Music Webmaster Len Mullenger
SPECIAL FEATURE REVIEW
75 Years WARNER BROS Entertaining the World
RHINO R2 75287 4 CD Purchase from Amazon $53.97
|Introduction - Review 4CD Contents
LP Box Set
Introduction - Warner Bros. 50th Anniversary LP Box Set
The jewel of my film music collection is a silver-coloured two-box set of LPs issued in 1973 by Warner Bros Records Inc. They are/were: 3XX 2736 Fifty Years of Film Music and 3XX 2737 Fifty Years of Film. The first set comprised 3 LPs and a beautifully produced LP sized booklet with many pictures of Warner Bros musicals and dramas and it also included informative essays on the Warner Bros music department with portraits of its chief, Leo B. Forbstein, Ray Heindorf, who was in charge of all the major musicals from 42nd Street (1933) to The Music Man (1962), and Hugo Friedhofer who served as orchestrator to so many composers, principally Korngold and Steiner, before going on to write some memorable scores himself (notably The Best Years of Our Lives for Samuel Goldwyn). Portraits of the studio's major composers were also included: Korngold, Max Steiner, Franz Waxman, Dimitri Tiomkin and Alex North - together with Harry Warren and Al Dubin (for the musicals). One of the LPs in this first set was devoted to symphonic scores mostly by Korngold and Steiner but with two scores each from Franz Waxman, Alex North and Dimitri Tiomkin. The other two LPs were of songs from the musicals including one marvellous, whole LP devoted to those from the celebrated Busby Berkeley musicals of the 1930s. The final LP included songs from such artists as:Judy Garland (A Star is Born) and Doris Day (Calamity Jane), Peggy Lee (Pete Kelly's Blues) Frank Sinatra (The Young At Heart) and James Cagney (Yankee Doodle Dandy). The three LPs in the second box set, which again was accompanied by a lavishly illustrated and substantial LP-sized book, comprised some 80 excerpts (dialogue, sound effects and music) from major Warner Bros productions from Don Juan (1926) and the trailer for The Jazz Singer (1927) through to Clint Eastwood's "..do you feel lucky...well, do you, punk!?!" from Dirty Harry (1972). These sets must now be much sought after collectors items and worth their weight in gold.
Review - Warner Bros 75th Anniversary 4CD Set
Now, 25 years later, comes this lavishly produced 4-CD set. It is beautifully presented as a substantial Royal Blue Velvet covered thick board folder embossed on the front with a large Warner Bros. Shield in gold metallic foil. The folder is protected by a transparent plastic cover with text printed in gold on the front and white on the back (for the contents of the discs) to show up against the dark blue background. The folder has an inside pocket holding an 80 page sumptuously illustrated book. The four CDs are inlaid in a clear plastic fold-out which is the centre piece of the folder.
As you will see from the contents listed below three CDs are devoted to the songs. To my mind this is the main weakness of this collection - not enough attention is given to Warner's symphonic scores. This was probably intentional because, after all, Rhino is principally a popular entertainment company so, in a way, they cannot be blamed for aiming this set at as broad an audience as possible to maximise what must have been a not insignificant investment. This accent on the songs underlines the main flaw in the production of the book, and that is the treatment of Dimitri Tiomkin - although not solely contracted to Warner Bros, as was Steiner (for the majority of his career), Tiomkin, nevertheless, made a significant contribution to the studio's film music output. His work for Warner Bros. is dismissed in a short paragraph mentioning Giant, just one of his many Warner scores (this was not so in the Warner Bros. 50th Anniversary Film Music Silver Box set where he was given pride of place with Korngold, Steiner and Waxman on a major spread in the accompanying book. Tiomkin's Warner Bros scores included: The High and the Mighty; Land of the Pharaohs [both included in the 50th Anniversary set], Strangers on a Train, Dial M for Murder, and The Old Man and the Sea). This omission is glaring when one considers the in depth treatment given to say, Vangelis's minimal contribution to Warner Bros. output.
