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Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
2006 Disney

2007 Disney

Composed and Co-Produced by:
Hans Zimmer

Conducted by:
Pete Anthony

Performed by:
The Hollywood Studio Symphony

Co-Produced by:
Bob Bodami

Additional Music by:
Lorne Balfe
Tom Gire
Nick Glennie-Smith
Henry Jackman
Trevor Morris
John Sponsler
Geoff Zanelli

Labels and Dates:
Walt Disney Records
(July 4th, 2006)

Walt Disney Records
(December 4th, 2007)

Also See:
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Muppet Treasure Island
The Rock
The Peacemaker
Crimson Tide
Cutthroat Island

Audio Clips:
2006 Album:

1. Jack Sparrow (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

2. The Kraken (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

5. Dinner is Served (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

10. You Look Good Jack (0:32):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

Both the 2006 album and the 2007 set are regular U.S. releases. The 2007 "Soundtrack Treasures Collection" initially retailed for $60 or more.

  Nominated for a Grammy Award.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

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Buy it... only if you accepted The Curse of the Black Pearl as a viable entry in the swashbuckling genre and seek a slightly more orchestral and jaunty version of the same general sound for the sequel.

Avoid it... if more tired regurgitation from The Rock and The Peacemaker and an overwhelmingly awful bass-heavy mix are the last things you need to hear in yet another film involving pirate ships and swordfighting.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: (Hans Zimmer/Various) When Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl debuted in 2003, its immense success on film and in the box office record books took many by surprise. With a trilogy originally in the making, the second film continues to follow the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow and develop the relationships between the trio of lead characters. As the supporting characters and adventures continue to expand in scope and take increasing bizarre shapes, the franchise increases the grandeur of its production elements with each entry. Helmed once again by Jerry Bruckheimer, the basic production style of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest is much the same as the first, including its score. While Hans Zimmer was only listed as a producer of the previous Pirates of the Caribbean score, his involvement included the composition of many of its themes and other aspects, but he was legally unable to take credit for his work because of contractual obligations to another production. Thus, the contributions of Klaus Badelt and several other Media Ventures graduates were given credit for the hasty work. It had been completed quickly after the firing of veteran Disney composer Alan Silvestri, whose ideas for the score did not match the muscular inclination that Bruckheimer was looking for. So in the end, Bruckheimer brought in his usual collaborators, and after assembling a mostly stock, electronically-enhanced Media Ventures-style score for The Curse of the Black Pearl, their work raised questions about the definition of swashbuckling music. It was highly polarizing music, with older generations of film music collectors largely writing off the score as garbage while hoards of younger listeners, many of whom did not collect film scores, made the album into a best-seller. The longevity of the original score's top selling status can't be ignored, and has sparked due debate about modern listeners' expectations and clearly identified attempts by Bruckheimer and Zimmer to redefine swashbuckling (or "pirates and high seas") music. Does the bass-heavy, electronically-aided music by Zimmer for these Pirates of the Caribbean scores represent the official end of the swashbuckling style famously introduced by Erich Wolfgang Korngold and retained with fantastic success by the likes of John Williams and John Debney in the modern era?

Those questions will wait for the time being, for the merits of the score for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest will help determine their answers. Zimmer obviously had more time for this sequel score, though that didn't stop him from assembling at least seven ghostwriters to aide him once again in his efforts (whether or not they actually qualify as "ghostwriters" is another issue that will wait until later in the review). Wherever you stand on the Media Ventures style of music for this genre, you will notice that Dead Man's Chest has some significant differences in style and structure from The Curse of the Black Pearl. Zimmer expands the orchestral palette a little farther, uses a variety of new rhythmic tools, and seems to have a more intelligent grasp of thematic integration. In fact, he even manages to infuse a little more genuine spirit of character into the score, whereas the Badelt-credited effort for the original prefers to bludgeon you without trying to make any such finer points. Zimmer spends significant time developing the franchise themes for the film's primary characters, including the one for Jack Sparrow in the opening cut on the album. Zimmer's love for the waltz influences the sprightly cello theme for this piece, easily the most flamboyant of either score. A fresh theme for Davy Jones is provided on music box a few cues later. Interestingly, both performances climax into nearly stereotypical action levels for Zimmer, with echoes of Crimson Tide and The Rock abounding in their middle sections, negating the intrigue created by each themes' more instrumentally careful introductions. The Davy Jones theme breaks into an extremely brutal and deliberate rhythm complete with driving organ, the instrument that defines much of Dead Man's Chest. The third substantial thematic idea in the score is that of the Kraken, the underwater menace (which is so ugly that it becomes painfully humorous) that inspired Zimmer to take his typically heavy bass mixing even lower in range. Perhaps suggested by Captain Nemo and a historical tendency for dangerous creatures of the deep to be represented by pipe organ, the use of the shadowy organ sound for the Kraken's domineering theme is arguably Zimmer's most intelligent move in the score, though even this theme, by its stomping climax, isn't immune to the usual treatment of pounding orchestra hits (which sound partially synthetic) and broad electric guitar emulation.

