It doesn’t take much to excite me to be honest, but I have to admit when I learned of La La Land Records Hook album I beamed. I was nine years old when Steven Spielberg took us back to Neverland and showed us what happened to Peter Pan. That’s probably why I hold the film – one which continues to divide many ‘critics’ – so close to my heart. This film was a part of my childhood for goodness sake.
John Williams’ score remains a firm favourite of mine, perhaps thanks to my connection to the film at that young age, but also because it is just a stupendous piece of work, brimming with memorable and magical melody and more swash and buckle than you can shake a hook at. The original soundtrack album – released by Epic Soundtrax – is as fine a score album as you could want, even with the, frankly infuriating, lack of a track list on the back cover. That album has been more than enough to suffice over the years and while I truly appreciate the decisions made by Williams at the time when it came to producing that original disc – indeed it’s a perfectly packaged production that captures the heart of the story from start to finish – this expanded selection is a dream.
There’s over an hour of additional music contained within the two discs, that’s a little over 140 minutes of music, which is staggering, and it’s all worthy stuff really. Williams was consulted here, which is good, and he apparently drew the line at including absolutely everything that was recorded. Some might think that’s a shame, but there’s no reason to feel short-changed, for this is a generous score presentation and one that features some real hefty new material.
Disc One begins much like the original album, in fact it is not until track five that we get to hear anything ‘new’, namely ‘The Bedroom’, followed by ‘The Nursery’, ‘The Watch’ and ‘A Portrait of Granny Wendy’. Fine cues all, adding more sparkle and sweet melody to the pre-kidnapping scenes, though the latter is perhaps a little too similar to the preceding cue ‘Granny Wendy’ to warrant inclusion. It is the twelfth track, ‘Pirates!’, where things get a bit more interesting as Williams lays out his finery, supporting the colourful, salty sea dogs with suitable pompous fanfare. At almost eight minutes ‘Hook Challenges Pan’ offers value for money, with a brooding, dramatic undertone that would have perhaps stood out a little too much on the original album, not to mention take up valuable space. Here though it fleshes out the story musically as Hook wages War on Peter, challenging him to be the Peter Pan he once was and fight for his children’s lives, thus setting up the premise for the rest of the story.
‘Hook’s Lesson’ is good fun, its bass-ridden glissando recalling the cherry music in The Witches of Eastwick. Williams seemingly had a lot of fun with these scenes, continuing further in ‘Hook’s Madness’ as the be-hooked pirate’s Achilles heel is revealed, with the chiming and clanging of clocks. ‘Follow That Shadow’ rounds up the first disc with flute-driven playfulness, as Peter rediscovers himself after a knock on the head.
Disc Two is given over to lengthy tracks, including the always spine-tingling ‘Remembering Childhood’ and ‘You Are The Pan’. Seventeen minutes is given over to the film’s finale battle with ‘The Ultimate War’ spread across three conjoined cues. ‘To War’, ‘The Death of Rufio’ and ‘Sword Fight’ offers up much to enjoy, with full on Korngoldian bravado at its heart, not to mention moments of fun and sadness… ‘Farewell Neverland’ remains one of the composer’s greatest ‘finale’ cues, this one elaborated upon at the start, but ending in just the same way as Tootles covers himself in fairydust and flies home to neverland, swinging off of Big Ben as he goes. I always missed the ‘End Credits’ music on the original album, bold and uplifting as it is when the credit roll. That is put right now with the full six minutes in place.
The bonus cues also offer some surprises with an alternate ‘Prologue’, itself written for the film’s trailer, and the aforementioned ‘Hook’s Blues’ enjoyable enough, but adding nothing particularly new. The real treats come in the form of the film versions of ‘Banning Back Home’, ‘Presenting The Hook’ and the partly unused cue ‘Wendy Tells Peter The Truth’. The former is a revelation really and markedly different to its original airing, which appears to have been specially arranged for the original soundtrack. The film version is of course longer, a little more dislocated, but more satisfying dramatically as it underscores Peter’s failure to keep his promise to his Son. It has always been the ‘sore thumb’ of the score a victim of the temp track I would say given its remarkable resemblance to Dave Grusin’s 1979 piece ‘Mountain Dance’ used in the film Falling In Love. The extended ‘Presenting The Hook’ is book-ended by what we already know from the original track; the additional middle section is toned down compared to the opening trill and frill as Peter gets to grips with his pirate walk and snarl before returning to the pomp and fanfare of Captain Hook’s music. The latter cue, which covers Wendy attempting to reveal the truth of his identity, is a neat piece with a dark hue, aided by the low male voices foreshadowing Hook’s theme and in turn echoing that written for Emperor Palpatine in Return of the Jedi.
The disc ends with specially composed, and unused, ‘Exit Music’, which is a wonderfully old fashioned and overtly theatrical concept but a perfect closing statement for the album.
Some may believe that an expanded soundtrack album release means the original album will be forgotten and put in a box under the bed in favour of the more complete listening experience. La La Land’s Hook is a marvellous production and as complete a listening experience as the composer feels we ought to enjoy, but I will still treasure the original album, so entwined was it with my formative years. Less is sometimes more, but it doesn’t hurt to have the option to hear more of what you love.
No Williams fan can be without this release; thanks for making it available La La Land.
Hook, Expanded Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is available on the La La Land Records label (limited to 5000 copies) and is available from the label’s website (lalalandrecords.com) or via Screen Archives Entertainment (screenarchives.com) – MB