January 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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2001 - The Year’s Film Music Releases –

Our Critics’ Assessments and Awards Nominations

Film Music on the Web critics review the film music recordings of 2001. Below each assessment is the reviewer’s nominations for awards in four categories: Best New Original score; Best Classical Film Score Recording, Best Compilation and a new category, Best New DVD video Release with a Significant Film Music Content. We have chosen to include the latter because many DVDs these days have interviews with composers or composers commenting on their scores over a special additional run-through of the film, or even a run-through of the film with only the music. Our reviewers were asked to nominate up to three releases in each of these categories. Some reviewers opted not to nominate in certain categories.

Taking all the reviewers nominations into account there is no doubt this year of the


Best New Original Score: John Williams – A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) Warner Sunset

Best Clasical Score Recording: Alex North – Cleopatra Varese Sarabande

Best film Music Compilation: Celluloid Copland Telarc

Best DVD with significant film music content: Superman – Special Edition Warner

Editor - Ian Lace

This, quite frankly, has been the most disappointing year I can remember for new original film scores. I cannot think of anything original or uplifting about the vast majority of them. When I came to bringing up a short list for the new original scores category for our own Awards, I could only bring myself to nominate John Williams’s Artificial Intelligence (A.I.). Everything else fell short. Granted a few have some pleasure – like Yan Tiersen’s Amelie from Montmartre – but these were very few and far between. Even The Lord of the Rings music disappointed me, granted there was atmosphere and grandeur but nothing that really lifted the heart and spirit as it should have done.

On the other hand I was impressed with the number of splendid releases of older film music and interesting compilations. From Chandos there were magnificent collections of film music by Richard Rodney Bennett and William Alwyn. From Marco Polo we had another compilation of film music by Georges Auric that included La Symphonie Pastorale, and another Bernard Herrmann album of music from 5 Fingers and The Snows of Kilimanjaro. From Varèse Sarabande came a long overdue album of music by Philippe Sarde that included one of my own favourites, that for the Dudley Moore comedy, Lovesick. Also from V.S. were a trio of CDs covering Jerry Goldsmith’s scores for The Omen trilogy and a separate collection of that composer’s film scores, but topping their 2001 releases was Alex North’s score for Cleopatra. From Silva Screen came two magnificent scores by John Barry, a composer I can usually take or leave – but these are very special: The Last Valley and The Lion in Winter. From Prometheus there was Jerry Goldsmith’s colourful western score for Rio Lobos and from Aleph, Lalo Schifrin’s equally memorable music for Cool Hand Luke. Film Score Monthly continued to send memorable material including Franz Waxman’s Untamed, and the combination of Bernard Herrmann’s and Alfred Newman’s talents in The Egyptian score, but most memorable - Bernard Herrmann’s inspired impressionistic score for Beneath the Twelve Mile Reef.

Three albums I treasured were newly expanded versions of Rodgers and Hammerstein screen musicals: Carousel, Oklahoma! and The King and I . Off the beaten track, one of the most impressive albums of the year came from the French recording company, Le Chant du Monde, an enchanting compilation of film music from the Russian composer Edison Denisov that included A Star With No Name and An Ideal Husband. Another compilation I enjoyed was flautist Andrea Griminelli’s "Cinema Italiano", an arresting collection of Italian film scores in fascinating arrangements and performed by an impressive cast of artists including Sting and Pavarotti. But the compilation that gets my top nomination for 2001 is Telarc’s important release of less well known but delightful melodic and colourful film music by Aaron Copland: Celluloid Copland

It was interesting to note an accelerating interest in film music in the year’s DVD releases. Strongest in this context was the release of the special edition of Superman (that also included Superman II). One of its many features, was the chance to see the whole of Superman with just the music i.e. shorn of sound effects or dialogue so allowing a unique opportunity to evaluate John Williams’s music in context. Another impressive release was the special edition of Edward Scissorhands that had an additional feature enabling you to hear Danny Elfman commenting on his music as the movie ran. The Gladiator DVD video was one of several that included interviews with the film composer (in this case an extended interview with Hans Zimmer).

And so to my 2001 nominations:

Best New Score: John Williams - Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) - Warner

Best Classical Score: Alex North – Cleopatra Varèse Sarabande

Bernard Herrmann – Beneath the 12 Mile Reef; Film Score Monthly

Lalo Schifrin – Cool hand Luke; Aleph

Best Compilation, Celluloid Copland: The City; The Cummington Story; North Star

From Sorcery to Science - Telarc

Film Music of William Alwyn, Vol 2 including The Crimson Pirate,

The Card and The Winslow Boy; Chandos

Edison Denisov: Music for Films: A Star With No Name

An Ideal Husband; Le Chant du Monde

New Category: Best VDVD release with significant film music content.