The album presentation opens with the character action pieces that introduce these three main themes. Thereafter, the score continues to jump around wildly in style, which is a welcome move after the nonstop action of the previous film's score on album, though for Dead Man's Chest, the lack of consistency creates its own problems. In "I've Got My Eye on You," Zimmer returns to the deep choral suspense of The Peacemaker, accompanied by bloated, churning electronics before a heroic performance of the franchise's main theme returns to the scene. Enhanced percussion and singing sections spur the natives in "Dinner is Served," one of Zimmer's most bizarre career cues though one with necessary comedy. After a heavy dose of brash percussion, wailing solo female voice, and rough throat singing, more comedy comes in the form of one of Zimmer's favorite kind of straight-laced classical waltzes. Maybe the most interesting cue on the album is "Tia Dalma," which, after a stereotypical opening with the "Black Pearl" theme from the first film, tones back the bass far enough to allow other elements of the ensemble to shine, including female vocals, violin plucking, the music box, and various light percussive effects. The "Turtle" track is the type of boisterous accordion and fiddle source cue that contributes to stylistic diversity in the score, but really only serves to break up the album's cohesion. The battles then break out with regularity, "A Family Affair" offering both the "Black Pearl" and Davy Jones themes in heavy, drum-thumping exhibitions over choir and typical Zimmer string layers and bass enhancements before the lament of a solo cello takes the latter theme back to conversational levels. The lengthy "Wheel of Fortune" cue is a cut-and-paste piece of action music from the first score that adds snippets of the three primary themes from the current score presented in rapid succession without much integration. After reminders of the Davy Jones and Kraken themes, some of Sparrow's thematic ideas from the first film are reprised. The following "You Look Good, Jack" cue is a largely uninteresting atmospheric interlude for strings and synthesizer before exploding into an electric guitar-like action outburst of significant irritation at the end. Zimmer's score concludes with the derivative "Hello Beastie," a cue with heavy influences in choir from The Peacemaker as it hints at the franchise theme before oddly inserting some straight brass-layered material from the closing of The Da Vinci Code. The score almost dies with a whimper before a final burst of Sparrow's theme from the first score on cello.

Interrupting the flow of the album with even greater intensity is a lengthy trance remix of "He's a Pirate" from the first score (one of seemingly dozens that eventually flooded the market due to the theme's remarkable popularity), which oddly maintains a refreshing sound compared to the significantly predictable score that had gone before. It's not entirely listenable in and of itself, but compared to Zimmer's inability to break out of his stubborn mould and write something truly original for the franchise, the trance beat is at least a splash of cold water in the face. You can hear what Zimmer was trying to accomplish with Dead Man's Chest; he seems to have attempted better character identification (as made necessary by the film's exploration of them) and added more stylistic spark through his rhythmic deviations. On a basic level, he has succeeded, and the result is a score that ironically leaps around in style too often to be an easily appreciated and consistent listening experience. Despite his efforts, though, Dead Man's Chest is often considered by both film music collectors and enthusiasts of the franchise to be the weakest of the original trilogy of scores (dwelling for some as low as the awful On Stranger Tides follow-up in 2011). It fails on two entirely separate levels, whether you like this kind of music for the genre or not. First, Bruckheimer and Zimmer's attempt to put swashbuckling music on steroids for the modern generation still doesn't work if you subscribe to classical notions of music for the high seas. In short, if you found the score for The Curse of the Black Pearl obnoxious in the picture, then you'll have to do your best to try to ignore it in Dead Man's Chest. Secondly, even if you can accept hearing music from The Rock and The Peacemaker in your Pirates of the Caribbean films, this music just isn't that good on its own merits. It sounded great when it first debuted in full in Crimson Tide. It was fresh and entertaining back in 1995. But it's simply overused in the 2000's, not only by Zimmer but by all of his associates in their spin-off scores. It doesn't matter if this music is for a modern military flick or a science fiction affair, it has become an all-too-predictable extension of Zimmer's increasingly one-dimensional bluckbuster style. On a technical level, the number of Zimmer's self-ripoff mechanisms started to rival that of James Horner, and Zimmer had a smaller palette of sounds to work with (at least in this action genre) from the start. There's plenty of evidence in Dead Man's Chest to back up both the aforementioned failures described in this paragraph, and in all fairness to Zimmer, they should be explained.

