An entertaining compilation of themes and suites culled from the movies of actor Sir Michael Caine, newly recorded under the direction of Nic Raine and Paul Bateman respectively and performed in the main by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.
The CD begins appropriately with ‘Michael Caine’ courtesy of the group Madness, a catchy pop song that has little to do with the man’s movies but is nonetheless a pleasant enough way to begin this musical tribute. However, the meat of this work is to be found on several ‘Main Theme’ selections, such as those from Get Carter, a memorable, distinctively gritty Roy Budd cue, Zulu, a solid version of John Barry’s noble, upright theme and The Eagle Has Landed with Lalo Schifrin’s pulsating, genuinely exciting title music. Of less value, although they remain pleasing in an undemanding way, are John Addison’s ‘Overture’ from Sleuth and a smoky, laid-back take on the famous Burt Bacharach theme from Alfie, fortunately devoid of Cilla Black’s harsh vocals!
The few problems I have, not because of the quality of the source material (quite the contrary), but more because of the orchestrations, are be found on cues like the ‘Main Theme/End Title’ from The Last Valley, John Barry’s truly stunning tour de force of choral gravitas and majesty. The difficulty here is that with attempting to faithfully recreate an existing work, inevitably it can only ever feel inferior to the original and it’s for this reason that I wish orchestrators would occasionally try to inject a little originality and freshness into their adaptations, rather than trying in vain to recreate it exactly. Of course I’m not advocating some wild, revisionist approach (although that could be fun!), but by seeking to adhere to the original version so closely there will often be a sense of flatness and dissatisfaction for those who are already familiar with the piece. Despite this personal appraisal, it is still very much a welcome track, but I find myself less forgiving about ‘A Man Alone’ from The Ipcress File, another John Barry classic, which just doesn’t stand up to a comparison with the original version at all and seems rather laboured.
But there is more here to enjoy than complain about, my personal highlights being
the ‘End Titles’ from The Cider House Rules, a beautiful, emotive theme from one of my favourite modern day composers, Rachel Portman, ‘Rita’s Theme’ from Educating Rita, a recreation by Mark Ayres of David Hentschel’s likeable, sweet-natured synthesizer motif, the tense, suspenseful and spirited ‘The Bees Arrive’ from The Swarm written by Jerry Goldsmith, (although the CD box itself erroneously credits John Barry!) and some vintage Pino Donaggio on ‘The Gallery’ from Dressed to Kill, a grand, emotional yet darkly ominous piece of really outstanding film music.
Less welcome are several songs; Nat King Cole performing ‘Mona Lisa’ (from the film of the same name), ‘On Days Like These’ sung by Matt Monroe from The Italian Job and a vocal version of ‘Alfie’ performed by Helen Hobson. What remains (selections from The Battle of Britain, Hannah and her Sisters and The Man Who Would be King) fills in some gaps without making too much of an impression. Personally I would have foregone the songs and focused solely on pure film music, but then I guess someone felt that these popular tunes would be commercially appealing to the target audience, so who am I to argue!
All in all a good collection, even if one gets the impression that certain tracks are a little superfluous, but for Cain fans this will be vastly enjoyable and it should even entertain those who find his cockney charms a good deal more resistible.