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Section Header
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Guitar Solos by:
Christopher Parkening

Song Performed by:
Marvin Gaye
Tammi Terrell

Orchestrated by:
John Neufeld

Sony Classical

Release Date:
December 8th, 1998

Also See:
Saving Private Ryan
The Accidental Tourist
Stanley & Iris
Home Alone

Audio Clips:
4. The Soccer Game (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

5. A Christmas Quilt (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

6. Isabel's Horse and Buggy (0:32):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

15. End Credits (0:28):
WMA (188K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

Regular U.S. release.



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Sales Rank: 48504

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Buy it... only if you are familiar with and enjoy John Williams' similarly subdued character drama scores for small ensembles in the late 1980's.

Avoid it... if you expect any lasting impression to be made by this safely warm, but ultimately fluffy and mundane replacement score.

Stepmom: (John Williams) Few films with such an accomplished cast and crew have failed in such totality as Stepmom. It's a movie that proves that no matter how wide a range of talent you hire for your film, everything can be derailed by a team of five screenwriters who don't know the meaning of the word 'subtlety.' The story of Stepmom depicts Susan Sarandon as the divorced mother of two children with Ed Harris. When Harris brings home Julie Roberts, the kids have to deal with the new mother and the friction between Sarandon and Roberts. The film never tries to hide the fact that it blatantly jerks those tears from its viewers. Director Chris Columbus made it clear at the time, interestingly, that a trusting relationship with his composers for each film is of paramount importance. He placed his trust in reliable British composer Patrick Doyle for Stepmom, who struggled through serious illness to write a heavily melodramatic score for the film. Unfortunately, Columbus didn't return the trust to Doyle. Film Score Monthly reported at the time that John Williams, after being delighted by an advanced screening of the film, used his reputation as muscle to push Doyle out the door. This is highly unlikely in its confrontational stance, but it's certainly possible that circumstances presented themselves in such a way that Williams' arrival was more than just convenient. Columbus had worked with Williams before (Home Alone) and would do so again (Harry Potter), and given Williams' open schedule at the time, it's hard to imagine why Williams wasn't originally assigned to Stepmom. Another head-scratcher is the tone of Williams' score; if Columbus and his writers were so intent on pulling the strings on the audience's emotions at regular intervals, then why not explore the more syrupy sound for a score? It seems that Doyle was perhaps simply reacting to what he saw on screen and writing music to match. Conversely, Williams' score is better tempered and possibly an attempt by Columbus to tone back the obviously overt emotions of the film. A score from the maestro hasn't been this restrained and conventional since the days of Stanley & Iris, The Accidental Tourist, and Always in the late 1980's.

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The most interesting aspect of Williams' work for Stepmom is just how little family and holiday spirit exists in this score. No soaring splendor or light, Christmas-inspired percussion is to be heard, despite the holiday setting of the film. Instead, Williams approaches the film with a very soft touch, recording a mundane and safe crowd-pleaser that will be a much easier listening experience for most people than his Saving Private Ryan music from earlier in the year. The score embraces a warmth and coziness that had been lacking in many of Williams' epic and dramatic efforts of the decade. As per usual at the time, he teamed up with a distinguished and talented soloist for Stepmom, and the resulting performances by Christopher Parkening on guitar produce some superb tones to relax the soul. Even though he only contributes to about one third of the music in the film, his performances overshadow the lengthy atmospheric meanderings of piano, solo woodwind, and electronic chimes. The title theme takes time to fully extrapolate and appreciate; Stepmom has no single catchy moment. The mass majority of its underscore is offered by dreamy electronics and an orchestral string section under one of the aforementioned soloists. The few moments of lively personality are almost detractions from the consistency of the album. The rambling electronic baseline and dissonance in "The Soccer Game" will remind of JFK and Sleepers. The pompous, classical scherzo for "Isabel's Horse and Buggy" is a cute play by Williams, though perhaps itself a little to obvious. The remainder of the score is a frivolous, light-hearted, and not distinctly memorable listening experience. Hints of this score would manipulated to far greater heights in the early portions of A.I. Artificial Intelligence a few years later. Technically, the guitar is mixed very well with the ensemble. On album, a source song from yesteryear separates most of the score from its largely reprised "End Credits." Overall, the lack of distinctive personality in Williams' music here, although pleasant, has caused many film score fans to continue seeking the ever-elusive recordings of Pat Doyle for the film, despite their lack of success in the passing decade. *** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.59 (in 338,223 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.52 Stars
Smart Average: 3.38 Stars*
***** 877 
**** 945 
*** 833 
** 392 
* 286 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Stepmom Formula
  Bruno Costa -- 12/5/10 (5:02 a.m.)
   Re: reviewer is NOT nice!!!!
  Jack -- 6/15/08 (5:10 p.m.)
   Re: Stepmom Quiz ( Related to the Movie )
  Samantha Ryals -- 5/5/06 (10:23 a.m.)
   please read this
  kayla waid -- 9/1/05 (4:13 p.m.)
   where are the dang lyrics *NM*
  j -- 8/31/05 (1:21 p.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings: Total Time: 57:02

• 1. Always and Always (3:41)
• 2. The Days Between* (6:27)
• 3. Time Spins its Web (2:19)
• 4. The Soccer Game (4:27)
• 5. A Christmas Quilt (3:56)
• 6. Isabel's Horse and Buggy (1:28)
• 7. Taking Pictures* (3:12)
• 8. One Snowy Night (5:33)
• 9. Ben's Antics (3:04)
• 10. Isabel's Picture Gallery (3:44)
• 11. Jackie and Isabel* (2:59)
• 12. Jackie's Secret (3:33)
• 13. Bonding (3:55)
• 14. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" - performed by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (2:29)
• 15. End Credits* (6:18)

* Contains guitar solos by Christopher Parkening

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert contains a note from director Chris Columbus about Williams, including the following excerpt:

    "John's genius is two-fold. He provides the film viewer with an emotionally complex and deeply moving experience, and he gives the record listener a glorious album that stands on its own as a major artistic achievement. It is not an easy feat, but one that John Williams does time and time again. It has been an honor to work with him. He has enriched my life and my film, and I will be forever grateful."

  All artwork and sound clips from Stepmom are Copyright © 1998, Sony Classical. 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 12/16/98 and last updated 7/22/07. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1998-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.