Music Webmaster Len Mullenger







As the year draws to a close we ask our reviewers to recall the film music CDs that have delighted them the most this year.

Film Music Editor Ian Lace

First of all I would like to thank all our visitors for their support and loyalty since we began operations in January this year. And a thank you, too, to the many people who have been kind enough to send us messages of encouragement. My selection below supports and expends my Editors Choice List which appears elsewhere on this site.

Our first crop of reviews appeared on this site in February and I was immediately impressed with Marco Polo's splendid release of Max Steiner's landmark complete score for King Kong. Another major release that month was the collection of Nino Rota scores - including The Leopard, 8½ and La Dolce Vita conducted by Riccardo Muti no less. A magnificent Max Steiner album, entitled The Flame and the Arrow from Scannán has visited my CD tray a lot this year; so too did the Turner CD of the dialogue and Steiner's music from the immortal Casablanca.

The Academy Award went, of course to James Horner's Titanic (Sony) but I have to say I preferred John Williams's affecting nominated music for Amistad (DreamWorks). I was also taken by Wiliams's music for Seven Years in Tibet (Sony); but, my premiere Williams accolade must be awarded to his most moving Hymn to the Fallen from DreamWorks' Saving Private Ryan.

Of course, this was the year of the Gershwin Centenary and this site reviewed many albums devoted to his music. Only those with Hollywood connections were considered eligible for the Editors Choice otherwise that accolade would have practically been devoted to Gershwin. But I was very impressed with the Turner album, "George and Ira Gershwin in Hollywood" - beautifully presented; and the ASV recording of Gershwin's film music played in George's style by Jack Gibbons (piano).

Varèse Sarabande released some marvellous recordings of classic film scores this year. Most memorable for me were: the collection: "20th Century Fox - Music for films from the Golden Age"; David Raksin's colourful score for the historic romp, Forever Amber, Elmer Bernstein's beautiful evocation of the joys and terrors of childhood that is, To Kill A mocking Bird, Bernard Herrmann's darkly witty The Trouble With Harry, Jerry Goldsmith's orientally- coloured The Sand Pebbles and the fabulous collection of his fantasy and sci- fi scores, "Frontiers"; plus Alex North's exciting Viva Zapata. But the stand- out VS release for me was Alex North's brilliant score for The Agony and the Ecstasy.

Silva Screen relased two excellent compilations: "Cinema's Classic Romances" and best of all, "Cinema Café", a truly outstanding and stimulating collection of continental European scores. I was also very glad to catch up with their release of Jerry Goldsmith's enchanting score for Legend.

Ryko have released some excellent CDs this year with their distinctive format that includes CD-ROM content, usually scenes from the films plus excellent notes in their fold out booklets that have allowed large reproductions of the films' posters. I have especially enjoyed: It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Taras Bulba and The Thomas Crown Affair.

Nonesuch have released some very valuable compilations: the romantic music of Georges Delerue, music for the James Dean classics by Leonard Rosenman and an excellent album devoted to the varied music of Alex North. But my favourite release from this label was Humoresque, Franz Waxman's arrangements and music for this old Warner Bros film played by Nadja Salerno-Sonenberg with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Litton.

From RHINO came a sumptuously presented 4 CD tribute to Warner Bros celebrating their 75th anniversary.

I have to say that the standard of new scores has, in my opinion, been disappointing this year. Few have impressed me. Besides the James Horner and John Williams releases mentioned above I would just add Alan Silvestri's uplifting, almost beatific music for Contact (Warner), Randy Edelman's light-hearted and very evocative music for Six Days, Seven Nights and Thomas Newman's heart-warming music for The Horse Whisperer

As the year ends one of the last CDs to come my way and another outstanding Marco Polo album, Moby Dick, score by a little known English composer, the late Philip Sainton. The Collector's Edition of John Williams's Close Encounters of the Third Kind was memorable too in adding close on 40 minutes of previously unreleased material.