Superman – the Special Edition

Edward Scissorhands – the Special Edition

Gary S. Dalkin - Deputy Editor

2001 was a bad year for cinema, and seeing as great film scores and great films so often go together it is no surprise there was little outstanding film music. I may change my opinion on Howard Shore's music for The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring once I have seen the film, but if the album is the best of it I am not as impressed as I feel I should be by this work's purely musical qualities. More enjoyable on disc was Shore's jazz inflected music for The Score. Other notable scores of the year included Rachel Portman's atmospheric and exhilarating Americana for The Legend of Bagger Vance, Alan Silvestri's decidedly old-school orchestral bombast accompanying The Mummy Returns, Danny Elfman's furious percussive score for the remake of The Planet of the Apes, Alejandro Amenábar's Herrmannesque The Others and Stephen Warbeck's lyrical Captain Corelli's Mandolin.

For the best scores of the year I have chosen Michael Kamen's music for Band of Brothers, which may have been a television series but had all the production values of a big budget movie, including a score by an A-List composer. Certainly there were elements in the score which recalled Kamen's previous work, but such was the power of the drama Kamen rose to the challenge of delivering supremely moving and stirring music. The ten-minute section on the album for the discovery of a German concentration camp has an understated dignity where in other hands the cue could have descended into sentimentality, while other selections have a surprising beauty or an honest emotional starkness. As in Band of Brothers cinema parent, Saving Private Ryan, there is no battle music - the furious sound effects left no room or need for any - though Kamen successfully follows John William's lead in providing a hymnal man theme. Elsewhere the solution to condensing the score for a ten hour film to album length is found in offering two contrasting suites in addition to at least one cue from each episode. A fine album from a very fine television production.

Proving intelligent life is not entirely dead in Hollywood, Quills offered Stephen Warbeck the opportunity to go mad. Or rather, play at madness to accompany the Marquis de Sade in the asylum. Warbeck's score mixed sequences of great beauty with others of terrifying delirium. The effect was greatly enhanced by the composer's refusal to take the easy option of a fist full of samples, and construct a gallery of bizarre instruments specially for the score. The resulting sustained set-pieces are some of the year's very best music.

Like Warbeck John Williams offered two new scores in 2001. His Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone made for a most enjoyable album but failed the film by simply not being English enough. A strange fault given Williams has proven himself most adept at English pastiche in films as different as Jane Eyre and Angela's Ashes (despite the Irish setting Williams score was firmly within the English classical tradition). Harry Potter also failed to make the top of the class by containing too much that smacked of recycling, with close parallels to Hook, The Witches of Eastwick, Superman, The Fury and The Empire Strikes Back all being evident. Infinitely better, and by far the best score of the year from any source was Williams' score for A.I. - Artificial Intelligence, which rather than recycling proved the composer still capable of top-draw original work. A pulsating, surging work filled with urgency and influenced by the minimalism of Philip Glass, John Adams and other contemporary composers, this bold, complex work also offered choral and vocal music of mysterious and tender beauty. The album was marred by two versions of a very out of place pop-ballad arrangement of the main theme, neither of which fortunately made it into the film. Nevertheless A.I. was John Williams at his best, and film music doesn't get better than that.

Best New Score:

1: A.I. - Artificial Intelligence - John Williams

2: Quills - Stephen Warbeck

3: Band of Brothers - Michael Kamen

Best Classic Score recording

1: Cleopatra - Alex North

2: Beneath the 12-Mile Reef - Bernard Herrmann

3: The Lion in Winter / Mary Queen of Scots - John Barry (Silva Screen re-recording)

Best Compilation

1: Celluloid Copland - World Premiere Film Music

2: Shakespeare at the Movies

3: Filmworks - Philip Glass

Best DVD release with significant music content:

1: Superman

2: The Last of the Mohicans (Trevor Jones film)

3: The Crimson Rivers

Mark Hockley

Another year passes and film music not so much moves forward but expands, encompassing the past and the present, influences of a by-gone age making themselves loudly heard in the offerings of our modern day maestros, the ghost of Herrmann as evident as ever. While some fans may be less enthusiastic about the output of our current crop of film composers (and their ranks seems to grow on a monthly basis), never before in my opinion have we been blessed with such quality in depth. A year does not pass now without discovering at least one brand new worthwhile talent.

