Music Webmaster Len Mullenger


October 1998

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JOHN BARRY Body Heat (1981)  London Symphony Orchestra/Joel McNeely  VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD5951 [38:15] recorded 24 April 1998  


Crotchet (UK)
Soundstone (USA)

It seems strange to see an album re-recording a score as recent as Body Heat: the classic Kathleen Turner vehicle. However the investment pays off though with some reservations.

You could be forgiven at first for thinking that this was an extended suite for saxophone and orchestra. Certainly Andy Macintosh’s sax is very much to the fore in the first four tracks. Track 1 establishes a mood which never really changes or if it does change it is only by subtle gradation. The mood is classically sultry, usually quiet, slightly jazzy, heavy with sadness and a smoky eroticism (reflected in the album cover art). It has some parallels with Bernard Herrmann’s sax-driven Taxi Driver music except that there the compulsive loneliness and anonymity of the city predominates rather than the sensuality of the Barry score. John Barry mixes the atmosphere of rhapsodic saxophone passion with his typically long-lined sea-swell melodies. There is some variation but the spell is hardly ever broken and some may find the insistent atmosphere too much over a 38 minute span. The music for TV’s Poirot must surely have been inspired by this score: listen to track 4. Track 5 reminds us that Chris Gunning is much influenced by Barry. Gunning’s remarkable music for the Dennis Potter film Cold Lazarus sounds uncannily like Barry! Track 14 has a sombre atmosphere, the same to be found in the symphonies of Nikolai Miaskovsky. The last track (15) returns to the mood of the first.

This is a very fine album reviving, in wide-screen sound, a key score of 1980s cinema. It is well recorded and the music is classic Barry. For me however the mood is too uniform. Sustained sultriness can be too much of a good thing. It would have helped if the score could have included some vigorous or even violent music for contrast. Of course in the right circumstances this album would be hard to rival as background music. As for Barry enthusiasts they will already have bought the album.

© Robert Barnett

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