Few can fail to be impressed by Jarre's now timeless soaring theme for
Lawrence of Arabia and it has become pretty much impossible not to
instantly associate it with desert dunes and shimmering heat hazes. And so
we find ourselves with another chance to assess the quality and impact of
this famous work, as it is re-released in enhanced Surround Sound.
Opening with an "Overture" that incorporates all of the key themes used in
the score, we are introduced to that familiar, sweepingly majestic melody
that most of us know so well. Other elements such as "The Voice of the Guns"
representing the British colonial aspects of the story, along with some
quintessential Arabian style flourishes give a broad overview of what is
The "Main Titles" are perhaps a little unexpected, simply because that famous
theme does not dominate as one might have anticipated. Instead it plays second
fiddle to a more jaunty melody and these two disparate phrases vie with each
other to create a fascinating double edged mood that is actually quite effective.
"First Entrance to the Desert/Night and Star/Lawrence and Tafas" is a suite
of cues, not available with the original soundtrack recording. It opens with
a lone flute and conjures up a vivid picture of an Arabian landscape, before
building menacingly toward a fuller rendition of the main theme. Finally
it quietens into a lilting variation that reminded me of Elmer Bernstein's
The Black Cauldron, while the conclusion focuses mainly on various
takes on those two contrasting themes introduced in the Main Titles.
"The Miracle" is darker in tone and gradually increases tempo until it almost
resembles one of James Bernard's Dracula scores (which I hasten to
add is fine by me!) and there is more suitably exotic work on "That is the
Desert" which is hard to fault, even if it is a little uninspiring to listen
to. "Nefud Mirage/The Sun's Anvil" is skilfully realised and you find yourself
almost feeling as if you're trudging through endless sand, thirsting for
water! After which, various readings of the ever-present main theme take
over with "The Return of Gasim/Bringing Gasim into Camp" - a frenetic version
that gallops forward relentlessly, until it gives way to a brief recap of
the spirited theme from the Main Titles. Eventually though, this is replaced
with even more variations on that oft heard central motif.
Some strong trumpet work is the highlight of "Arrival at Auda's Camp" in
a rousing Arabian style theme with much clashing of cymbals and then there
is another suite of cues not available on the original 1962 soundtrack with
"On to Akaba/The Beach at Night". But really this offers very little that
is new and one might argue that this was probably the reason why it was left
out in the first place. The scurrying strings of "Sinai Desert", another
new track, are the most notable feature of this relatively short piece, before
"The Voice of the Guns", a typically pompous, military style march composed
by Kenneth J. Alford and arranged by Jarre, gets a full-blooded performance.
"Horse Stampede/Ali Rescues Lawrence/Lawrence and his Bodyguard" is another
suite that includes new material, although the last of the three did appear
on the original soundtrack. But this only gives us more of the themes already
heard and there is little to get enthused about.
The finale would have been over fairly swiftly if only the first half of
"The End/Playoff Music" had been included as was originally the case, with
its brief nods to "The Voice of the Guns" and the central theme. But now
we also have an additional extended cue that once more restates most of score's
If there is one major criticism to be levelled at this work, it would have
to be its over reliance on that instantly recognisable main theme. Of course,
this works extremely well in the film, but perhaps is not quite as welcome
outside of that partnership. However good it may be, after a while you can't
help wishing there was just a little more variety. Even so, the orchestrations
by Gerard Schurmann (revised by Christopher Palmer) and the playing of The
Philharmonia Orchestra (conducted by Tony Bremner) are first rate. But the
inclusion of these twenty plus minutes of extra music is questionable, when
all it does is to pad out the CD without offering anything particularly fresh.
Still, for the avid collector or Jarre devotees this well produced disc would
have to be seriously considered, if only for the remastering in HDCD and