I hasten to add that there is a lot to admire in the book. Much fascinating detail is given about the production of all those marvellous 1930s musicals - those fabulous Busby Berkeley creations, about the music for the lovable Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoons and of the working conditions in the Warner Bros. Music Department. The studios' music department was the best equipped in Hollywood with some of the finest players and the music sound was recorded in such a way that it made an impact and was very audible (although not distracting) - the heavy bass ostinatos, for example, used so tellingly for dramatic effect. The book details stories behind the songs and also includes useful information about many of the composers working today, including Danny Elfman and James Newton Howard, and interesting notes on the many songs included.
Clearly the choice of material (nearly five hours of listening time) from so many films over 75 years will mean that some favourites had to be omitted. But fans will be delighted that previously unavailable tracks have been included such as: recently discovered underscoring cues from Now Voyager and A Summer Place on Disc 1; the first stereo release of the Peggy Lee and Ella Fitzgerald tracks from Pete Kelly's Blues (Disc 3); and Doris Day's original performance of "It's Magic" (derived from nitrate pre-recordings recently unearthed from the Warner vaults); and the first-ever CD issue of selections from such films as: Gypsy, Finian's Rainbow, Gay Purr-ee, Blazing Saddles and Mame etc.
The material is listed below and it really speaks for itself - I would merely mention a few of what for me are outstanding tracks. From Disc 1: the new material from Now Voyager; the vibrant Gypsy score; Jerry Goldsmith's score for Twilight Zone - the Movie, Danny Elfman's Gothic/heroic Batman theme; and Maurice Jarre's colourful music for The Mosquito Coast. From Disc 2 - all the early Busby Berkeley musicals tracks; the inimitable James Cagney singing "Yankee Doodle" and "Give My Regards to Broadway" (the 50th Anniversary set had so much more fine material from this outstanding classic musical); of course, "As Time Goes By" from Casablanca; Bette Davis singing "They're Either too Young or too Old" (the book gives a fascinating account of how this song was recorded); and Doris Day singing "It's Magic" from Romance on the High Seas, her first film. From Disc 3 Judy Garland sizzling in "The Man that Got Away"; the Pete Kelly's Blues numbers; Robert Preston's persuasive "Ya Got Trouble" from The Music Man; Rex Harrison talking/singing "I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face" (My Fair Lady); Richard Harris in that very romantic song "How to Handle a Woman (Camelot) Lucille Ball and Beatrice Arthur belting out "Bosom Buddies"; and last but by no means least the hilariously risqué take off by Madeline Kahn of Marlene Dietrich in "I'm Tired" from Blazing Saddles. Finally, from Disc 4 (I am afraid, for me, the least interesting) Arthur's theme and Rod Stewart singing "That's What Friends are For" from the hilarious Night Shift.
In conclusion I have to say that I do miss the content of the 3 LPs of the Warner Bros. 50 Years of Film set: excerpts from so many favourite Warner Bros. Films with dialogue and sound effects as well as music. Perhaps Rhino might be persuaded to issue a second set updating those treasured 3 LPs?
The Contents of the 4 -CDS - Warner Bros. 75th Anniversary Box Set
Warner Bros. Scores 1 [77:08] - comprises original orchestral recordings of main themes and suites from the following films:-
The Adventures of Robin Hood; Now Voyager; Kings Row; Casablanca; A Streetcar Named Desire; East of Eden; Giant; A Summer Place; The Nun's Story; Gypsy; Bonnie and Clyde; Summer of '42; Dirty Harry, THX 1138; A Clockwork Orange; Deliverance; Superman; Chariots of Fire;; Twilight Zone: The Movie; The Colour Purple; The Mosquito Coast; The Mission; Batman; Driving Miss Daisy; Unforgiven.
