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Clean Slate/The Perez Family (Alan Silvestri)

April 1, 2014


Alan Silvestri, 2014, Music Box Records
26 tracks, 63:50

Two little and little-known score from Alan Silvestri see the light of day thanks to Music Box Records. Just in time for spring as these two may have you salsa-ing through your living room.

Review by Pete Simons

What is it?

Music Box Records has released an album containing two lesser-known scores by Alan Silvestri – “Clean Slate” from 1994 and “The Perez Family” from 1995. They work well together on one album, not only because both are short enough to fit on one disc, but mainly because both have a jazzy / Latin American vibe to them.

“Clean Slate” was directed by Mick Jackson (of “The Bodyguard” and “Volcano”, both scored by Silvestri) and starred Dana Carvey as a private investigator who must go to court about a murder. He is also in the middle of a blossoming romance. His real problem? He has amnesia and wakes up every day with his memory wiped clean.

“The Perez Family” is also a comedy, with a romantic twist, directed by Mira Nair (who went on to work with Mychael Danna several times on films such as “Monsoon Wedding” and “Vanity Fair”). In “The Perez Family” a group of unrelated Cuban refugees pretend to be a family so to receive priority treatment by the immigration services. Needless to say (or is it?) all sorts of comedic shenanigans follow.

What does it sound like?

Clean Slate (1994)

The album opens and closes with a jazzy main title, “These Foolish Things”. It is a lovely ‘smooth jazz’ tune for bass, brushed percussion, rolling piano, clarinet and muted trumpet. It has a nostalgic sound to it, as it came straight from the 20s. Though best-known for his muscular action scores, Silvestri has always had a knack for these jazzy cues, as scores like “Father of the Bride” and “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” have proven. This jazz theme (or slight variations on it) return in “Don’t Panic”, the sultry “The Meaning of Baby” and “Primping for Mom”. On two occasions Silvestri ups the tempo. “What Did I Do?” and “Court in Session/The Escape” offer some high-speed variations on the main theme, whilst the latter also incorporates some of the composer’s quintessential action music (pounding timpani, familiar crescendos and chord shifts included).

There is a 2-note motif (usually for zither, or something similar, over a droney marimba) that crops up in a number of tracks; first in “Don’t Panic” (around the 1:10 mark) accompanied by marimba, pizzicato bass and with accents from tremolo strings. It’s somewhat mysterious, though could easily have a comedic effect as it sounds a bit like ‘sneaking around’ music. It returns in “Sarah Novak” and “Bonding with Baby”. It’s nice to have such as constant and recognisable motif recurring throughout the score, though unfortunately Silvestri offers no variation on its instrumentation.

The aforementioned cues, along with others such as “What Did I Do?”, “That’s Him”, “Sarah Who” and “Beth Confesses” contain some typical Silvestri-style suspense music. Timpani hits and rolls, tremolo strings, and trills on various woodwinds are the key ingredients here. It’s great to hear these Silvestri-isms, but they do feel a little par for the course. They’re also much lower in volume than the jazz sections, so if you’re only listening casually you’re likely to miss great chunks of the score. The differences in volume and dynamics could even be a little off-putting.

The Perez Family (1995)

First track from “The Perez Family” is called “Dream” and comes across as a lullaby for trumpet and strings, with the trumpet lending it a slight Latino sound. It offers a gorgeous (and long-lined) theme that recurs several times throughout the score, either in full or in parts. It’s not your typical Silvestri theme; it sounds more European than that. “Bleeding Heart” presents a melancholy variation, whilst “Now I’m In Prison” and “Juan Visits Wife” see the trumpet return. “Where Am I” and “Drume Negrita” focus mostly on the second half of the theme; which I suppose you could classify as a secondary theme.

As you’d expect there are more Latin American influences in cues like “Fuck John Wayne”, the latter half of “Now I’m In Prison / Dottie Into Action”, Fencewalk” and “Juan and Dorito Dances In The Street”. These cues share a sprightly theme for trumpet and Cuban percussion; and tend to underscore the humorous parts of the film. “Lovemaking” offers a slow, sensual version of this otherwise lively theme.

The score really centres around these 2 or 3 themes, making it a coherent listening experience. The album concludes with “Always Looking For Cuba”, which features lush strings and a rousing trumpet rendition of the main theme.

Is it any good?

They are lovely little scores and it’s great to finally have them available. Both are very clear-structured, coherent scores that centre around just 2 or 3 themes. “The Perez Family” is arguably more enjoyable as Silvestri moves his themes through a number of variations; something he doesn’t really do on “Clean Slate”. And personally I prefer the Cuban sounds of “Perez” to the smooth jazz of “Slate”. As I wrote earlier, Alan Silvestri is more commonly known for his robust action material, so it’s great to hear these two deviant scores. It’s easy to forget how good he is at writing in these styles, really highlighting his versatility. Now I’ll admit that I do prefer his vigorous orchestral writing, but on a sunny day like it is today* it’s hard to resist to those Cuban rhythms and trumpets.

* It was sunny at the time of writing this review, where Synchrotones is located. Synchrotones cannot be held liable, directly or directly, for current weather conditions where you are.

Rating “Clean Slate” [2/5]
Rating “The Perez Family” [3/5]


Clean Slate (15 tracks, 36:09)
1. These Foolish Things (Main Title) (1:35)
2. Don’t Panic (2:50)
3. What Did I Do? (1:14)
4. Sarah Novak (2:17)
5. That’s Him! (2:16)
6. The Meaning of Baby (1:58)
7. Sarah Who? (2:24)
8. Primping For Mom (1:59)
9. Bonding With Baby (1:45)
10. Stranger on the Beach (2:09)
11. Beth Confesses / Guy With Guns / Pacific Highway Chase (3:00)
12. Court in Session / The Escape (3:02)
13. Regaining Memory (2:15)
14. Remember Me? / End Credits (2:46)
15. The Foolish Things (Remind Me of You) (4:00) performed by Oleta Adams

The Perez Family (13 tracks, 27:38)
16. Dream (2:01)
17. Fuck John Wayne (3:03)
18. Bleeding Heart (3:29)
19. Now I’m in Prison / Dottie Into Action (1:14)
20. Fencewalk (1:15)
21. Juan Visits Wife (2:01)
22. Juan & Dorita Dance in the Street (1:40)
23. Where Am I? (1:26)
24. The Picture (2:49)
25. Lovemaking (1:40)
26. Drume Negrita (1:42)
27. Reunion (1:34)
28. Always Looking for Cuba (3:15)


Released by Music Box Records.

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