Many of us have at least during a phase of our life loved Disney's cartoon and comic book universe. Much of my childhood was spent plowing through the Danish Donald Duck magazines, enjoying the artwork and the stories, which took me to fantasy countries as well as real places around the globe and to different historical periods and what not. I still have a couple of hundred of the old magazines as well as some of the book-size collections that came out and still come out here, and although I rarely read them anymore, I enjoy the fact that I have them right here on the book shelves next to my desk.
Nightwish mastermind Tuomas Holopainen has taken his love of the Disney comic books a couple of steps further than just enjoying them. You see, his first solo epos is the musical score for his favourite comic book, The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck by Don Rosa.
First and foremost, I think this is a wonderful thing to do. Paying homage in this way to a work of art is just brilliant and Holopainen has gone to great lengths to make THE soundtrack for this comic book.
You shouldn't expect this to sound like a Nightwish album. Although you can definitely hear Holopainen in the compositions, there is no metal to be found on 'Music Inspired by The Life and Times of Scrooge'. The Nightwish keyboarder has long been a fan of blending folk elements into his music, and Scrooge's Scottish origins of course give plenty of opportunity for adorning the album with Scottish folk mixed with orchestration. Scottish musician Alan Reid (Battlefield Band) lends voice to Scrooge, adding another strong Scottish element, something which is greatly appreciated by someone like myself who spent a couple of years in the land of the thistle.
The two beautiful female voices of Johanna Kurkela and Johanna Iivanianen make the tracks Into the West, Goodbye, Papa, To Be Rich and A Lifetime of Adventure something entirely special, the latter having some resemblance to Anette Olzon era Nightwish material.
This is an album I've listened to quite a lot at work, telling myself that a soundtrack is excellent when you need to shut yourself away from the office noises and focus on a specifically demanding text or communication plan. The funny thing, though, is that I'm usually forced to find something else to listen to. 'Music Inspired by The Life and Times of Scrooge' is somehow too demanding; it demands attention! It's insisting in a way that soundtracks usually aren't - not the ones I've come across, anyway. The tunes with vocals in particular are a bit disturbing for someone who needs to work - especially The Cold Heart of Clondyke has that effect because it's got a male voice and not the ethereal female voices the rest of the songs have (except Go Slowly Now, Sands Of Time which features Alan Reid also singing and not just narrating). It's by the way The Cold Heart of Clondyke that along with A Lifetime of Adventure that reminds me the most of a Nightwish song with it's choral bursts and orchestration.
If you're in the mood for orchestration, folk and 'big' music, you should give Holopainen's solo effort a chance. It's beautiful music, and rich on details and, as I said, demands your attention.