I should probably preface this entire post by saying I FREAKING LOVE PAUL MCCARTNEY. There. Now that's out of the way, we can continue on in an orderly fashion. First, the facts: Ocean's Kingdom is Sir Paul's sixth classical album, yes, you read correctly, sixth. What started as a little bit of musical rambling soon turned into a full-length ballet when the New York City Ballet's Peter Martins (if you aren't a ballet geek like me, then you might like to know he's the artistic director and sometimes choreographer for the NYCB) contacted him saying that he'd love to work together. And there you have it, Ocean's Kingdom, a ballet in four parts, was born.
1) Movement One: Ocean's Kingdom- While not awful, the opening track does make me want to break out pen and paper and write an open letter to Sir McCartney asking why he thought "bad action movie" music was appropriate for a ballet. Get it together, this is your opening track, the beginning of the story the dancers are going to tell and you've got me thinking I've somehow wandered into the next Tom Cruise blockbuster. No. Just... no.
2) Movement Two: Hall of Dance- And yet, I can't stay mad at you for long because you are my favorite Beatle and you bring lovely music to my ears. If Copland's Appalachian Spring (my favorite, in case you were wondering) and Ravel's Boléro had a child, it would be this song. Needless to say, I'm in love. You're forgiven.
3) Movement Three: Imprisonment- Your winning streak continues, Sir Paul. I applaud you. I need an old school epic movie, possibly Ben Hur. Someone bring me a chariot and some angst, because this movement had me at hello. Or maybe a little Romeo and Juliet is more your speed? Done. Excuse me while I'm transported to a moonlit night complete with forbidden love.
4) Movement Four: Moonrise- Eh. I want to like this track, really I do! The beautiful violins and the horns, but then there's that nagging in the back of my mind that I forgot something. More like our composer forgot something... The awesomeness that the last song should be. Perhaps if we cut out the first nine minutes of song? Yes. There. That's better.
Final Thoughts: I've heard better. Do Movements Two and Three make up for the lacklusterness of One and Two? I'm not sure. Maybe my expectations were just too high going in to this album. I mean, it IS Paul McCartney. And he can do no wrong, or maybe he can. Perhaps if we cut Movement One and the first nine minutes of Movement Four this would be a more engaging score. Since that's not an option, I give it a VERY generous 3.5 out of 5. Because I give extra points for what I'll call the Copland factor in Movement 4.
And because I can't end this post without a little something about the actual ballet. I give you this:
(The costumes were designed by McCartney's daughter Stella. So far, the reviews of the ballet have been largely unfavorable. Shame on you, Mr. Martins, Balanchine would roll over in his grave at you wasting some of the greatest dancers of our time.)
*Bonus points to anyone who can guess what the lines on the album cover are without looking up the answer. Hint: It's not a cityscape.