December 30, 2009
Classic Film Scores: The Best of 2009
Market strong for vintage movie music on CD by Jon Burlingame
This past year has seen an unprecedented number of vintage film-score releases, proving that the market for classic film music on CD is still strong. One writer's choices for the best of 2009, in alphabetical order:
1. Americans (John Barry, Universal Music - France). One of the British composer's great achievements of the 1970s and one of his few non-film albums – a virtual tone poem in six movements, part jazz, part orchestral and all Barry; supplemented by four rare Polydor tracks (including The Adventurer and Follow Me) from the period. Kudos to producer Stephane Lerouge for unearthing this treasure.
2. Back to the Future (Alan Silvestri, Intrada). The first complete release of Silvestri's music for Robert Zemeckis' 1985 time-traveling adventure starring Michael J. Fox – including many previously unheard, earlier versions of scenes – met with huge fan response. Michael Matessino's detailed notes explain, for the first time, the backstory of the score.
3. Bananas / Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex (Marvin Hamlisch / Mundell Lowe, Kritzerland). Music from two Woody Allen comedies of the early 1970s that nobody ever thought would be available. Hamlisch's lively, funny score for Allen's 1971 Latin-American romp inspired director Steven Soderbergh to hire the composer for this year's The Informant!
4. Bullitt (Lalo Schifrin, Film Score Monthly). Schifrin's score for the 1968 Steve McQueen detective drama gets yet another release (after the original LP, CDs released only overseas, and Schifrin's own re-recording). But this time, it's the first American CD release of the album plus, for the first time, all the original film tracks. A landmark jazz score and a must-have for all Schifrin fans.
5. Crime in the Streets (Franz Waxman, Varese Sarabande). Waxman's gritty, urban-jazz score for Don Siegel's 1956 film, together with Waxman's "Three Sketches for Jazz Orchestra" (drawn in part from his 1953 I, The Jury) and the non-film "Theme, Variations and Fugato" formed a classic Decca LP, now reissued in excellent sound.
6. David Raksin at M-G-M (Film Score Monthly). An incredible 5-disc package of scores by the composer of Laura, including the Clark Gable western Across the Wide Missouri (1951), the Oliver Wendell Holmes biopic The Magnificent Yankee (1950) and the classic Tracy-Hepburn comedy Pat and Mike (1952). Lavishly illustrated booklet with lengthy, thoughtful essay by Raksin expert Marilee Bradford.
7. Exodus (Ernest Gold, Tadlow Music). All 80 minutes of Ernest Gold's Oscar-winning 1960 masterpiece, rerecorded by Nic Raine and the City of Prague Philharmonic and produced by James Fitzpatrick. A stunning score, long overdue for rediscovery, and a welcome replacement for the terrible sounding original-soundtrack recording of only 34 minutes.
8. The Five Man Army (Ennio Morricone, Film Score Monthly). Another fabulous vault find by producer Lukas Kendall, one of the Italian maestro's spaghetti-western 1969 masterpieces, including a quirky, offbeat theme for Peter Graves' Magnificent Seven-meets-Mission: Impossible band of thieves and – for the downtrodden Mexican people – one of his most moving hymns.
9. Freud and Lonely Are the Brave (Jerry Goldsmith, Varese Sarabande). Two seminal Goldsmith scores, both from 1962: his first Oscar nominee, Freud, for the John Huston film starring Montgomery Clift; and his first major studio film, the modern western Lonely Are the Brave with Kirk Douglas, both courtesy of Universal's vaults and producer Robert Townson.
10. In Harm's Way (Jerry Goldsmith, Intrada). At long last, a CD release of the RCA Victor soundtrack album for Otto Preminger's 1965 World War II epic, boasting one of the composer's most powerful scores, with – as producer Douglass Fake points out in his notes about the much-discussed climax, "one of the most intense and profound codas in the entire Goldsmith canon... Goldsmith at his most inspired."
11. Inside Daisy Clover (Andre Previn, Film Score Monthly). Previn's last dramatic score for films – for the 1965 inside-Hollywood tale starring Natalie Wood – earns the deluxe treatment, a full two CDs featuring the entire score, the original soundtrack album, plus alternates and demos of the songs by Andre and then wife Dory Previn (including the standard "You're Gonna Hear From Me").
12. Love With the Proper Stranger / A Girl Named Tamiko (Elmer Bernstein, Kritzerland). Bernstein wrote one great score after another in the early 1960s, and here are two that have never before been available: His tender 1963 score for the Natalie Wood-Steve McQueen romance and the Far Eastern sounds of Tamiko, John Sturges' 1962 film with Laurence Harvey and France Nuyen.
13. The Prince and the Pauper (Erich Wolfgang Korngold, Tribute Film Classics). Another lavish re-recording of a classic score by William Stromberg and the Moscow Symphony Orchestra, this Korngold score for the 1937 Errol Flynn film (from the Mark Twain novel) finally gets its due (after just brief excerpts in earlier Korngold collections).
14. Revolution (John Corigliano, Varese Sarabande). Very possibly the most important classic-score release of the year, Corigliano's masterpiece for Hugh Hudson's 1985 epic of the American Revolution was (because of the film's box-office failure) long buried in Warner Bros.' vaults. Accompanying Corigliano's music – the only one of his three film scores to date to have been unavailable as an album – is a thorough chronicle of the film's troubled history by Nick Redman.
15. The Right Stuff (Bill Conti, Varese Sarabande). Another long-awaited soundtrack album, this first-ever issue of Conti's thrilling, Oscar-winning 1983 score was possible only because Conti saved his copy of the master for a never-released LP. (Conti's London re-recording, issued by Varese in 1986, is a great distillation of highlights, but it's nice to have the original recording at last.)
16. Seconds / I.Q. (Jerry Goldsmith, La-La Land). It's nice to have both, but Seconds is the one we've all been waiting for – as annotator Jeff Bond points out, "a watershed score in Goldsmith's output." John Frankenheimer's 1966 film inspired one of the composer's most chilling works, much of it for strings and electronic organ.
17. The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (Bernard Herrmann, Prometheus). A long-awaited restoration that combines the original 1958 film tracks (in mono) with the original soundtrack album (in stereo). It was the first of four Ray Harryhausen films to sport a colorful, exotic score by the legendary Herrmann.
18. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (James Horner, Film Score Monthly). An unexpected bonus from the opening of the Paramount vaults in 2009, an expanded (read: complete!) edition of Horner's score for the 1982 USS Enterprise adventure, one of the composer's earliest successes and still a fan favorite.
19. The Three Musketeers / Robin & Marian (Michel Legrand, Universal Music - France). A double bill of the French composer's efforts for 1970s Richard Lester films: the first a delightful period score for the all-star Alexandre Dumas adaptation, the second a daring concerto grosso for violin, cello and double string orchestra that Lester ultimately rejected for the Sean Connery-Audrey Hepburn film.
20. Wuthering Heights (Michel Legrand, La-La Land). One of the French maestro's finest scores for the obscure 1970 remake of the Bronte classic with Timothy Dalton and Anna Calder-Marshall. Legrand's soulful, soaring score – surely the best thing about the American-International film – includes the song "I Was Born in Love With You," which has been recorded by many artists since.
©2009 Jon Burlingame