So having asked the reviewers to select just six recordings that have delighted them the most in 1998, my selection has to be:-

Thomas Newman: The Horse Whisperer - Hollywood

Collection: Cinema Café - Silva Screen

Alan Silvestri: Contact - Warner

Alex North: The Agony and the Ecstasy - Varese Sarabande

Collection: Nino Rota film music - Sony

Elmer Bernstein: To Kill A mocking Bird - Varese Sarabande.  Ian Lace

Rob Barnett:

Going by what I have heard this has not been a wonderful year for original film music. Top of my list of new scores is The Horse Whisperer by Thomas Newman which is a bouncing, poetic and winsome score - a fresh creation out of a rather threadbare tradition. Mulan by Jerry Goldsmith includes some treasurable material and I have fallen utterly for the theme song.

Although not reviewed by me I must mention John Williams' ‘Hymn to the Fallen' from Saving Private Ryan - a great though harrowing film with a score to match. The hymn will stand very happily, and with great nobility, as a remembrance for those fallen in any conflict. I fully expect it to have a concert life of its own.

I should also mention Mark Isham's darkly bellicose music for Blade. In the field of new or reissued recordings of classic film music I am not sure where to stop. There have been a large number of good and great releases. At the top must go the OST of Herrmann's 1976 Taxi Driver moodily neon-lit and totally immersed in the romance and loneliness of the big city. I have also enjoyed the Varese Sarabande's Psycho, The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad and The Trouble With Harry. I should also mention Poledouris's Conan and Michel Legrand's The Thomas Crown Affair.

Silva Screen's three anthologies, the mixed composer Monster Music (with a not-to-be-missed uproarious Flintstones track), "Cinema's Classic Romances" and "Cinema Café" are the mark of a company with courage and an unerring eye for a gap in the market. All of these are worth having and hearing. Cinema Café has a very good shot at representing Continental cinema so often neglected in the face of the Hollywood machine. The Romances disc is not at all treacly and carries all before it in Sarde's glowingly imagined music for Polanski's Tess. Great playing from the City of Prague Orchestra on all three sets.

My selection is:-

Thomas Newman: The Horse Whisperer - Sony

Mark Isham Blade

Herrmann - Taxi Driver Arista

Monster Anthology - Silva Screen

Cinema Café - Silva Screen

Cinema's Classic Romances - Silva Screen

Paul Tonks:

There is no getting away from the fact that the popularity of film music right now is almost solely due to the success of Titanic. I have been constantly amazed by the size of Sony's marketing campaign on the 2 volumes, and also by the strange places I hear Horner's music.

I was taking a romantic stroll through a park with my fiancee, & an elderly gentleman passed by on a near-miss Penny Farthing with a gas-powered wireless poking out of a satchel bag. Sure enough it was the ‘oirish' pipes that breezed us by. I was in a bookshop and a very small girl's walkman headphones leaked ‘Death of Titanic' at me as we stood in the Children's Section ( I was there for research...).

Even more interesting has been the appearance of the Titanic (Horner) sound in film music since. I ought not to point fingers, but those Uillean pipes sure are doing the rounds right now.

I don't think we're in for a glut of samey sounding music - certainly no more than has been the case in the action genre this year anyway. The point is that for all that may annoy about Ms Dion et al, the score has raised film music to a respectable level by the public. That has to be a good start. If the punters want it, the studios will back it, and hopefully that means composers' opinions will be slightly more respected too.

So in the wake of what went down, what was there of worth ? My own highlights of the year will undoubtedly differ from most since my criteria were established long before stowing aboard Film Music on the Web. So let it be said that my choices are based on having been particularly captured enough that the repeat play quality of each has lasted right up to the point of writing.

1) New film music recordings

Firelight - Christopher Gunning - Silva Screen - FILMCD 198

Ronin - Emil Cmiral - Varese Sarabande - VSD-5977

2) Classic film music recordings

Body Heat - John Barry - Varese Sarabane - VSD-5951

The Agony & the Ecstasy- Alex North - Varese Sarabande - VSD-5901

3) Compilations

Cinema Choral Classics II - Silva Screen - SILKD 6017

Screen Extravaganza - MCI - MPMCD2 004

Return to Index