Film themes and classical selections from: Barry Lyndon, Midnight Cowboy, Diva, The Fellowship Of The Ring, Gallipoli, Romeo and Juliet (1968), Romeo + Juliet, Chariots of Fire, Bilitis, Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, Cinema Paradiso, Once Upon A Time In America, The Mission, You Only Live Twice, The Piano, Platoon, Hannibal, Death In Venice, American Beauty, The Return of The King, A.I. – Artificial Intelligence, Somewhere in Time, On Her Majesties Secret Service, Patriot Games, Gladiator, Raging Bull, The Deer Hunter, Out Of Africa
This 2CD set from Silva Screen describes itself as 'the cinematic chillout album' and carries a sticker suggesting it contains '30 of cinema's most blissed out and sublime themes'. Being a sad old duffer of 42 I haven't a clue what this means, miserably failing to recognise terms like 'chillout' and 'blissed out' as part of the English language; Microsoft Word informs me they are spelling errors.
Anyway, the album contains 30 tracks and plays for just under 2½ hours. It rounds up a collection of gentle, melodic orchestral themes and suites which have been re-recorded by Silva Screen over the years with the City of Prague Philharmonic – and adds a few new recordings and versions of classical pieces which don't count as film themes just because they happen to have been used in films.
It's mostly very pleasant in a soporific bottle-of-wine-on-a-summer's-evening kind of way, but it's also rather like listening to the Stepford housewife's choice rather than real film music; pre-digested orchestral lullabies with all the bits that might keep you awake thoughtfully pre-filtered out. All very lush, relaxing and attractive, the perfect thing for falling asleep to in a nice warm bath.
The orchestral selections are joined by a handful of electronic tracks performed by Mark Ayres; music from Diva, Chariots of Fire, Bilitis, and Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence, and they do seem a little out of place beside the orchestral cues even though they effectively maintain the gentle mood and the quality of Mark Ayres samples has drastically improved in recent years. Bilitis in particular sounds very close to Francois Lai's original soundtrack recording.
Disc one highlights include a strikingly authentic version of Enya's 'May It Be' from The Fellowship of the Ring performed by Tara Scammell (a song far more enjoyable on album than in the film, where it simply didn't belong), a lovely version of Sean O'Riorda's 'Women of Ireland' (featured in Barry Lyndon), and two cues from Morricone's Once Upon A Time in America, with beautiful vocals from soprano Jill Washington.
Highlights of disc two are a suite from John Barry's You Only Live Twice, a guitar duet, plus flute, on 'Cavatina' from The Deerhunter, and Patrick Cassidy's operatic set-piece 'Vide Cor Meum' from Hannibal. Rick Clark makes a good job of capturing the spirit of American Beauty, thankfully sans marimbas, with the cues 'Any Other Name / Dead Already'. The disc ends with an excellent take on John Barry's Out Of Africa.
However, it all goes very badly wrong with the ubiquitous 'Now We Are Free' from Gladiator, with a truly appalling arrangement which has to be heard to be disbelieved. Enough to say a pan pipe-esque flute is no adequate replacement for the original orchestration, the result being a laughably awful fiasco which make an Incantation revival seem like an exciting prospect in comparison. Apart from this though the album is much more enjoyable than the 'cool' packaging and language would suggest, and is perhaps just the thing for a long romantic evening.
Ian Lace adds:
I Couldn't have put it better and find myself in complete agreement with Gary on this one.