It's irrelevant how "country" tracks like "Burning Bridges," "By the Time I Get to Phoenix," and "Wichita Lineman" are in the face of what occurs with each of them. The music has a cinematic flair, a dramatic edge holding it in and eventually letting it go. Campbell's bland but efficient voice rises up and expresses just the right amount of pathos to put these minor melodramas over.

He's less successful later on. He may have found Jesus, but what he failed to keep were the memorable melodies that held together his finest work. By the late Seventies, his post-"Rhinestone Cowboy" career is caught in songs far too formulaic. Jimmy Webb gave Campbell quirky, insightful material, but by the time of 1987's "Still Within the Sound of My Voice," the collaboration just doesn't have the old magic.

If the set had focused primarily on his late-Sixties/early-Seventies period, the overview would've been weaker but the collection would have made a greater statement. Spin "Gentle on My Mind" just once and you'll know what I mean.

-- Rob O'Connor

Original Soundtrack
(Sony Classical)

Kenneth Branagh's Hamlet is mannerly, splashy, and ornate -- very unlike the Franco Zeffirelli/Mel Gibson version from 1990, which emphasized the grime and gore of medieval Denmark. Zeffirelli's film was complemented by a grimly primitive score by the masterful Ennio Morricone, whose credits stretch from the seminal spaghetti Westerns of the Sixties to up-to-date work for auteur directors such as Brian De Palma and Pedro Almodavar. Similarly, Branagh's high-gloss Hamlet is given a plush, regal musical atmosphere by composer Patrick Doyle, Branagh's collaborator on each of his previous films.

Publicity for Branagh's film identified romance and heroism as fundamental qualities of both Hamlet the play and Hamlet the man. Now, anybody reasonably familiar with Shakespeare's play knows that it offers little heroism and even less romance, which is precisely why it has fascinated the world for nearly four hundred years. All too human, Hamlet should be pitied, but he can hardly be idolized. Like Branagh's filmmaking, Doyle's orchestral score pours on the idolatry, right from its opening measures in which Placido Domingo eulogizes the sweet prince with a Latin hymn. All that's really missing is a chorus, and that comes in eventually.

Branagh's Hamlet may be hard to stomach for those who know their Shakespeare. In contrast, it's possible -- even advisable -- to hear Doyle's score as pure music, or at least to divorce it from the visuals. He has devised memorable and atmospheric themes for each of the major characters, and he develops them with a skill shared by few contemporary film composers. Although both gentlemen are honest about their eagerness to please, I'm beginning to think that Doyle's skills as a composer may outshine Branagh's as a director. No matter what you think about the film, Patrick Doyle's Hamlet is recommended to all devotees of the old-fashioned, romantic film score.

-- Raymond Tuttle

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