The team of Bill Stromberg & John Morgan appears incapable of doing film
music any injustice. Classic filmusic is already made of gold, but these
two squelch the mere attempt to tarnish it. The music of Victor Young, a
paragon of the cinematic arts, receives faithful representation in their
hands. The only selections, not previously unreleased, come from "Gulliver's
Travels," and virtually everything is more than competent.
The sound for the album is authentic, as are the performances from the orchestra.
It is difficult to believe that these are not remastered period recordings!
The extensive, if sometimes unclear, liner notes by Bill Whitaker keep interest,
and additional notes by John Morgan make reading the booklet a pleasure.
The album opens with Young's witty 'Prelude (March)' from "The Greatest Show
On Earth." It is a sprightly, atypically fancy circus march, unmistakably
the work of Victor Young and thus unapologetically entertaining.
Following is a suite of music (reconstructed by Mr. Morgan) from "The Uninvited,"
arguably the finest ghost movie yet. The lovely Rachmaninoff-styled main
theme in the 'Prelude' would later transform into song standard form as 'Stella
by Starlight,' but its appearances throughout the suite are bare icing on
the metaphorical cake. 'The Squirrel Chase' is more humorous artistry from
Young, its piano runs and brief pseudo-Romantic interludes sure to garner
a smile, and 'The Village' is a short, soft-spoken journey introducing a
delicately humanistic side to the score. 'The Sobbing Ghost' is first mysterious,
for the presence of otherworldly inhabitants now known, but then it brightens
into a modest melody of amenity. This leads the listener to 'Sunday Morning
- Stella's Emotions.' The cue evolves into a smooth rendering of the film's
theme for Stella, but -- opposite of the track before -- becomes more mysterious.
'The Cliff' offers a full version of the Stella theme amid cyclonic modulations
and the suite's first musically threatening moment. The modulations reappear
in 'Grandfather and the Cliff' and the mystery motifs develop as eerily as
ever; a piercing horn & trumpet call gives insight to the nature of a
clouded threat. Bringing perfect closure to the suite is 'End of Ghost -
Finale,' with the capsulation of the film's principal material, and the glorious
final, resounding statement of the Stella theme.
The suite from "Gulliver's Travels" (again, Mr. Morgan) is less substantial,
concentrating more on pure entertainment than much else, but is immensely
welcome nonetheless. 'Prelude - The Scroll and Storm' is a fine overture,
presenting the central themes (most taken from songs by Leo Robin & Ralph
Rainger) and Young's rich arrangements. One might hypothesise that the title
'Pussyfoot March' is so descriptive of the music that further comment is
unnecessary... and one would be correct...(!) 'Giant in Tow' is, for the
most part, cartoonish prattle -- only a playful ditty breaks apart some of
the predictability. A lengthy track titled 'Gabby and the King - The Tower
- The Archers' is more agreeable as the parts gel into a definite structure.
'Finale' does as a finale should in closing, but the Moscow Symphony Chorus
sounds garbled, either a case of poor recording or poor diction.
A suite from "Bright Leaf" ends the disc. The 'Prelude - Welcome to Kingsmont'
seems almost tailor-made for the concert hall. It is a nigh-on perfect musical
portrait of the American South. 'Sonia' paints the picture of sombre beauty,
whereas 'Machine Montage' goes for the jugular, assertively marching forward.
It is in 'Margaret' that Young tries for a tone of paranoia, but eventually
gives way to a seductive tune. 'Tobacco Montage,' like 'Machine,' is a rough
piece, and surprisingly acute. 'Suicide' makes things rougher, as it delves
into death and despair in classic Hollywood fashion. 'Sonia and the Wedding'
offers more beauty and Southern charm, along with a snippet from Mendelssohn
and sheer romanticism (saddened by oppressive overtones). The darkness of
'Southern Vengeance - The Fire - Finale' closes the disc, the finale giving
satisfying, thrilling closure to the listening experience.
The album is proof of Victor Young's skill as more than just a composer of
music for easy listening. It is heartily recommendable to anyone with an
interest in good music, and is a must-hear compilation for Young fans. (Old
And Ian Lace adds:-