February 2003 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Gary S. Dalkin
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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EDITOR’s CHOICE February 2003


Zulu Dawn  
Music composed and conducted by Elmer Bernstein
  Orchestrations by Christopher Palmer
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
  Available on Cerberus Records CTS-CD 0201 http://www.lalalandrecords.com  
Running time: 47.33

zulu dawn

Zulu Dawn was a sequel a long time coming, which when it finally arrived in 1979, fifteen years after the massively successful Zulu, promptly sank with barely a ripple. A shame, because while not of the calibre of the original, this was no negligible release, boasting first rate production values and sporting an incredible cast headed by Burt Lancaster, Simon Ward and Denholm Elliott, supported by Christopher Cazenove, Bob Hoskins, Donald Pickering, Nicholas Clay, Phil Daniel, Peter O'Toole, Nigel Davenport, Michael Jayston, Ronald Pickup, Ronald Lacey, John Mills and Freddie Jones. The stellar line-up continued behind the camera, with Elmer Bernstein replacing John Barry, whose brief score proved so iconic and effective in the 1964 film.

Bernstein's work is much more expansive than Barry's, and he makes no attempt to follow in Barry's style, treating the film very much as his own. The result is one of the richest, most thrilling and rewarding in a catalogue that has given us everything from The Magnificent Seven (1960) to the currently Oscar-nominated Far From Heaven (2002).

The short main title, "Morning", opens with a dash of percussive glitter suggesting a tranquil African dawn, leading immediately to the first thrilling action cue, drums-a-pounding for "The Chase". There's a decidedly tribal feel to this grandiose pulse-pounder, a wordless Zulu chorus setting up a dynamic scherzo with furiously rampaging brass and strings. Next comes something Bernstein has always been particularly good at, a patriotic march, simply entitled "Regimental March", easily the equal of those fine tunes he has penned for such films as The Great Escape (1963) and The Gypsy Months (1969). "River Crossing" begins as another march, one even more glorious and exciting than the one we have just heard, with all the ability to rouse of a particularly heroic main title. The mood then changes to one of rising tension before a return to the blazing central theme and a quiet, reflective epilogue. A further strong cue comes with the percussive rout of "Escape", an essay in terror and flight, the scene developing into a devastating confrontation with "Zulus" - Christopher Palmer's superb orchestrations delivering intense brass and extravagantly layered percussion with uttermost clarity.

Following this the familiar march "Men of Harlech", a source track not included on the original LP, proves welcome respite. After what amounts to an intermission it is back to "More Zulus" and even more blistering, relentless, break-taking action, this time with a dash of brassy heroics and many more powerfully constructed rhythmic twists and turns. "Formation" is another battle piece, this time with wordless male voice choir, again missing from the original LP, leading to various further action cues for the Battle of Isandhlwana. Throughout the writing is superb, making this as fine an action adventure score as one is likely to hear in many a month. Finally "Aftermath" paints a grim picture of the price of conflict, a spectral lament for the fallen and an effective end to a marvellous score.

This limited edition of 1500 copies, a reissue with much improved sound of the original Cerberus Records release of this soundtrack. It won't be available for long, so get a copy now while you can. Album of the month, absolutely no question about that.

Gary Dalkin

***** 5

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