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An album by Dennis Downing

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Too refined for the Dark Tower, too bland for me

  • Aug 10, 2003
I'll be honest, I listened to this CD because I'm a Dark Tower fanatic. In fact, I'm currently re-reading the Dark Tower series, and I was hoping for some good accompaniment music to go along with it. Unfortunately, this isn't it.

The thing is, I like the idea of a musical accompaniment for the Dark Tower series. I think it's a great idea, and when I listened to this CD, I really wanted to like the music too. But when it comes right down to it, the music fails to complement the stories, because it misses out on at least half of what makes the stories so good. And, unsurprisingly, this is what makes Downing's music fail on its own as well. It lacks depth and feeling, simply because it sounds very one-dimensional. Quite disappointing, really.

Everyone's interpretation of the Dark Tower series is different, of course, but for me, Downing's music doesn't cut it. It is very refined, soft, "nice" music. It's the kind of thing you might expect to hear on a video montage of waterfalls, or perhaps playing in a mall. It does not, however, reflect the harshness and hardness of the world of the Gunslinger.

The world of the Dark Tower is a magical world, to be sure, but it is also a rough world, a world of hard edges and abrasive personalities and ever-present dangers. It is, in short, a world that has "moved on." Downing's music at least attempts to capture the magic and majesty of Roland's world, but it completely ignores the other side of the coin. It is all "love and light" (as one of the songs is subtitled), but it completely lacks the rawness that makes Roland's world so compelling to me. The music lacks the conflict and the tragedy of lost treasures that defines the stories. It focuses on the light, but ignores the darkness. Both are necessary to accurately reflect the stories. And for this reason, I feel that Downing's musical interpretation of the Dark Tower stories pretty much missed its mark.

So, with this in mind, I also listened to the music on its own merits. There really isn't much there for me. Bear in mind that I like some new age music. I've been listening to Tangerine Dream and Vangelis and Ray Lynch for more years than I'd care to mention here. Downing's music here, though, struck me as rather bland and typical of the generic new age genre. There's nothing in his arrangement of electronic instruments to make these melodies stand out, nothing to excite or move the listener in the least. It's background music, pure and simple. It is bland enough that it fades easily into the background of just about any setting, but does little to enhance or underscore anything in particular. It is the sort of new age music I do not like, music that lacks emotion or individuality.

If you're looking for some good music to accompany the Dark Tower books while you read, I might suggest Ry Cooder's music for the film "Paris, Texas" or Thomas Newman's score for "The Shawshank Redemption." Both of those pieces capture majesty, conflict, and even a sense of magic far better than Downing's music does here. If, on the other hand, you're just looking for good music to relax to, I might recommend Ray Lynch's "Deep Breakfast."

Either way, I think you can safely give this album a miss. Too bad, really, because it IS a good idea. Just poorly executed.

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Rich Stoehr ()
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I often hide behind a pithy Douglas Adams quote or maybe some song lyrics. I guess it makes sense that much of what I share is reviews of things I like (or don't).      People … more
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One word, one simple word, jumped into my head when I popped this little beauty into my CD player: WOW!
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Label: Portal Project, Inc.
Artist: Dennis Downing
Release Date: July 10, 2003

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