November 1999 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

Jerry GOLDSMITH Contract on Cherry Street   Music for the TV film conducted by the composer   PROMETHEUS PCR 503 [47:20]

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If you were a teenager in the 70's, discovering film music through the great Jerry Goldsmith scores of the decade, such as Chinatown, Papillon, Logan's Run, Capricorn One and Alien, and now after 20 years found this CD on your doormat, you just might think Christmas had come early. Contract on Cherry Street was a 1977 TV movie, the last such that Jerry Goldsmith has scored to date, and the last of the six scores he wrote in 1977. Chronologically it comes immediately after Goldsmith's own favourite of all his scores, Islands in the Stream, and just prior to an astonishing 1978, in which he would create exceptional scores for Magic, The Boys From Brazil, The Swarm, Coma, Capricorn One and Damien: Omen II. This, previously unreleased score comes, therefore, from the very heart of Goldsmith's most inspired period as a film composer, when he delivered such a continuously prolific river of great scores that many of us then probably took his genius for granted. Here, in this music for a virtually forgotten TV movie, is yet one more opportunity to appreciate the distinctive qualities of Jerry Goldsmith's music, circa 1977.

Contract on Cherry Street was exceptional for a TV production, in that it stared Frank Sinatra in his first TV role, and had production values more usually associated with a feature film than the small screen. The booklet informs us that the film falls into the 70's vigilante/cop movie cycle popularised by Dirty Harry, The French Connection and Death Wish, telling the story of a New York cop, Frank Covanis, who takes on the Mafia when his partner is murdered by the Mob. Jerry Goldsmith appears to have approached the drama just as he would had it been intended for the big screen, with a powerful, driving and biting score, which 1970's TV speakers could not possibly have done justice to. While it would be good to see the film now and hear how the music sounded, the original master-tapes were clearly superbly recorded, for this album release sounds absolutely marvellous. The stereo sound is clear, full and detailed, and has an immense vibrancy and sense of presence. It puts many other soundtrack recordings from the same period to shame.

But what of the music itself? This is Goldsmith pared-down, lean and gritty and hard-bitten, taking a line between the intensity of the suspense music from Papillon and prefiguring the pulsating rhythmic drive of Capricorn One. This is music that, from the 'Main Title', introduces us into an unsettled, restless world of constantly shifting menace. The devices are familiar; the atonal piano, the staccato brass, precise percussion and incessant strings, giving way to a love theme not dissimilar to elements of Chinatown and Logan's Run. Here is the architecture of a nightmare world, for this is music with a real sense of space, of structure and design. Music which is deliberate, as intricately woven as a spider's web, as crafted to a similarly deadly a purpose. Respite comes after the opening suspense sequences, as 'Equal Partners' offers a melancholy reflection, presumably on Covanis' dead colleague, but with music which could be an eloquent love theme in the more conventional sense.

Many of the cues are quite short, but nevertheless work well as self-contained piece of music, while apart from the 'Main Title', 'False Arrest', 'Eulogizing', 'One Way Ride' and 'Breach of Contract' each allow for considerably fuller development. 'False Arrest' is a textbook example of building suspense over an extended scene, while 'Eulogizing' is a string lament with undercurrents of especial darkness, giving way to a jazz treatment which pre-dates 'Twin Peaks' by over a decade, ending as a fine variation on the love theme. 'One Way Ride' is initially understated, the following savagery all the more powerful for the previous restraint. 'Breach of Contract' provides a more emotional resolution to the drama than might be expected, with a forceful conjoining of suspense and more heartfelt music, leading to the jazzy resignation of the 'Finale', a touch immediately familiar from Chinatown, and more recently, LA Confidential.

It would be easy to praise this disc just a little too highly, simply because is so good, and because, after over 20 years, it finally makes this powerful score available. Certainly for serious Goldsmith fans this release is an essential purchase, and an invaluable addition to any collection of the composer's scores, but what it is not is a document of a previously lost masterpiece. This is certainly excellent Goldsmith, but it is not one of the composer's absolutely great scores. More casual listeners may find that having music from other scores by the composer from this period means that while the album is very desirable, their money would be better spent on acquiring one of Goldsmith's real classics. Nevertheless, this is a truly exceptional release, and comes thoroughly recommended.


Gary S. Dalkin


Gary S. Dalkin

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