'Copper' Original Soundtrack
Music by Brian Keane
BBC America – Cineflix
To fully appreciate just how good the music is for the BBC America series "Copper," you really need to see the show, just starting its second season. (1st season available on Netflix and other platforms.) The series is set in wartime New York, in Season 2 in early 1865, and follows a rough and unorthodox Irish police officer in the days when the concept of what it was to be a policeman varied with each individual. Published reviews and blog comments alike all make mention of the wonderful music throughout, some written for the show, some taken from other sources, like “I Shall Not Walk Alone” by Blind Boys of Alabama in the first episode of Season 1 and "Lanigan’s Ball" (a version of which is included in this CD).
However, while the viewing experience includes a much wider range of music, the recently released CD contains mostly music written specifically for the show. This is music written for specific characters and specific scenes and moments, and it is very effective in the show. Which is a polite way of saying that, with a couple of exceptions, it does not stand well on its own.
The album gives us lovely musicianship and some outstanding playing, elegant blending of sound, a marvelous capture in some cases of truly Irish sound and flavor – and yet, supporting the scene takes priority over developing a melodic line, and the needs of the script and the length of the scene make developing a musical theme difficult. Most of the album would, in my library, be music that plays in the background while I am doing something else. It is music that, for the most part, would not distract you with strong melodies or captivating orchestration.
There are moments, wonderful moments. Perhaps the most notable is the opening cut, the theme for the show, which is high paced, with driving bodhran work that sustains a sense of energy and excitement with a strong hint of conflict. In any setting, it’s piece where pub patrons or audience members would be stomping their feet and clapping along with the music. The love ballads are gentle and moving, with echoes of “The Last Rose of Summer” when they start and then evolve into other melodies. There are fun moments in “Arsenic and Old Cake.”
There are few pieces, however, like the opening cut. Most of the album is subdued, and reflective, supporting and coloring the action of dialogue. There are themes – Freeman’s theme, Maggie’s theme, Ellen’s theme, and moments written for intimate scenes with Robert and Elizabeth, Kevin and Elizabeth, Francis and Mary Lockwood. But although several open with strains of “The Last Rose of Summer” or other identifiable melodies, in most cases at the end of the cut, I could not hum a particular memorable melody. Of course, there are also some moments that are little more than sound effects for the action.
If you are a fan of the series (and you should be, it’s really very good, with interesting characters and an unusually good historical base, sort of a Gangs of New York writ small) you will probably enjoy the album for what it is. The cuts will remind you of the scenes and the memory will enrich the music. If you’re looking for something to spend part of an evening with, glass of wine in hand, just listening to music, this is probably not the album you’re looking for.
Technical stuff – I did not listen to this on my best equipment, but the sound quality certainly seemed more than acceptable. The disk runs 69:27, and has 25 cuts. 4 are over 4 minutes, 6 are under 2 minutes, so there are really no long cuts or extended developments..
Musicians are not completely listed on the CD but the group includes (although this is probably not a complete list) Joanie Madden (whistles and flutes), Eileen Ivers (fiddle), John Whelan (button accordian), Eric Weissberg (5-string banjo), Jerry O'Sullivan (uilleann pipes), and Anna Colliton (on bodhran). It’s hard to imagine a better group; I just wish they had richer material with which to show off. JS