Released four years before John Williams' Oscar-nominated score for Steven Spielberg's Hollywood adaptation, this original soundtrack to the National Theatre's 2008 stage production of Michael Morpurgo's critically acclaimed novel War Horse is equally as powerful. Unlike the legendary film composer's instrumental piece of work, this 23-track collection features several vocal numbers (performed with passion by former Waterson:Carthy singer Tim van Eyken), all of which pursue an authentic traditional folk sound, whether it's the a cappella sea shanty of "Only Remembered," the defiant singalong of "The Scarlet and the Blue," or the Gallic-tinged melancholy of "Learning to Plough." But it's the orchestral numbers composed by Adrian Sutton, previously best known for his work with comic Chris Morris, that give the play its heart. The warm brass arrangements of "Devon at Peace," the piercing strings of "The Wounded," and the somber "Crossing the Channel" all provide a suitable backdrop for the poignant tale of a young World War I recruit's treacherous journey to bring his treasured horse home; the appropriately strident "First Gallop" and "The Charge" are bold cinematic efforts worthy of appearing on the big screen; while there's unlikely to be a dry eye in the house for anyone who has seen the visually stunning play by the time the emotionally stirring "Albert and Joey Reunited" draws to a close. An engaging and often compelling accompaniment to one of the most well-received West End shows of the decade, War Horse deserves to be heard just as much as its motion picture alternative.
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AllMusic Review by Jon O'Brien