And so to the cream of 2001, at least in this reviewers personally biased opinion. There is no question in my mind that there is only one candidate for film score of the year and it is Howard Shore’s incredible work on Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. As I have already reviewed it I won’t go into gushing detail, but it is enough to say that it will be some time before we are treated to such a diverse, skilfully conceived soundtrack again (at least until Shore’s next instalment on The Two Towers!). As far as I’m concerned this is a master work and is head and shoulders above everything else released this last year. Beyond this I would single out Jeff Dana’s poetically tragic, heartfelt music from the modern-day version of Othello entitled simply ‘O’. Again, as I reviewed this score I will say very little else, but the music truly moved me with its emotion and drama and I have added Dana to my internal list of ‘ones to watch’. Finally I think I must give a brief nod of approval to James Newton Howard’s work on Atlantis: The Lost Empire. He is a composer who has really hit a rich vein of form over the last few years and his emotionally charged, rousing music for this latest Disney production was another fine achievement. Incidentally, I would probably have chosen Unbreakable over this, but because of the vagaries of release dates in the US and the UK, this other Newton Howard work seems to have fallen between the cracks into the limbo that exists at the very end of one year and the beginning of the next. Still, regardless of this, James Newton Howard is a composer who stands at the very forefront of the best of our film composers and I very much look forward to his future projects.

I think it would be fair to also pass a few comments on some other scores that deserve recognition, such as Yann Tiersen’s evocative work on Amelie (AKA: Le Fabuleux Destin d_Amelie Poulain), which came very close to being one of my picks of the year. Also of note was All the Pretty Horses by Marty Stuart, Kristin Wilkinson and Larry Paxton. This modern western score managed to capture much of the charm of the old school while retaining an attractive modern edge. I should probably also mention the master John Williams’ two significant compositions, Harry Potter and the Philospher’s (Sorceror’s) Stone and A.I.. Ironically, while I liked both of these movies, I felt the scores lacked that certain something needed to elevate them to the top flight, although Harry Potter wasn’t too far away. As for A.I., although I’m very aware that many of my fellow critics particularly admired this score, it left me somewhat cold, although its spare, restrained quality certainly befits the spirit of the movie’s instigator, the late, great Stanley Kubrick.

There have also been many splendid releases from older, classic scores, although the definition of what a classic soundtrack may or may not be subtly shifts and alters as time moves on. My own picks would all be relatively modern works that have been given new, expanded releases. The third entry in the brilliant Omen trilogy, Jerry Goldsmith’s The Final Conflict is one of my very favourite scores, so I have no hesitation in selecting that as my best of the year. Close behind would be Toto’s memorably baroque work on David Lynch’s sorely undervalued interpretation of Dune. Lastly, John Barry’s bold, bleak and bracing The Last Valley demands inclusion. These three should have pride of place in any serious film music collection and happily this has been a very strong year for new releases of older, highly sought after material.

Much the same can be said for the excellent compilations that have appeared during 2001. Most notably there was Rachel Portman: Soundtracks, an invaluable, magnificent collection of outstanding work by this wonderful composer. Few artists can capture with such beauty and majesty the very heart and soul of a story. Also of great value, although very different stylistically was Philip on Film: Filmworks by Philip Glass, a comprehensive collection by this unique composer that offers a whole host of memorable themes and pieces. Just as distinctive, although with a far warmer, subtle sensibility is Georges Delerue, whose compilation by Varèse Sarabande under their Great Composers banner is a delightful treat. All of these collections are essential purchases and provide a wealth of superb music.

All in a all a very satisfying year, but as always I hope the next one will be better still.

Best New Original Score

1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring - Howard Shore (Reprise)

2. ‘O’ - Jeff Dana (Varèse Sarabande)

3. Atlantis-The Lost Empire - James Newton Howard (Walt Disney)

Best Classical Score

1. The Final Conflict (The Deluxe Edition) - Jerry Goldsmith (Varèse Sarabande)

2. Dune - Toto (Peg)

3. The Last Valley - John Barry (Silva)

Best Compilation

1. Rachel Portman: Soundtracks (Redial)

2. Philip on Film: Filmworks by Philip Glass (Nonsuch)

  1. Great Composers: Georges Delerue (Varèse Sarabande)

From John Huether

BEST CLASSIC SCORE: Hands down, this one has to be Varese Sarabande’s

"Cleopatra." This effort was so massive and yet so meticulous, it sets the benchmark

for all such efforts in the future.

2 honorable mentions:

"Malcolm Arnold Classic Film Scores: David Copperfield and The Roots

of Heaven" – Marco Polo’s William Stromberg and John Morgan deliver

impeccable readings of two gems by one of this century’s greatest composers.

