September 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Michael KAMEN & Eric CLAPTON
Lethal Weapon  
  limited edition expanded OST
  MKCD 01   [65:37]

Lethal Weapon

In the period immediately before scoring Lethal Weapon (1987) composer Michael Kamen worked in England on a series of British, or British set productions; Brazil, Lifeforce (both 1985), Highlander, Mona Lisa, Shoot for the Sun, Rita, Sue and Bob Too (all 1986). Then in collaboration with rock guitarist Eric Clapton he provided the soundtrack to one of the greatest thrillers ever made. Once heard the haunting main theme with Clapton on lead guitar would never be forgotten. The thriller was not live action cartoon cop buddy flick Lethal Weapon, but the six part BBC serial Edge of Darkness (1986). A real, serious, intelligent adult thriller concerned with vitally important issues. Immediately afterwards Kamen and Clapton essentially rehashed their theme for Lethal Weapon, and it opens this CD as "Meet Martin Riggs".

This is a limited edition CD (3000 hand numbered copies) released with full authorisation of the composer on Michael Kamen's own label, manufactured under licence from Warner Brothers by Rhino. As is becoming the fashion, the booklet names every member of the session orchestra which played on the soundtrack, as well as the "band" - Clapton, David Sanborn on sax, Kamen on keys, Henry Spinetti and Lawrence Cottle on drums and Dean Garcia on bass. With a playing time of 65 minutes this release is considerably expanded over the OST issued back in 1987 and is the first time anyone has been able to legitimately hear the thrilling four-minute action set-piece "Hollywood Blvd Chase" away from the film. Anticipating the driving excitement of John Williams' "Anderton's Great Escape" from Minority Report (2002) by fifteen years, it beggars belief that this superb cue was omitted from the original version of the album. It is the undoubted highlight of the score and towers over the already blistering near eight minute "The Desert".

There are several further cues marked either "never before released". These are: Suicide Attempt, The Jumper / Rog & Riggs Confrontation, The General's Car, SOB Know's Where I live (orchestral version), Yard Fight / Graveside. These cues, including "Hollywood Blvd Chase" have a total paying time of approximately 16 minutes. Additionally there are three cues labelled "recorded for, but not used in film". These are: We're Getting Too Old For This, The Weapon and Nightclub. The playing time is approximately 11 minutes.

The Edge of Darkness theme is reprised in "Suicide Attempt", being used to characterise Mel Gibson's Martin Riggs' troubled soul and recklessness, then hinted at throughout the score. "The Jumper / Rog & Riggs Confrontation" is a substantial stop-start battle between musical forces with playful light rock figures seeking to make their mark against darker suspense writing for the orchestra. Ultimately it is ingeniously arranged suspense music which goes nowhere in a most enjoyable fashion. Tracks five to nine will be familiar from the original version of the album, emphasising the jazzy, blusey, melodic side of the score so that we are halfway through the disc before we come to the majority of the previously omitted material. Predominantly orchestral cues presumably selected against to give the 1987 album more mainstream rock appeal.

If the stunning "Hollywood Blvd Chase" is the cue everyone has been waiting for, "The General's Car", "Yard Fight / Graveside" prove imaginatively powerful dramatic cues in their own right, making this a rare disc to fuse rock elements with full-blooded action scoring in a way which demonstrably works 100% without embarrassing anyone. The sound is excellent and Clapton gets a few moments, such as the final score cue, "Nightclub", to turn his amp all the way up to 11 in a workout with Sanborn's excellent sax. The only let down is the end title song, a routine light rock number performed by "Honeymoon Suite".

Rush out and get your copy now, but don't forget to pick up a DVD of Edge of Darkness (the 1986 BBC TV production, not any of the feature films with the same title) while you're doing so. It's the benchmark all thrillers should aspire to.

For more information visit www.michaelkamen.com

Gary S Dalkin

****(*)

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