For those of you who have difficulty accepting this simplistic Pirates of the Caribbean music as appropriate for the genre, there's good reason for your concern. Supporters of the modern sound will call you stubborn or pre-programmed, but you've got history on your side. There's a reason why the original Korngold vision of swashbuckling music has endured so long. It's been employed by maestros since then, often with great effect. Why? Because it simply works. There are intangibles about the soaring effect of orchestral sailing music that stir the imagination like none other. If you look at the definition of something "swashbuckling," it's "flamboyantly adventurous." In a masculine sense, Hans Zimmer's current electronically-aided blockbuster style could be called adventurous. If you're in a technological setting, it matches the adventure well, and in his developing theme for Jack Sparrow in Dead Man's Chest, he tried to capture the flamboyant side of the character's wit. To be flamboyant, though, you have to be elaborate, ornate, and resplendent. Its own definition includes "richly colored," a phrase that dooms Zimmer's score because of the music's inability to resonate with the brilliant beauty and splendor necessary for the high seas (because, of course, the brute masculinity prevents it). If Zimmer wishes to persist with his deep bass droning and limited instrumentation, then a flamboyant presence is simply not possible. Instead of flamboyance, the best he can accomplish is a pounded, melodramatic sense of adventure, which is why you hear a cue at the end of Dead Man's Chest that sounds as though someone's just disarmed a huge bomb, saved the world, or discovered the Holy Grail. Especially for those of us who have heard Zimmer from the start, how can we blindly accept this music for a historical Caribbean pirate genre when it's already seen its glory days in scenes where fighter planes are bombing Alcatraz Island and George Clooney is chasing nukes from a helicopter? Do people really wonder why the score nearly ruins the film for others? This is by no means an attack on modern instrumention. There is no reason why an intelligently incorporated expansion of the traditional swashbuckling palette couldn't include synthetic samples, rock percussion, and even electric guitars. The samples are a tricky slope, but not fatal. John Debney has used guitars very well with orchestral ensembles (a la The Scorpion King), and he likely would have had no problems sprinkling them wisely into something like Cutthroat Island, considered by many collectors to be the best swashbuckling score of the modern age despite the film's terrible struggles.

Hans Zimmer's limited blockbuster palette has proven such a flamboyantly adventurous, elaborate, ornate, and resplendent score to be impossible. And this brings us to the second problem with these Pirates of the Caribbean scores (as previewed above). Let's assume that you accept and enjoy the modernized Bruckheimer and Zimmer sound for the genre, and let's assume you had no problem with the first score in its film. For you, the dynamic "Yo Ho" swing of George Bruns' original composition for the famed Disneyland ride is not necessary and maybe even outdated. If you look at Dead Man's Chest as a stand-alone score, or even just a stand-alone Hans Zimmer album, and compare it to his overarching body of work, it's derivative, boring, and occasionally irritating. Zimmer's made it very clear that he loves the same bass ostinatos, the same chord progressions, and the same instrumentation time and time again. Sometimes, when he throws all caution to the wind, and produces something shamelessly melodramatic, like King Arthur, it actually works as a good listening experience if you accept it as the steroid-popping kind of popcorn muscle that it is. In Dead Man's Chest, he tried some of that technique but didn't provide any spectacular new avenue on that line of thought. The "Hello Beastie" cue rambles on with several stereotypical Zimmer crescendos, all of which are frightfully old in sound. Much of the fault for this stale atmosphere exists in the instrumentation and mix of the music, or, perhaps more accurately, the instrumentation made necessary by Zimmer's desire for a certain mix. He prefers his scores to dwell so low in the bass, often in overwhelming volume meant to convey power, that the use of dynamic high-range instrumentation is either drowned out or not even attempted. Nary a woodwind is to be heard in this score. Nor will you hear higher brass ranges with any decent employment. Even the violins are reduced to supporting roles, often chopping uselessly behind broad choral strokes or the monumentally heavier lower string ranges. Zimmer has used so many horns at once, all in unison, that the effect is a harsh, nearly electronic sound that also contributes to the bass region in such a fashion that you can't really determine each time if they are real or synthesized. The organ in "The Kraken" would be so much more effective if Zimmer would lose the heartbeat effect by percussion, the churning bass strings, and the electric guitar effects, all of which perform in their absolute lowest ranges and dilute the specialty instrument. How can you hope to achieve any heightened sense of style when you continue to use an ensemble so often as a clubbing stick?