"Rio Lobo" -- Hardly a classic in any sense, this Prometheus release

of a 1970 Jerry Goldsmith western nevertheless is among the purest pleasures I came

across all year.

BEST COMPILATION: Telarc’s "Celluloid Copland" offered something I

wouldn’t have supposed existed in 2001: previously unrecorded works by one of

America’s greatest composers. That they were film scores made this new

recording by Jonathan Sheffer and his Eos Orchestra of New York all the more unique. The fourpieces include one feature film score, two documentaries, and one work – "From Sorcery to Science" – written to accompany a live marionette show about the pharmaceutical industry at the 1939 World’s Fair. Only Copland could make that musically inspiring.

2 honorable mentions:

"Man of Galilee – The Film Music of Alfred Newman" (Silva) rates a

Hosannah simply for its inclusion of some of Newman’s choral music that

was dropped from "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (something Rhino’s 2-disc OST should have done, but didn’t).

"The Cardinal – classic film music of Jerome Moross." Silva gives this

much-neglected composer his proper due by highlighting one of the best scores of the

1960s -- plus "The Jayhawkers" and "Proud Rebel." Wow!


The past year was made especially noteworthy by the plethora of Alfred

Newman score releases – including "Captain from Castile," "The Bravados," and "A Man Called Peter," and the aforementioned "Man of Galilee."

Also noteworthy: Silva’s re-recordings of several Barry masterpieces -- "The Last Valley" and "The Lion in Winter" particularly. A third score, "Mary, Queen of

Scots," received shorter treatment in the form of a suite on the latter

CD. Better, in my view, to have accorded it a full release of its own, perhaps in place of "Robin and Marian," Silva’s third Barry release of the year. In any event, this much vintage Barry is remarkable for any year.

Summarising then:-

Best Classical Score recording:-

1) Alex North - Cleopatra

2) Film Music of Malcolm Arnold Vol II

3) Jerry Goldsmith – Rio Lobo

Best Compilation album:-

  1. Celluloid Copland
  2. Man of Galilee – Music of Alfred Newman
  3. The Cardinal – classic film music of Jerome Moross

Paul Tonks

Last year I prayed for better weather in the world of film music. Twelve months later, I’m happy to say I feel like my sun finally came up! There have been pleasant surprises throughout. There have been laughable attempts at trend setting. There has also been wonderful re-packaging of classics. So all in all, I’ve enjoyed having regular recourse for breaking into that very particular smile only to be seen on the face of a film music geek.

To break with tradition, I’m going to detail my choices for the major categories in reverse order, starting with the Compilation category. That means it is my duty to immediately point and laugh at Hans Zimmer’s The Wings of a Film. The clue’s in the title! Wings? WINGS? Gladiator most certainly went to someone’s head. Whether or not it was Zimmer’s is anyone’s guess, but someone at Decca clearly thought we needed to see his name in between a second volume of Gladiator and Hannibal (see below).

Moving onto the sunnier side, Silva Screen again did us proud with multi-disc compilations of classic greats. Almost in my Top 3 was Man of Galilee: The Essential Alfred Newman Film Music Collection. It’s only slightly pipped from my vote by the arguably more diverse Gone With the Wind: Essential Max Steiner Film Music Collection. It’s tough to make a distinction between the two really for quality representation. Steiner’s has a slightly better repeat play appeal to me though. Next up is The Very Best of Michael Nyman: Film Music 1980 - 2001 from Virgin Records. Although the ball was severely dropped in the packaging (the fact there are several re-recordings isn’t even mentioned), this is a truly amazing reminder of the musical journey Nyman has taken. You even get some of his ‘tossed score’ for Practical Magic, which seems a most humbling admission of defeat. In my Number 1 spot has to be Silva Screen’s 4-disc John Barry: The Collection however. The blue cover and booklet may be a little plain. The cardboard cover may have needed a hacksaw to remove. But in terms of bang for your buck, quality and sheer generosity, this may qualify as the best composer collection ever compiled.

With that in mind, I admit a prejudice against too much of a good thing in now turning to the Classic Recordings category. Frankly, I would have enjoyed a more staggered release of Silva Screen’s complete re-recordings of The Lion In Winter, Robin & Marian and The Last Valley. A few other labels kept up the good work throughout the year. As always, Marco Polo had some great reconstructive work to show off. For me that principally came through Max Steiner’s Son of Kong / Most Dangerous Game. GNP Crescendo had another 2-for-1 deal that pleased a lot of James Horner fans with

Battle Beyond the Stars / Humanoids from Deep. FSM Classics put out a consistently excellent body of work this year too. The Bernard Herrmann scores Beyond the 12 Mile Reef and The Egyptian (with Alfred Newman) were very welcome. As were Jerry Goldsmith’s The Illustrated Man, Don Ellis’s The French Connection (+ II), Franz Waxman’s The Untamed and even the cash-in well-timed release of Conquest of / Battle for the Planet of the Apes (Tom Scott / Leonard Rosenman).

