September 2000 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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  OST (record and movie versions plus additional cues never before released)
  ALEPH 018   [55:47]
Amazon USA

Newly recorded at WDR Studios Cologne, here is the definitive edition of Schifrin's great jazz score containing both the record and movie versions from the classic film including cues never before released.

This is tough, diamond hard music very much of its time (the late 1960s). There is something of Mancini, and something of the laid back Latin mores of the time but Schifrin's individual voice over-rides. His individual blend of big band jazz, modern jazz and exotic Latin rhythms is irresistible. Quoting from Nick Redman's eloquent notes: "…There is nothing quite like the sound of Lalo, which manages to fuse a South-American sensibility with a wholly modern sonic version of the polyglot "Americana", a mythical landscape…" Lalo Schifrin" in the movie's credits meant…"Americana" as I dreamt it was - an incrediblde mixture of hi-tech machinery, wide open spaces, blazing beauty, dense, violent urban centers and the sexy thronging of multi-cultural peoples drawn from all corners of the globe jostling together in a whirl of ambitious progress. The blasts of brass that blow like steel fireballs through the glass canyons, the piano riffs of cool melancholy, the gentler tones of jazzy laid-back intimacy that suggest not just the startling scenic wonders of the Golden Gate and the icy-blue of the bay, but the ragged, glorious chaos of the vertiginous hills and the claustrophobic cluster of perilously perched people and homes."

Yes indeed. The Main Title brilliantly sets this mood - intoxicating, hedonistic violent, dangerous. In stunning sound, we are bombarded by those powerful, relentless, urgent rhythms. There's that laconic punchy brass, then those Latin rhythms with a discreet flavour of Mission Impossible and a hint of Mancini. This is pervasively sensual music, full of the laid-back but raw sex appeal that is Steve McQueen but other music speaks mutely, bleakly, of stolen moments of intimacy.

The harsh rhythms of 'Shifting Gears' (in readiness for that famous car chase) are strong and relentless. The (movie) music of 'Ice Pick Mike' is chill and crystalline, sharp and lethal as shards of broken glass. This cue, and two others ('Bullitt, main title' and 'Room 26') come in two versions with quite different but equally interesting orchestrations. 'Room 26 (movie version)' is a vibrant fusion of modern and mainstream jazz, the record equivalent is a more relaxed Latin version.

All the 18 tracks hold the attention. I will just mention a few. 'Just Coffee' is a quieter, more probing utterance. 'Hotel Daniels' has some impressive fast tongue-fluttering trumpet solos while 'Architect's Building' boasts some soaring, swooping, twisting flute work. 'The First Snow' has an appealing melody and swings nicely - relaxed and sunny and playful. The oddly titled 'Music to Interrogate By' is infectious and exuberant dance music, romantic with a touch of Hawaiian. 'Song for Cathy' has sad saxs and pensive piano.

ugely enjoyable and recommended without hesitation.

Ian Lace


I've always thought of the old Warner Brothers' LP release of Lalo Schifrin's Bullitt as one of the finest jazz albums of the 60's to emerge from a film score. The music was actually a re-recording with arrangements especially prepared for the album. Years later the LP was re-issued on CD in Japan.

Now after 32 years Schifrin has made a new re-recording of the previous music along with new material, released by his own company Aleph Records. As with some of his earlier releases the German WDR Big Band and guests perform the music. Naturally the new album's soundscape is an improvement with a greater depth, rich vibrancy and wonderful separation.

The music to Bullitt is a classic with its varied jazz style ranging from cool and suspenseful moods to hard driven traditional cues. The music is mostly in a light tone filled with energetic rhythms and harmonies. Schifrin's gifted sense for melody combined with a fresh and vital instrumental palette is absolutely stunning. The "Main Title" is only one example of this. It perfectly portrays the cool exterior as well as the determination and inner drive of Steve McQueen's character Frank Bullitt. The tranquillity and softness of "The Aftermath of Love" and the speedy "Music to Interrogate By" are other examples. I'm particularly fond of Schifrin's use of flutes and alto flutes in several tracks. It provides the music with an extra exotic flavour and sense of beauty.

The music is sparsely used in the film, and only when it's really needed. Several of the key scenes are left completely or partially unscored. One example is the famous car chase. The exciting cue "Shifting Gears" covers the first part of that scene. The music has a wonderful sneaking character licking the streets and corners of San Francisco.

Compared to the old release most of the newly re-recorded material is a bit longer here and there, ranging from a few seconds to over a minute (especially "Room 26", from 2:20 to 3:41).

The new material on the album consists of the movie versions of "Main Title", "Ice Pick Mike" and "Room 26". It's fascinating to hear the differences to the earlier recorded versions. Then there are two new and previously unreleased cues: "Just Coffee" and "Bullitt" (featuring a heavy guitar solo of the main theme).

"Ice Pick Mike" (movie version) and "Just Coffee" are the two cues that have the most strange, cold and eerie atmosphere with some dissonant sounds from the instruments. They are certainly a real treat as a balance to the rest of the material on the disc.

There's also a little switch: according to the liner notes "The Architect's Building" is a new cue, but it's actually a longer version of "A Song for Cathy" on the old release. On this album there's also a cue called "A Song for Cathy", but that one is new and previously unreleased, except for the title. The "End Credits" features a different and longer version compared to that on the old release, however both do contain the main theme though. So there's still reason to hold on to that album.

Argumentative and analytic liner notes by Nick Redman comparing and discussing the similarities between Bullitt and Dirty Harry - both scores and films.

With this spectacular re-recording not only will we 'old' fans of Schifrin's music enjoy it, but it will also become more easily available (and at a cheaper price!) to the younger film music listeners, and they too, can get a piece of pure film music history.

Peter Holm



Ian Lace


Peter Holm


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