Anybody who knows me best knows that I am a huge fan of film scores and soundtracks, and James Newton Howard’s score to “Grand Canyon” is one of my all-time favorites. I knew at some point that this score would get an expanded and remastered soundtrack, and La La Land Records finally came through with this limited edition release. While he is better known for his music to “The Prince of Tides,” “The Fugitive,” “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight” which he worked with Hans Zimmer on, “Grand Canyon” remains my favorite work of his as the music provides a soothing heartbeat to the crazy city that is Los Angeles.
The movie “Grand Canyon” came out in 1991 and was directed by Lawrence Kasdan and written by him and his wife Meg. Its story revolves around six different Los Angeles residents whose lives intertwine with one another over the course of a few days. It all starts when Mac (Kevin Kline), while driving home after watching a Lakers game, drives into a bad neighborhood where his car breaks down. Just when it looks like he’s about to be killed by a gang, tow truck driver Simon (Danny Glover) rescues him and the two end up becoming unlikely friends. Many called it “The Big Chill” of the 90’s, but “Grand Canyon” more than stands on its own as it observes the lives of Los Angeles residents who are dealing with personal issues that are tearing them apart.
What I love about Howard’s score is how it combines so many different kinds of music, be it orchestra, electronics, rock, jazz or percussion, to create a film score that is so unique to where I have a hard time comparing it to any other. It captures the coldness of big city life while giving the characters stuck in it a sympathetic voice that understands how they feel. The “Main Titles” hooked me right away and made me feel so at ease even though I knew that this movie was not going to be a fairy tale.
La La Land Records limited edition release of the “Grand Canyon” soundtrack includes twenty-five minutes of music that was not included on its original release. Soundtracks, back in the 1990’s, were limited to having only forty to fifty minutes of music on a compact disc, so a lot of great stuff got left out as a result. It’s been over twenty years since this movie came out in theatres, but the music remains as powerful as it ever was. In addition, there are some bonus tracks which are alternate takes on certain themes as well as some source music for a violent film that Davis (Steve Martin) has produced with an unrestrained glee.
As usual, La La Land Records has provided an informative booklet on the making of “Grand Canyon” and its music which is entitled “Scoring the City of Angels” written by Daniel Schweiger, soundtrack editor of AssignmentX.com and Filmmusicmag.com. Schweiger writes extensively about the making of the movie and of how Howard came up with the music to it, and I’m not sure we have had as much detailed information on this score before this edition came out. Each track on this disc gets an individual write up, and it’s nice to see someone (let alone anyone) give this soundtrack the attention it deserves.
If there’s any downside to this edition of the “Grand Canyon” soundtrack, it’s that it doesn’t include the song “Searching for a Heart” by the late Warren Zevon. Usually La La Land Records is able to get all the songs from a movie’s original soundtrack, but I guess there was an issue with the rights this time around. It would have also been great to have the other Zevon song that was featured in this movie, “Lawyers, Guns and Money,” included as well. Mac plays it while he’s driving home from the Lakers game, and the lyrics turn out to be quite prophetic for him.
“Grand Canyon” is really one of the unsung cinematic masterpieces of the 1990’s, and what’s sad is that most people don’t know about this movie today. This proved to be my introduction to the work of James Newton Howard, and it is one of the main reasons why this movie is so great. I am thrilled to see that La La Land Records has taken the time to make Howard’s score sound better than it has previously. While he didn’t get an Oscar nomination for his work here (he was nominated for “The Prince of Tides” instead), there’s no doubt in my mind that this remains his most memorable film score to date.
This limited edition has only 2000 units available, so be sure to order yours before it goes out of print.