Thursday, October 10, 2013

Last Resort by Robert Duncan (2013)

Review by Travis Elder

Last Resort is a 13-episode military drama about a the crew of a fictional United States naval submarine, the U.S.S. Colorado.  Wrongly accused as enemies of the state, Captain Marcus Chaplin (Andre Braugher) orders the crew and sub to take refuge on an island where they get sandwiched between hostile locals and the might of the United States military.  Robert Duncan, who received his third Emmy nomination for the pilot episode of Last Resort, provides a cinematic quality score with full orchestra, modern electronic embellishment, piano, acoustic guitar, and even some percussion created using a real naval submarine.

The cello has taken the limelight several times this year in scores such as Rush and Game of Thrones and it does so here in Fall of the Colorado.  The piece opens with a soft, pulsing beat and piano announcing a lamenting solo cello that takes you in with its graceful beauty.  At 1:45 a swelling and contracting string bass line slowly engulfs soprano strings like the sinking of a ship until both disappear leaving only a heartfelt solo violin that fades into the pulsing beat and piano where the piece began.  A fitting epitaph for the Captain who made the ultimate sacrifice in going down with his boat.

Duncan gives us some modern pomp and circumstance in Office on Deck.  Pomp and circumstance has long lent epic pageantry from everything to royal weddings to graduation ceremonies.  William Walton's Crown Imperial, played during the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, is a good example (Spotify).  Duncan's entry brings a dignified, tuneful theme of strength and honor conveyed in succession by cello, strings, and then brass.  Last Resort's action theme, first introduced in the latter half of the Pilot Suite, is inserted from :53 to 1:05.  This is followed by my favorite performance of the anthem by stately brass accompanied by catchy percussion, similar in style to Mark Isham's Army Strong.  Reluctant Fight presents another satisfying variation of the strength and honor theme heard in Officer on Deck.

Another highlight is the reverent and spiritually moving, The Peacock and the Crane.  Solemn, gentle voices harmonize perfectly with the gentle strains of the strings and cello creating one of the most beautiful pieces I have heard this year.  A great companion cue is Declaration with its distinctive, rhythmic piano and string montage that subtly inspires as it gradually rises in intensity.  The album offers several other pleasant, meditative pieces such as the piano driven James Buries His Friend with its pleasing acoustic guitar strumming, a fitting nod to Marc Shaiman's Semper Fidelis from A Few Good Men in Trying Ander's piano work, and the island flavor, flowing flute and plucking pizzicato of The Waterfall.  

The short duration of most of the action cues leaves little time for satisfying development.  However, combine Twelve Hours, Pilot Suite, Manila Rescue, Battling the USS Patrick Lawrence (is the clanging metal I hear in this cue from Duncan's subterranean percussion session?), Sam Attacks Booth, James Tells the Story, Get Out People Back, and the End Credits and you end up with a ballsy suite full of brawny percussion, spirited strings, electric guitar adornments, and synth beats.

Overall, Last Resort is an enjoyable listen particularly because the album program flows so well together.  Several highlights make it well worth the time to explore.  Some of the cues are also available to stream in full on  The score is available from Madison Gate Records only on iTunes.

Track Listing:
1. Fall of the Colorado* (3:53)
2. Pilot Suite (2:12)
3. Officer On Deck* (1:52)
4. Manila Rescue (1:23)
5. The Peacock and the Crane* (3:00)
6. Sam Attacks Booth (1:03)
7. Twelve Hours (2:41)
8. James Tells the Story (0:55)
9. Marcus Sees His Son (1:29)
10. The Waterfall (0:58)
11. Battling the USS Patrick Lawrence (2:19)
12. About Your Father (1:02)
13. Reluctant Fight (1:05)
14. Get Our People Back (1:14)
15. Declaration* (2:34)
16. Sam and Christine (1:00)
17. Time to Choose (1:25)
18. Ginger Candy (1:45)
19. Trying Anders (2:57)
20. James Buries His Friend (3:16)
21. The Cortez Threat (1:11)
22. Last Resort End Credits (0:33)

Total running time of score: 39:45
*ScoreCues 2013 Best Cues Nominee

Recording Percussion on a Submarine

Interviews (Jimmy Ryan)

1 comment:

  1. I ABSOLUTELY LOVED this soundtrack by Rob. I listened to it while I wrote a lot of the dramatic scenes in my book The Storms That Fated Us. He is an amazing composer and all around great guy that deserves to win an Emmy for all of his work.


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