High Road to China
SUPER TRACKS MUSIC GROUP
JBCD 01 (53.29)
The 'Main Title/A Nasty Headache' is another one of those pleasing, rather
stirring uniquely Barryesque themes we have come to know so well, the kind
that this composer produces with unfailing consistency. Add to this a latter
section of equally classy dramatic suspense music and the CD gets off to
a sound start.
'The Flying Lesson' comes along next and is more string based high tension
and spectacle. Barry can write this kind of thing in his sleep but it's always
enjoyable if perhaps just a little overly familiar. 'Look out Charlie!/A
Hurried Exit' opens with his distinctive use of brass, backed up by busy
strings to create a sense of anticipation. Some of the offbeat background
drum work seems a little superfluous though, but as ever with Barry there
is much to savour here. 'Onto Waziri/Khan' gives a brief nod to the main
theme before 'Escape From Waziri/Eve & Struts' utilises his typically
menacing brass sound, before the strings take over for another rousing
'On to India/Arrival in Katmandu/Souls Approaches' gives us a very pleasant
rendition of the main theme, while 'The Dogfight/Journey to China/Anymore
Surprises/The General's Cannon' is a longish track with some more interesting
dramatic lines, very much in the Barry mould and pleasing enough without
containing very many surprises.
'You'll get your Money/One Eye Open' offers a soft, romantic version of the
main theme with the flute and violin working in tandem. Finally 'Raid on
Chang's Camp/Finale & End Titles' sees the return of that imposing brass
before delivering a number of variations on the score's primary motifs,
concluding with the inevitable reprise of the main title.
A whole batch of 'Source Music' is also included, although I'm not really
convinced it was needed.
'Mohamet's Dance' and 'Waziri Source' are valid as they are Barry compositions,
the first a simple middle-eastern styled rhythmic piece and the latter a
similar if far more restrained cue, both of which would be used simply to
establish location and atmosphere.
There are also pieces such as 'Charleston', 'Love me Tender', 'When the Saints
Come Marching in' and 'Swinging at the Riverside' to name just a few, all
authentic 1920s ragtime style tunes and are fun for those who enjoy such
But for my own part, I did begin to forget exactly what soundtrack I was
supposed to be listening to after a string of these tunes. I have to say
that the effect was not particularly welcome, although I suppose one should
never complain at being provided with extras.
'Allemande from the Bach French Suite' and 'Number #5 in G Major' are even
more of these additional cues, so there is certainly a wide range of music
To my mind, John Barry's music is always likeable. Even when his scores are
(as is the case here) written for not particularly memorable films. Sadly
though this is not untypical of Barry's work, as he has all too often chosen
projects that would seem to be beneath his talent, leaving his score to stand
as one of their few redeeming features. And indeed, another by-product of
these kind of collaborations must surely be that inferior productions are
unlikely to bring out the best in him as an artist. So, as is illustrated
here, the music is only ever likely to be solid rather than truly remarkable.
This specially produced CD on behalf of the composer himself, is all very
pleasant without really reaching the heights of his most notable work.
Nonetheless it is still essential stuff for both Barry collectors and lovers
of film music in general.