into a solo instrument used for performance. Many modern scores utilize Taiko, including Mulan, The Matrix, and Zimmer´s Thin Red Line and Pearl Harbor, and most recently, Battlestar Galactica. However, the Taiko performances in The Last Samurai are more authentic and bring to mind the martial effects of the drums, as Zimmer utilizes them in conjunction with the battle sequences in the film. Reportedly, he tested Taiko rhythms electronically, experimenting with over 10,000 rhythms before selecting the ones that sounded the most natural. It is clear that Zimmer took this score and the ethnic instrumentation to heart and the authenticity of the sound reflects that. Zimmer´s talent for creating and varying themes with each other shows here; it adds to the circular and flowing nature of this score. The Last Samurai is one of Zimmer´s best works. It takes some ideas from his other work and blends them into a work of art, fusing them with Japanese instruments. Well done on his 100th score!
Buy it... if you seek a score that exists within Hans Zimmer´s comfortable methodology but also utilizes a variety of native specialty instruments to infuse life into that equation.