November 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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 Original Motion Picture Score performed by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra conducted by Joel McNeely
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This new recording presents John Williams' Oscar winning score "unedited, unabridged, unaltered, the way they are heard and in the order they are heard in the film itself", as producer Robert Townson says in his sleeve notes.

I think it would be superfluous of me to go into too much detail about individual tracks, but let me at least draw your attention to a few cues that simply cry out for praise. Obviously the 'Main Title' is one of the most instantly recognisable themes of all time and one of the most effective too, but there's also the poignant, charming 'Father and Son' to demonstrate what great film music is really all about. Anyone who has seen Jaws will know just how much these smaller musical moments bring to the film. But of course the main body of the work is dominated by intricate, supremely inventive action/suspense cues like 'Man Against Beast' and 'The Great Chase', both as exciting and dramatic as they come. Less dynamic perhaps but just as crucial to the overall success of the score are tracks such as the almost classical sounding (at least at first), masterfully evocative 'The Shark Cage Fugue'. Elsewhere the sheer power of 'Quint Meets his End' almost takes your breath away and 'Blown to Bits' features incredible brass work with a very telling, beautifully judged finale.

This score is so much a part of the success of what is a truly great film that it becomes a character in itself. For me this is what film music should be; bold, powerful, lyrical, and emotional and there is far more here than just the famous 'stalking' theme. Just listen to the skill and imagination of the arrangements, the way that Williams has developed his own unique style and sound. Genius is a term thrown around far too casually, but this composer, when considering not only this magnificent score but also the achievements of Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, E.T. and Schindler's List to name just a few, more than deserves such an accolade. Certainly he has had an incalculable influence on the art of film music.

Everything here is of a very high standard, from the playing of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under the guidance of Joel McNeely, to the crystal clear 20 bit digital sound. The only question mark has to be how desirable this will be to someone who has already purchased Decca's twenty fifth anniversary edition. Perhaps a detailed breakdown of the differences between the two will be forthcoming at a later date, but I think it's safe to say that any devotee of Williams or indeed Jaws itself will no doubt want to own the authentic score as heard in the film.

Mark Hockley


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