Grand Canyon

James Newton Howard

" Easy on the ears, likeable for the heart "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the regular release

It doesn't take long to figure out that the music in the movie Grand Canyon is of massive importance. Not only through the way the music attracts your attention immediately from the beginning, but also that the music strengthens the point of the movie. Rage, anger, frustration, hope, love and comfort, it all means so much when the music takes center stage.

Already from the beginning the music is interesting when combined with the visual approach. Such it is with "Main Titles" where the main theme is driven through the visuals, building towards its strongest version. The choral back up to this moment is lovely, and once the more electronic pop joins in it becomes clear where the roots of Newton Howard lie. That choral approach by the way resurfaces a couple of times during the score, during the excellent "My Sister lives around Here / Those Rocks" and "Don't want Out" (which repeats the opening theme).

The movie deals a lot about angry situations, unbelievable moments and uplifting experiences, so it is understandable that we discover this a lot during the score. In "The Baby" the beat is all around the danger, in "Don't Work Late" the saxophone blossoms open for love, and in "Don't Want Out" there's a combination of dangerous beats, relaxing saxophone and uplifting score. The saxophone sure brings the most optimistic and romantic music of all, because it does it briefly in "Dee in Brentwood" again, all before the main theme returns like prejudice in "Otis Runs".

Another lovely theme is used during "Claire Returns the Baby" while ethnic instrumentation and dreamy underscore is used in "Mack and Claire's Dream" that will sound familiar to all those that heard Waterworld before. But for me it is the final track that shows you just how wonderful Grand Canyon is in its simplicity. From an amazing horn fanfare to the emotional theme of track 7, "Grand Canyon Fanfare / End Titles" does bring quite a stirring finish to what is essentially a very easy to listen to score.

Overall Grand Canyon can best be described as a very easy flowing soundtrack for both background as forefront listening. The more pop oriented approach that appeared a lot during JNH's earlier scores works well here, showing a clash between styles that can best be described as another cultural clash of characters in the movie. Add to that a lovely choral approach and a bunch of diverse musical styles and you might realize how colorful Grand Canyon just is. Like the film, it has more than one story to tell.


1. Main Titles (3.35)
2. Claire Returns the Baby (1.11)
3. My Sister Lives Around Here / Those Rocks (1.58) Excellent track
4. Bloodstain (2.05)
5. The Baby (2.47)
6. Don't Work Late (0.52)
7. Mack's Flashback (1.21)
8. Don't Want Out (6.44) Excellent track
9. Searching For a Heart: Warren Zevon (4.15)
10. Mack and Claire's Dream (5.26)
11. Dee in Brentwood (0.47)
12. Otis Runs (3.53)
13. You White? (1.26)
14. Keep the Baby (1.29)
15. Doesn't Matter (0.44)
16. Grand Canyon Fanfare / End Titles (4.10) Excellent track

Total Length: 43.07
(click to rate this score)  
(total of 12 votes - average 3.75/5)

Released by

Milan Records 35762-2 (regular release 1991)

Conducted by

Marty Paich

Orchestrations by

Brad Dechter, Chris Boardman & James Newton Howard