Warner Bros. Scores 2 [77:07 ] Songs: 1927 - 1953
Al Jolson/My Mammy (The Jazz Singer); Fanny Brice/My Man (My Man); Ruby Keeler, Dick Powell & Chorus/42nd Street (42nd Street); Wini Shaw and Dick Powell/Lullaby of Broadway (Gold Diggers of 1935); Dick Powell and the Mills Bros/Lulu's Back in Town (Broadway Gondolier); Dick Powell, Frances Langford, Johnny "Scat" Davis, Gene Krupa and Benny Goodman and his Orchestra/Hooray for Hollywood (Hollywood Hotel); Louis Armstrong/Jeepers Creepers (Going Places); Jimmie Lunceford and his Orchestra/Blues in the Night (Blues in the Night); James Cagney/Yankee Doodle Boy [including Give My Regards to Broadway]/Yankee Doodle Dandy; Dooley Wilson/As Time Goes By (Casablanca); Hattie McDaniel/Ice Cold Katie (Thank Your Lucky Stars); Bette Davis/They're Either Too Young Or Too Old (Thank Your Lucky Stars); The Andrews Sisters/Hollywood Canteen (Hollywood Canteen); Al Jolson/Swanee (Rhapsody in Blue); Mary Martin/My Heart Belongs to Daddy (Night and Day); Cary Grant and Ginny Simms/You're the Top (Night and Day); Doris Day/It's Magic (Romance on the High Seas); Eddie Cantor/Makin' Whoopee (The Eddie Cantor Story); Doris Day/Secret Love (Calamity Jane); Merrie Melodies/Looney Tunes Medley - bonus track.
Warner Bros. Scores CD3 [70:17] Songs: 1954 - 1976
Judy Garland/ The Man that Got Away (A Star is Born); Peggy Lee/ He Needs Me/Sugar (Pete Kelly's Blues); Ella Fitzgerald sings title song: Pete Kelly's Blues; Gogi Grant/ Why Was I Born? (The Helen Morgan Story); Robert Preston/ Ya Got trouble (The Music Man); Shirley Jones/ Til There Was You (The Music Man); Bette Davis sings title song from Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?; Henry Mancini and his Orchestra play Days of Wine and Roses; Judy Garland/ Paris is a Lonely Town (Gay Purr-ee); Rex Harrison/ I've Grown Accustomed to Her Face (My Fair Lady); Don Knotts/ I Wish I Were A Fish (The Incredible Mr. Limpet); Richard Harris/ How to Handle a Woman (Camelot); Petula Clark/ Old Devil Moon (Finian's Rainbow); Jack Coven/ One Tin Soldier (Billy); Curtis Mayfield/ Superfly (Superfly); Madeline Kahn/ I'm Tired (Blazing Saddles); Lucille Ball and Beatrice Arthur/ Bosom Buddies (Mame); Aretha Franklin/ Something He Can Feel (Sparkle); Barbara Streisand/ Evergreen (Love Theme from A Star is Born).
Warner Bros. Scores CD4 [77:53] Songs: 1977-1997
David Gates/ title song from The Goodbye Girl; Eddie Rabbitt - title song from Every Which way But Loose; Maureen McGovern/Can you Read My Mind (Superman); Paul Simon/Late in the Evening (One-Trick Pony); Bette Midler/Stay With Me (Divine Madness); Willie Nelson/On the Road Again(Honeysuckle Rose); Christopher Cross/Best That You Can Do (Arthur); James Ingram and Patti Austin/ How Do You Keep the Music Playing? (Best Friends); Rod Stewart/ That's What Friends Are For (Night Shift); Tina Turner/ We Don't Need Another Hero (Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome); Force M.D.s/Tender Love (Krush Groove); Rick Moranis and Ellen Greene/ Suddenly, Seymour (Little Shop of Horrors); Madonna sings title song from Who's That Girl?; Sting with Eric Clapton/ It's Probably Me (Lethal Weapon 3); John Michael Montgomery/ Dream On Texas Ladies (Maverick); Seal/ A Kiss from A Rose (Batman Forever); Johnny Hartman/ I See Your Face Before Me (The Bridges of Madison County); Coolio/ The Winner (Space Jam); Paul McCartney/ The World Tonight (Father's Day); Johnny Mercer/ Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive (L.A. Confidential).
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