This classic film of the 1960s will for ever be associated with two of its
elements: the song 'Windmills of Your Mind' and the suggestive chess
scene between Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. The song is sung distinctively
by Noel Harrison. He does not have much of a voice but he is indelibly memorable
and distinctive. From the beginning you are struck by what a fine song it
is and by the ear-catching orchestration. Listen for example to the deep
brass chord under the word round from Round like a circle
in a spiral. So many popular song accompaniments are brainless. This
one has a profusion of fine details to entertain and stimulate.
The style of the score is two-fold. The big symphonic score for the two songs
is approachable and comparatively easy to assimilate without being boring.
A similar style reappears only briefly on this disc: for the song His
Eyes, Her Eyes (sung by Legrand) at track 9 and in the orchestral only
Windmills track at 17. The music is sharply evocative of many French films
of the 1960s: a cool, sophisticated romanticism with jazz inflections.
The remainder of the score (circa ten tracks) is a jazz-melts-into-orchestra
concoction. The notes suggest that it is a sort of jazz influenced
symphony. Jazz is a strong influence but is fused into a myriad
orchestral details which would not be out of place on a major impressionist
orchestral score. There is jazz sleaze  it is true but in  a fluttering
and spinning flute, cross-cut with strings introduces an oboe serenade
reminiscent of Malcolm Arnold. The music is thoroughly engaging and inventive
even if (like me) you do not warm to jazz. Rich plush strings strike across
the texture. A softly shuffling drum kit could ruin the atmosphere but Legrand
avoids that with great skill. Vibraphone (always associated with Lionel Hampton)
adds anpther dimension. Once in a while you feel wafted back in time to a
sophisticated 1970s hotel lobby but this is rare enough not to
put you off the score. The erotic chess game music deploys maracas and various
other items of Latin American percussion with dessicated chipping and zipping
noises. The vibraphone reappears with a moaning trumpet accompaniment. There
is an Arnoldian swoon to the strings which glowing gently. The approach is
like the aural equivalent of a mosaic. A tinkling harpsichord contributes
another pointilliste effect soon swept away with a brief recollection of
Rhapsody in Blue. There are shrieks and bird calls. Track 8 opens
with an upbeat Latino rhythm and dissolves into trumpets counterpointed with
hanging bells, brash brazen trombones and briefly (but horrifically) a
dabbadoo vocal in Swingle style.
Legrand sings His Eyes Her Eyes - with nice and presumably authentic
French accent. There is a little jazziness in the accompaniment but the piano
which is made to make some startling harp-like effects offer splashily engaging
music. Track 10 reintroduces light scampering vibraphone and trumpet punctuation
over the top. Track 13 opens unpromisingly with some bland commercial jazz
but soon too a welter of detail rushes in like some complex of undertows,
tidal currents and whirlpools. The vibraphone reappears and even the Hammond
(get thee back to the infernal regions!) does not sound too bad - a close
Track 14 might just as easily suggest a portrait of the streets of Paris
early in the morning with a hero/anti-hero relaxed, at ease and warmly confident
in tune with the world. The possibilities seem limitless and confidence is
high in a rain-freshened world. Malcolm Arnolds sophistication is suggested
in the strings and by a tortured high trumpet skating razor sharp across
the top of the music. I wonder if Malcolm knows and enjoys this score? It
would not surprise me.
The recording quality is fine for such old tapes. There is first class stereo
separation and the sound does not come across as over-processed. John Bender
is the author of the useful notes. Again plenty of stills although they would
have looked better without the tinting.
It would have been good to be able to identify the fabulous soloists who
grace every gem and fragment of this mosaic score. The score is more of a
giant set of panels made of a mosaic of small episodes jazz and classic in
style. Each little tile is perfect and floating free.
Legrands other American scores include Ice Station Zebra (1968),
Wuthering Heights (1970), The Go-Between (1971), The Three
Musketeers (1974) and The Picasso Summer (1969).
I warmly recommend this release and not only for nostalgiacs.
Ian Lace adds -
Rob Barnett has just about said it all, but I would like to add that I found
this score irresistable. This polished and sophisticated jazz-dominated score
is very approachable as easy listening music and you will find your ear is
continually captivated by so many unusual sonic images, so many interesting
instrumental dialogues and juxtapositionings. Take the smoochy conversation
piece between clarinet and trumpet in the "Doubting Thomas" cue; the
superb multi-layered "Chess" with its sexual innuendo and its rattle-snake
sounds warning that danger lurks behind Dunaway's sheen of elegant
sophistication; or the intoxicating latin rhythms of "Cash and Carry."
An album that will surely make repeated visits to many CD trays.