The album situation for all of the Pirates of the Caribbean scores has long been a source of frustration that stretches across all boundaries that typically divide the listeners of this music. At odds with the desire of fans to hear all the material from the films on album is Zimmer's tendency to prefer his music rearranged into suites for presentations apart from context. Also problematic is the fact that the music that you hear in the film often contains a different mix of orchestra, synthesizers, and other elements from what is chosen for the albums. Finally, you sometimes hear passages in this franchise of movies in which music from someplace else in the same score (or from one of those that preceded it) is tracked in to a circumstance that is sometimes unrelated to Zimmer's original intent for that music (On Stranger Tides was a disaster in these regards). After the original trilogy of Pirates of the Caribbean films debuted, fans requested expanded versions of the soundtracks on album, preferably in the luxurious, complete format established by the comprehensive sets representing Howard Shore's The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In 2007, Disney released what many had hoped would be such treatment of those original Pirates of the Caribbean scores. The "Soundtrack Treasures Collection" of four CDs and a DVD was an immense disappointment, however, providing very few tracks of additional material that hadn't in some form been previously released. The CD dedicated to Dead Man's Chest (#2) is identical to the commercial product, and the remixes on the fourth CD are simply shorter versions of those already heard before (though who actually wants to hear that trash remains a question). The supposedly new score tracks on that fourth CD are mostly rearrangements of themes already released, some of them simply elongated or merged into more palatable tracks. From Dead Man's Chest, you hear a string rendition of the Davy Jones theme in "The Heart of Davy Jones," several unused versions of Beckett's theme in "Lord Cutler Beckett" (some of which better suited for the third film), and a sparse piano solo demo of Jack Sparrow's theme in "Jack's Theme Bare Bones Demo." Together, this collection of "new" music does not merit the high cost of the entire product, though perhaps fans will appreciate the DVD that comes with the set and shows recording studio footage and interviews about the formulation of the music. In the end, though, the "Soundtrack Treasures Collection" is a slap in the face by Disney to all of the film music collectors and concept enthusiasts who deserve, despite the arguably poor quality of these scores, a decent presentation of this famous music.

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Overall, whether you can accept this style of music as appropriate for the swashbuckling genre or not, Dead Man's Chest is a mundane, predictable effort. Zimmer does attempt to broaden the dynamic range of the score by providing new character themes with deviations in rhythm and instrumentation from the original. But these deviations are still well within his usual stylistic parameters, nullifying the listener's ability to really appreciate any of these attempts. If you did not enjoy The Curse of the Black Pearl, you stand only a minimal chance of finding merit in Dead Man's Chest. If you specifically appreciated the constant frenzy of activity in the first score, then the sequel score could very well disappoint you in the absence of such flow as well. The battle lines that were drawn during the debate about the original score will persist, with Alan Silvestri fans continuing to bemoan his unnecessary termination from the franchise. Such people should certainly take aim at Bruckheimer rather than Zimmer, for it was Bruckheimer's vision of the Hollywood blockbuster soundtrack that has given birth to Zimmer's now famous style and methodology. That standardized methodology of the Media Ventures (and now Remote Control) production house includes the use of ghostwriters, and as mentioned above in this review, a note about those ghostwriters should be made. It was speculated by the hapless representative of another, now defunct soundtrack review website that the seven co-writers of this Dead Man's Chest score shouldn't be referred to as "ghostwriters" because they are credited in the booklet. Indeed, a "ghostwriter" is one who "gives the credit of authorship to someone else," and these Media Ventures clones are indeed credited. But are they really? Are their names on the covers of the CD booklet? Are their names on the movie poster? Are their names listed next to Zimmer's in the primary credits during the film? Are their names in a larger-than-minimum font size in the album booklet? And, perhaps most importantly, are they recognized for the extent of their contributions? Do we know what, exactly, they wrote? The answer to all of these questions is no, and that's why they're still ghostwriters. One would hope that with all these auxiliary composers, the diversity of the scores would range far better from the usual Hans Zimmer parade of sounds. And, as with before, it's hard to believe that none of these people took a clue from the music in the actual "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at Disneyland. Unfortunately, Dead Man's Chest regurgitates previous Zimmer stock material more often than it invents, once again leaving Muppet Treasure Island as Zimmer's most interesting effort in the genre. * Price Hunt: CD or Download