Without doubt, the label to make the most noise worth making noise about was Varese Sarabande. Horner fans blissed out to Aliens: The Deluxe Edition, despite the shock of discovering the coveted snare drum cue for the Dropship missing (since it was composed by Harry Rabinowitz). Goldsmith fans were even better served though by the curiously disordered release of Deluxe Editions of the Omen trilogy (The Final Conflict,

The Omen and then Damien: Omen II). Outstripping their appeal for this reviewer however was the similarly Deluxe Edition of Total Recall. Many aficionados have noted this to have been the last great Goldsmith action score. Some have gone further in saying it was his last great score. Others sigh and say it still sounds like the last one he was really trying on. Whatever camp you or I may be on that issue, it is nonetheless an inarguably ferocious piece of writing. Aside from my preference for the genre, this makes my Top 3 for being a better example of re-instating previously missing material. Less is rarely more in any Paul Verhoeven movie, and that most certainly applies here.

Next I choose Varese’s wonderful re-recording of Bernard Herrmann’s The 3 Worlds of Gulliver. It’s the quirkiest of all the fantasy scores Herrmann wrote, and in being intrinsically English he got to indulge in styles dear to his sensibilities. This shines through Joel McNeely’s superb conducting.

Top of the list for this category was always going to be Alex North’s Cleopatra for me, regardless of whatever else came out later in the year. So many film music fans have vaguely known of it as being something of a kissing cousin to the easily available Spartacus. When this double disc set arrived, it set geek tongues a-lolling and a-wagging in stunned appreciation for what is a masterpiece of orchestration and conception on an epic scale.

So on to the New Recordings category. It wasn’t the best of years for new talent, but ‘big time’ acknowledging nods are deserved in the direction of Dan Jones (Shadow of the Vampire), Conrad Pope (Pavilion of Women), James L. Venables (Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back and Iron Monkey), Michiru Ohshima (Godzilla Vs Megaguirus) and Alex Heffes (The Parole Officer).

Before the real ‘hits’ of the year, I’d like to enjoy citing what I felt were the real ‘misses’ of the year. Let’s first of all ponder where the heck Jerry Goldsmith is going? Along Came A Spider was all he had? And Hollow Man last year? 1999 may not have been a better year for vintage Goldsmith (The Mummy, The Haunting and The 13th Warrior), but at least it looked like he was working. Where was the usually prolific James Horner for that matter? Enemy at the Gates? So what? And rounding out the acknowledged triumvirate of A-list big-hitters is what I stoically maintain was an uninspiring year from John Williams. Both A.I. and Harry Potter have their happy-go-lucky fans, but I unfortunately find both to be uneven scores represented by uneven albums.

If anyone can be said to have made an attempt on A-list domination it’s Hans Zimmer, who’s enjoyed a fabulous year of marketing on his behalf. What a shame then that his legitimate talents went to waste on the risible cinematic flotsam that was Hannibal and Pearl Harbor. Close behind sits Danny Elfman who can’t seem to shake the memory of Edward Scissorhands (The Family Man), nor an inexplicable association with John Debney (Spy Kids). Thankfully his year was saved by the unfairly ignored Proof of Life and the quite rightly ignored Planet of the Apes. Say what you like about Tim Burton’s ill-conceived "re-imagining", but Elfman’s percussive score is the most original thing he’s had chance to do in years.

Here are my other miscellaneous misfires for 2001. Stephen Warbeck’s Captain Corelli's Mandolin, regrettably as insincere as Nicolas Cage’s accent. Alan Silvestri’s The Mummy Returns, a shocking wall of orchestral noise disguised by a shocking wall of sound design. Michael Kamen’s Band of Brothers, an otherwise commendable accompaniment to the sensitive subject matter marred by blatant self-plagiarism (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Mr. Holland’s Opus). David Arnold’s The Musketeer, which didn’t know whether to follow in the footsteps of Korngold, William or Bond. Lastly there was John Barry’s Enigma, which after so full a year of being reminded how self-contained his style can be (especially with the non-film album Eternal Echoes) sounded more than a little uninspired.

