The subtitle of this release is as misleading as it is purposeless: as the
oldest films represented here are Gone With the Wind (1939) and The
Wizard of Oz (1939), both a mere 60 years old. That aside, this is a
rarity among film music albums, a concert disc of music from the movies,
conducted and partly performed by a leading film composer. Perhaps due to
the rarity both of such concerts and subsequent album issues, the selections
here are of a resolutely populist nature. This is an album devoted almost
entirely to famous film themes, reminiscent to the days of Geoff Love Music
For Pleasure anthologies, though Mr. Love never was able to employ such
fine vocal talents as Dee Dee Bridgewater and Julia Migenes.
The opening Western Medley opens with a stirring orchestral rendition of
a tune more famous as the song, 'Do Not Forsake Me', from High Noon
(Dimitri Tiomkin). The Magnificent Seven (Elmer Bernstein) are quite
strong enough to take care of themselves, and emerge from the centre of this
three way shoot-out unscathed. More interesting is the opportunity to hear
Schifrin's fully orchestrated arrangement of Ennio Morricone's definitive
spaghetti western theme, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly. Purists may
rebel in horror, but Schifrin retains the spirit of the piece, while turning
it into something both more traditional and more spectacular than the original.
If only more of the concert/album was like this.
Schifrin takes to the keys for a jazz-piano instrumental take of Herman
Hupfield's 'As Time Goes By', not written for, but made famous by,
Casablanca. This is the first track where something which should have
been eliminated from concert recordings long ago can be heard: line hum.
It's not a big problem at first, but if you have good speakers or headphones
and listen loud, it does become clearly audible. By the end of the album
it has become very irritating indeed.
Next up is a real highlight, Dee Dee Bridgewater's smoky and wonderfully
rich voiced reading of Johnny Mandel's 'The Shadow of Your Smile' from The
Sandpiper. Unfortunately 'The James Bond Theme' don't mean a thing, because
it just ain't got that swing. It does suffer from a very loose guitarist
who seems to be part of another recording entirely. Over the audience applause
Dee Dee Bridgewater provides a terribly embarrassing moment by singing Lalo
Schifrin's praises to the tune of 'Goldfinger'. Far better is Julia Migenes
version of A. Lara and M.T, Lara's song, 'Piena en mi' from High Heels,
which here plays like a leftover from Canteloube's Chants D'Auverge.
A crowd-pleasing montage of famous bits from Lawrence of Arabia and
Dr. Zhivago (Jarre), The Third Man (Karas) and Zorba the
Greek (Theodorakis) reduces these classic scores to pleasant
middle-of-the-road tunes devoid of real dramatic impact, swiftly followed
by The Fox, the only Schifrin score represented on the disc. Judging
by a documentary about the composer shown on Channel Four last year, this
would appear to be one of Schifrin's favourites among his own work. The film
is a sensitive adaptation of a D.H. Lawrence novella, but here Schifrin has
reworked the main theme into a showcase for his jazz piano. It bears little
relation to the original soundtrack, and is too heavy-handed for jazz.
John William's 'March' from Raiders of the Lost Ark gets a routine
reading, the epic quality of the soundtrack versions somehow eluding the
Marseille orchestra, while Max Steiner's 'Tara's Theme' from Gone With
the Wind can survive anything, this version being one of the stronger
tracks on the album. Scott Joplin's 'The Entertainer', made famous by The
Sting is jaunty, catchy, and sounds very much as I remember from the
movie, but is it film music?
A homage to Nino Rota links his theme from La Strada with his most
famous work, The Godfather. The circus highjinks are colourfully playful,
but some nasty line hum detracts from the plaintive trumpet solo and somehow
the violin melody just lacks the requisite intimacy. The Godfather
works much better, and makes me wonder how much longer we are going to have
to wait for a full CD representation of this music.
The album ends with a 16 minute Movie Songs Medley, with Dee Dee Bridge Water
and Julia Migenes doubling up on songs from six movies. The problem is, these
songs were not written for two voices together. There is no denying the quality
of the vocal performances, but 'Over the Rainbow' can only work as an expression
of a lonely individual dreaming of the future. Two fine singers swapping
lines simply becomes meaningless, the whole point of the song sacrificed
to the 'show'. The same applies to much of the rest, though individual solo
passages stand out to the extent that one wishes to hear individual albums
of movie songs by both these singers. A final barnstorming 'New York, New
York' blows the cobwebs out and makes up for some lacklustre work earlier
This is a very mixed-bag of songs and themes. Not the sort of album to appeal
to the serious film music fan, but perhaps a fair present for fans of the
singers, and who also like popular film themes. Otherwise, a very dated release,
not for the music, but for the approach of chopping-up film scores into easily
digestible bit-sized pieces.
Gary S. Dalkin