This compilation appears somewhat belatedly after the 60th anniversary of the D-Day commemorations – hence, presumably, the title, The Longest Day. The label, Prime Time, is a Silva Screen brand name, making this a rather sneakily clever repackaging-of-old-material ploy. Enthusiasts are advised to examine the content carefully to see how many tracks duplicate material already in their collections. Nevertheless, four CDs for the price of one represents a lot of music for the money, even if over four hours of war film music leaves one more shaken than stirred.
From Silva's (and Cloud Nine's) huge backlog library the compilation includes material recorded by the regular stalwarts – The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and the Crouch end Festival Chorus, plus the Philharmonia, the Royal Ballet Sinfonia, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra, all conducted by various conductors including Nic Raine, Kenneth Alwyn and Paul Bateman.
Most performances are good, some very good. Most of the music is original rather than source music. Amongst the latter there is a rather painful arrangement for wordless voices of Antonin Dvorak's Largo from his New World Symphony, as utilised in Paradise Road (1997). Scores from a number of British composers better known for their classical music are included: Vaughan Williams (Coastal Command), Bax (Malta GC) Frankel (Battle of the Bulge) and Eric Coates (The Dam Busters), most prominent; but why wasn't the best of all British 'war' film scores not included – i.e. Arthus Bliss's Things to Come?
Enthusiasts will have their own favourites. From the swaggering, my favourites: Ron Goodwin's 'Luftwaffe March' from Battle of Britain and his Main Title music from Where Eagles Dare, John Addison's March from A Bridge Too Far, Max Steiner's March from The Caine Mutiny, Tiomkin's The Guns of Navarone music and Jerry Goldsmith's Patton music. I welcomed some unusual content: Max Steiner's Sergeant York Overture that cleverly compresses such a lot of varied music into six minutes and Hugo Friedhofer's powerful music for Alfred Hitchcock's Lifeboat, brilliantly conveying a sense of claustrophobia and mounting, tense suspicion and hysteria. In less stressful mood, I enjoyed Yared's atmospheric and romantic music for The English Patient, and John Williams's 'Exsultate Justi' from Empire of the Sun.
The 8-page booklet, unlike most Silva productions, is very skimpy providing no description of the films only terse listings of film, year of production, composer's name, stars and director.
Over four hours of war film music and a generally pleasing compilation. Prospective purchasers are advised, however, to check for duplications in their Silva Screen records collection.
Gary Dalkin adds:-
To answer a question Ian raises, presumably Bliss' Things to Come wasn't included because the subtitle of this anthology is "The Ultimate World War Movie Theme Collection" and Silva interpreted that literally to cover only the two "official" World Wars. Nevertheless, Things to Come depicts a fictional WWII beginning in 1940 (the film was made in 1936) and it wouldn't have been stretching too fine a point to feature some of the music.
Elsewhere one can argue over individual inclusions and omissions (such as the validity of including classical pieces used in films, or music written for television series), but as Ian says, there is a lot of fine music here and it would be churlish to nitpick at such a bargain price. Even those with extensive collections will find this release plugs a few gaps, while those just beginning a film music collection will find this a useful building block and point for further exploration of the excellent scoring to be found in several decades of war movies.