So what of the ‘hits’? What put that geek smile upon my face more than any of the above? I’ll start with a guilty admission of liking Jurassic Park III by Don Davis, regardless (not because of) its reliance on John Williams’ earlier motifs. There was also a terrific expansion of material from Lalo Schifrin for the otherwise unnecessary sequel Rush Hour 2. Michael Nyman’s homage to Ennio Morricone in The Claim beautifully puts paid to any opinions that the guy can’t be melodious. Angelo Badalamenti’s contributions to the typically stylistically-fused David Lynch experience album for Mullholland Drive were a treat. Fusion also worked for David Arnold’s Baby Boy, and even more so for Carter Burwell’s A Knight's Tale, which eclipsed the similar effort attempted in the film’s song placement. Burwell also turned in another terrifically understated work for the Coen Brother’s largely unseen The Man Who Wasn't There.

After being stuck for anything to make a choice from in the last few years, the choice of a Top 3 was awkward for the opposite reason this time. Three more pleasant surprises each vied for my third vote in this category. The Mists of Avalon by Lee Holdridge was a complete shock. Having come to distrust TV adaptations of all things fantasy, this was an album that took a long time to reach the top of my ‘play’ pile. The choral and percussion elements of this score frankly took my breath away. Even if it’s not the greatest fantasy score ever written (I’m getting to that), or even the best of Holdridge’s career, it was least the best example of this particular jaded reviewer eating his own opinion in a long time. I was happy to experience a similar feeling from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within from Elliot Goldenthal. Although this remains the throwtogether of styles he’ll no doubt never move on from, it’s the most fun it’s sounded for a good few years now.

My 3rd place vote goes to the fun that’s to be had from Howard Shore’s jazzy noir The Score score. Since I’m about to wax lyrical about him again, I’ll refrain from further superlatives. My 2nd place ultimately falls to Amelie from Yann Tiersen. A full review of mine at the site details my feelings about the feel-good movie.

All of which quickly leads to the best of the Best. When I received a CD-R promo of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring in October, it was with some trepidation I pressed ‘Play’ for the first time. No one could class me as a hardcore Tolkien fan. A fan nonetheless, but with a comfortable distance from the material so as not to personally feel the need for perfection. My trepidation was really in respect to several friends to whom this would be more important. Bubbling under that were more personal concerns, having built Howard Shore up in my own mind as something of a last hope for intellectual composition in an increasingly dumbed-down industry.

To be as concise as possible about this score will still no doubt seem like unnecessary praisegiving. It is the most work put into a film score since I dare not think when. It shows. Two layers of misconception need to be filtered out to approach this level of appreciation. Firstly, it’s Act One in his preconceived 9-hour opera. Secondly, the album is a mere 72 minutes cut and paste from over 2 & ½ hours. Both factors would ordinarily dilute the material into something incoherent or disjointed. That isn’t the case. As much consideration has been taken in compiling this album as the placement of cues in the film. The music itself is an astoundingly dense work incorporating Tolkien’s own musicality where the film’s narrative itself could not. The highlights of which are far too numerous to list fully. Ultimately, the placement of this at my Number 1 spot for the year was secured when my trepidation gave way to the biggest of geek smiles, which reappears every time I hear one of those many highlights.

2002 has a lot to live up to.

My nominations are:-

Best New Original Score

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring


The Score

Best Classic film score recording

Cleopatra Alex North

The 3 Worlds of Gulliver

Total Recall: Deluxe Edition

Best Compilation.

John Barry: The Collection

Best of Michael Nyman

Essential Max Steiner Film Music Collection

Paul Tonks

Jeffrey Wheeler

A new year is here, which means it is time for griping about how awful the film music was during the past 12 months. Honestly, it wasn't half bad. Most of it was noise, but then the last year to be thematically dominant was (arguably) 1993, now nearly a decade away, and the noise is starting to find a listenable middle ground. Maybe the nocuous days of dropping one's keys for so-called dramatic effect are finally waning. If only we could lose the mediocrity that regularly accompanies artistic compromise, as the signs of temp tracking remain distressingly obvious.

Honorable mentions for the year include Alan Silvestri's exciting bombast for "The Mummy Returns" and Morricone-lite for "The Mexican", Danny Elfman's percussive "Planet of the Apes", Yan Tiersen's lighthearted "Amalie", John Williams' glowing "Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone", Don Davis' unreleased "Antitrust", Angelo Badalamenti's "Mulholland Drive", Harry Gregson-Williams' & John Powell's "Shrek", and two efforts from Howard Shore: "The Score" and, of course, the epic "Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring". Compensating for a complete lack of new classics from Jerry Goldsmith, the "Omen" trilogy received a truly deluxe treatment. Indeed, it was a remarkable year for releases of classic scores, with Film Score Monthly, Marco Polo, Silva Screen and others continuing full support of filmusic history. A certain curmudgeonly reviewer from Films in Review might say in delight of these treasures, "Out with the new, in with the old," but I begin my Film Music on the Web nominations with praise for three recent filmusic offerings...