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 Track Listings (2006 Disney Album): Total Time: 58:32

• 1. Jack Sparrow (6:06)
• 2. The Kraken (6:55)
• 3. Davy Jones (3:15)
• 4. I've Got My Eye on You (2:25)
• 5. Dinner is Served (1:30)
• 6. Tia Dalma (3:57)
• 7. Two Hornpipes (Tortuga) (1:14)
• 8. A Family Affair (3:34)
• 9. Wheel of Fortune (6:45)
• 10. You Look Good Jack (5:34)
• 11. Hello Beastie (10:15)
• 12. Bonus: He's a Pirate (Tiesto Remix) (7:02)

 Track Listings (2007 Disney Set): Total Time: 47:22

CD 2: (58:32)
• 1. Jack Sparrow (6:06)
• 2. The Kraken (6:55)
• 3. Davy Jones (3:15)
• 4. I've Got My Eye on You (2:25)
• 5. Dinner is Served (1:30)
• 6. Tia Dalma (3:57)
• 7. Two Hornpipes (Tortuga) (1:14)
• 8. A Family Affair (3:34)
• 9. Wheel of Fortune (6:45)
• 10. You Look Good Jack (5:34)
• 11. Hello Beastie (10:15)
• 12. Bonus: He's a Pirate (Tiesto Remix) (7:02)

CD 4: Remixed and Unreleased: (76:58)
• 1. Pirates, Day One, 4:56AM (Original Hans Zimmer Theme from The Curse of the Black Pearl) (3:45)
• 2. Marry Me (Score Suite from At World's End) (11:36)
• 3. The Heart of Davy Jones (Score Suite from Dead Man's Chest) (3:13)
• 4. Lord Cutler Beckett (Theme from Dead Man's Chest/Score Suite from At World's End) (8:46)
• 5. Jack's Theme Bare Bones Demo (Hans Zimmer Piano Demo from Dead Man's Chest) (4:03)
• 6. Hoist the Colours Suite (Score Suite from At World's End) (5:42)
• 7. The Pirate Lord of Singapore (Score Suite from At World's End) (5:57)
• 8. Just Good Business (Score Suite from At World's End) (5:54)
• 9. He's a Pirate (Pete n' Red's Jolly Roger Mix) (3:10)
• 10. He's a Pirate (Friscia & Lamboy Tribal Treasure Mix) (4:36)
• 11. He's a Pirate (Pelo Verde Mix) (4:37)
• 12. He's a Pirate (Chris Joss Ship Ahoy Tribal Mix) (4:03)
• 13. Jack's Suite (Paul Oakenfold Mix) (3:34)
• 14. Jack's Suite (The Crystal Method Mix) (3:46)
• 15. Pirates Live Forever (Ryeland Allison Mix) (3:50)

(total time only reflects original score material from Dead Man's Chest)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert of the 2006 album includes no extra information about the score or film. The 2007 "Soundtrack Treasures Collection" contains extra notation about the music. Its DVD contents include "Making of a Score" (19:48), a general production overview of the scores, "The Man Behind the Pirates Music" (17:38), an interview with Zimmer alone with recording sessions footage, and "Hans Zimmer's Live Performance at Disneyland for the World Premiere of Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End" (8:37).

  All artwork and sound clips from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest are Copyright © 2006, 2007, Walt Disney Records, Walt Disney Records. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 7/1/06 and last updated 7/20/11. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2006-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.