"A.I." is a masterful abstract of sadness -- a strangely beautiful sadness, like the realization of a love we know will not last yet we deeply treasure. As a standalone and as an active participant in the film, John Williams' music captures that nature. It represents a thoughtful artistic vision, and in its minimalist currents, subtle fanfares, strong themes, rich chorales, wonderful orchestrations, and touches of insider wit, the score demonstrates the composer in peak form, striving for sentiment without sentimentality. Understanding the richness of the composition and the drama is a beautiful challenge; those characterizing any moment as 'happy' or 'horrific' are courting superficialities. There is a fullness to the innovations, a polish to the traditions, and the juggling of opposites is more successful than even most supporters of "A.I." initially thought. Though popularly misread, "A.I." deserves more attention, more thought, and more admiration. It exquisitely documents existential dreams and nightmares. And while 'haunting' is an overused adjective that betrays a common reviewer, it is an apt description. Since seeing the film, it haunts me, and my appreciation of the work continues to grow, particularly regarding the contribution of the film's composer. This is a masterpiece across the board; Williams deserves much praise for being a conscious force behind its completion and a defining contributor to its art.

Elliot Goldenthal's "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" makes a fine lead-in to "A.I.", as there are some common threads, but Goldenthal's wondrous soundscape works spectacularly on its own. Unlike "A.I.", "Final Fantasy" amalgamates the elements rather than balancing them. Everything connects directly to everything else. Here, Goldenthal's usual cold intellectualism combines with waving melodies, erratic rhythms, and not-so-subtle fanfares to create one of the most accessible film scores of his career, while always retaining an inventive edge over the competition. Much of the music we hear follows a form of post-modern romanticism. Equally noteworthy are the performances from the London Symphony Orchestra and the London Voices, which add clarity to the dissonant sections while accentuating the beauty of the central theme and the cohesion of the various undercurrents. This is a strong score in both it presentation (such a big orchestra and choir is difficult to miss) and its technique, so the two combined create an awesome aural experience. And on the dramatic level, it far outshines anything one might normally expect out of a movie based on a video game.

The French-language "Le Pacte des Loups" premiered in early 2001 (taking a full year to reach the U.S. as "Brotherhood of the Wolf") and whispers about its score subsequently popped up online. Though not renowned for originality (for in the past he did not demonstrate much facility for it), Joseph LoDuca's music for "Brotherhood of the Wolf" is a novel work that does not delight the ears, but honestly shocks them. It is horror music, laden with electronic effects, vocal chants and aggressive percussion, softened by romances and gothic dances, and throwing about twisted innovations. LoDuca wisely structures the noise, however; it almost fits with Goldsmith's "Planet of the Apes", Williams' "Images", North's "Dragonslayer" and other scores that effectively throw out traditional scoring. The music is imaginative -- not in a fashionably abstract or alienating way, but through emphasizing usual emotions in unusual manners. When unpleasant, it is deliberately and dramatically so. Many scores, especially fellow entries in the horror genre, are merely violent or grotesque. This has depth.


The historical value of Alex North's "Cleopatra" has never been so clear as it is now, thanks to the 2-disc album from Varese Sarabande. Though a success when the original release premiered around the time of the film's release, this restoration and greatly expanded presentation allows longtime fans of the score to feel a stronger sense of appreciation, and people that felt lukewarm to previous recordings, like myself, can finally understand what makes this epic score a classic. An envelope-pusher of technique in his day, but also a composer of timeless sophistication, North reveled in unusual instrumentation, percussion in particular, that cut through any Hollywood cliché. The resultant mix of modernism and romanticism is special, and the unconventional twists on Golden Age romances -- preceding Elliot Goldenthal's contributions to cinema by quite a few years -- come across in nearly every track. These are magnificently presented discs. The music has been lovingly treated; only a few artifacts that managed to survive the restoration process give away the age of the original tracks. The album itself is a joy to behold, with hardly a visual or textual splendor misplaced. Many of us believe that filmusic is capable of being high art, and "Cleopatra" is one of the proofs in support of this view.

Paired with the slightly less stellar "The Son of Kong", "The Most Dangerous Game" is a delightfully creepy Max Steiner score, restored to its full glory through the reconstruction efforts of John W. Morgan and the strengthening musicianship of the Moscow Symphony Orchestra under William T. Stromberg's direction. The menacing brass, the warm waltz that is the main theme, an intense final chase cue, even the secondary theme that is somewhat below Steiner's average, are significant discoveries from the filmusic Golden Age. The feel of this album recalls the early 1930s, respectfully enhanced through the technology and modern expertise of the Digital Age, and of course the full orchestra Steiner wanted but could not get. The Marco Polo team released other re-recordings in 2001, dedicated to exceptional scores by Sir Malcolm Arnold and Bernard Herrmann, but the union of the rippling "The Most Dangerous Game" and "The Son of Kong" surpasses them in education, wit and audio presentation. The disc looks good, and it sounds better through every stroke of subtlety and every blast of bombast.

The performances from Nic Raine, the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the Crouch End Festival Chorus leave perfection outside, but their re-recording of "The Last Valley" (along with a lush suite from "Mary Queen Of Scots") by John Barry is a powerful experience nonetheless. I confess to being a one-time supporter of "bar Barry-ism"; however, "The Last Valley" is a melodramatic, medieval masterwork that deservedly won an Academy Award. Barry composed a score with exquisite melodies and frighteningly strong vocals. This is not business-as-usual for the composer. What we hear is a gothic musical drama, the compositional equivalent of spending a dark night in the woods with bright moonlight shining through the trees. It achieves genuinely operatic proportions as a film underscore. Aside from Silva Screen's release appearing unmistakably 'cost friendly', the people who put in their share for this expanded edition of the score warrant kudos for giving the score another life.


Featuring tracks by Nino Rota, Carmine Coppola and Pietro Mascagni, representing music from "The Godfather", "The Godfather Part II" and "The Godfather Part III", "The Godfather Trilogy" 30th Anniversary album is a smashing tribute to the films and their soundtracks. It sounds terrific, Paul Bateman conducts the City of Prague Philharmonic and Crouch End Chorus in some of their finest performances, and the musical selection captures the cycle's most famous passages, whether underscore or source. Rota's 'The Godfather Waltz', 'The Immigrant', Coppola's 'Intermezzo', Mascagni's 'Preludio from "Cavalleria Rusticana"' - they are all here. That this music still sounds timeless after several years (30 years, obviously, from the beginning) is a joy to observe; the album has a classical feel (bloody corpse on the inside cover probably notwithstanding) that mirrors the scope of the series and makes offers you cannot refuse. You must listen to it. Compilation albums are not a major interest for everyone, but this is a collection that deserves spins in anyone's CD player.

World premiere suites from three Aaron Copland film scores and a 1939 World's Fair puppet show provide one the most amazing, and historically important, compilation albums in recent years. Sounding grand, "Celluloid Copland" introduces the world at large to typically marvelous Copland music that otherwise may very well have disappeared into the darkest recesses of the Library of Congress. The Eos Orchestra (under the capable direction of Jonathan Sheffer) superbly relays Copland's diversity from his excitable first film score, "The City", through the noble Americana of "The Cummington Story", past the eclectic "The North Star" ('The Song of the Guerillas'!) to the snappy "From Sorcery to Science". People tend to discover older scores by accident; "Celluloid Copland" is a release that ought to be actively sought out.

A significantly more contemporary collection is a theme album dedicated to two of the most consistent collaborators in Hollywood: director Robert Zemeckis and composer Alan Silvestri. "Cast Away", so named because it cleverly doubles as the OST to that film (which contains an atypically brief underscore), shows off the various highlights off their association, which is quite solid indeed. Using original tracks from "Romancing the Stone", the "Back to the Future" films, "Who Framed Roger Rabbit", "Death Becomes Her", "Forrest Gump", "Contact", "What Lies Beneath" and "Cast Away", the disc is a deliciously fun retrospective.


"A.I." by John Williams (Warner Bros.)

"Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within" by Elliot Goldenthal (Sony Classical)

"Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte des Loups)" by Joseph LoDuca (Virgin)


"Cleopatra" by Alex North (Varese Sarabande)

"The Son of Kong"/"The Most Dangerous Game" by Max Steiner (Marco Polo)

"The Last Valley" by John Barry (Silva Screen)


"The Godfather Trilogy" by Nino Rota; Carmine Coppola; Pietro Mascagni (Silva Screen)

"Celluloid Copland" by Aaron Copland (Telarc)

"Cast Away" by Alan Silvestri (Varese Sarabande)

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