Soundtrack Collection: Alien Nation to Always

 Alien Nation

Alien Nation (Jerry Goldsmith, 1988, rejected): Jerry Goldsmith was hired to score this science fiction drama and even completed composing and recording his score.  Before the film’s release, the decision was made to replace his score with one by composer Curt Sobel.  In 2005, Varese Sarabande released a limited edition CD of Goldsmith’s rejected score as part of their CD Club series.  No album of Sobel’s replacement score has ever been released.

The Goldsmith score is entirely performed on synthesizer, giving it a futuristic, other worldly quality.  This was one of only a handful of times that Goldsmith did an entirely electronic score and it has an experimental sound to it, although still very recognizably reflecting Goldsmith’s musical style. 

Much of the score centers around a very distinctive and memorable main theme.  Since Goldsmith’s score was not used in Alien Nation, he later re-worked that main theme for The Russia House, where it was given more of a jazz and orchestral treatment.  That film’s soundtrack is available as well and it is very interesting to hear the same theme in such different contexts.

All About Eve

All About Eve (Alfred Newman, 1950): The score to Bette Davis’ most famous film was paired with Newman’s Leave It To Heaven on a CD released by Film Score Monthly as part of their Golden Age Classics series.  Newman spent many years as the music director at 20th Century Fox and composed numerous memorable film scores as well as conducting or overseeing many others.  In recent years, it has been great to see the soundtrack specialty labels finally making more of his music available.

This is a very warm, fully orchestral score that includes many quiet, emotional moments as well as some occasional brassy fanfares.  The soundtrack contains 30 minutes of music, mostly presented in very short cues.  The longest cue on the album is about 2 1/2 minutes and many are less than a minute in length.  The album is mostly presented in monaural, but the last two tracks (“All the Eves” and “Encore”) are repeated in remixed stereo versions as well.

All Fall Down

All Fall Down (Alex North, 1962): Film Score Monthly released this as part of their Silver Age Classics series, paired with a lengthy suite from North’s score to The Outrage.  This is one of North’s more gentle scores, with melodic themes and a jazzy sound.  Horns, including the saxophone, play a dominant role here.  There also are some very gentle piano melodies that frequently come into play.  I’ve always had a fondness for simple piano melodies that are then joined by full orchestra, a technique that North uses pretty effectively several times in this score.

This is a tender, sensitive score from a composer whose scores I have sometimes felt tended towards the cold side, in spite of technical brilliance.  Because of the obscurity of the score and my somewhat ambivalent feeling towards North, I don’t remember listening to this score much before, although I’ve had the album for quite a while.  It is really a very pleasant score and I’m glad to re-discover it.

All the King's Men

All the King’s Men (James Horner, 2006): This recent adaptation of the classic novel and film was one of the biggest box-office and critical disappointments of recent years.  As a result, James Horner’s score was largely ignored, but it is actually one of the composer’s better works in recent years.

The score tends to be stirring and dramatic, with very melodic, fully orchestral themes.  The lengthy early cue “Bring Me the Hammer and I’ll Nail ‘Em Up” (several cues are titled after notable quotes from the film) is particularly stirring and is an example of the kind of emotionally-driven music that Horner tends to excel at as a composer.  Horner establishes a primary theme that is presented in a number of interesting versions.  Piano solo versions are heard fairly often and an intriguing solo violin version opens the cue “Adam’s World”.

Horner’s most famous successes have generally been with scores for large scale epics and action films, but throughout his career he has pretty regularly taken on these smaller, more character-driven dramas and those often have been the sources of some of his best scores.  This one is very underrated.

All the President's Men

All the President’s Men (David Shire, 1976): In the early ‘70s, David Shire was frequently the composer of choice for talkative, tension-filled thrillers that needed unobtrusive musical scores.  He showed a strong talent for creating simple, but effective, minimalist scores that would help to build tension and underscore emotional moments without calling excessive attention to the music.

Shire’s score to All the President’s Men, Alan J. Pakula’s classic film about the investigation into the Watergate break-in, is one of the best examples of this type of scoring.  The score is fairly brief (running about 30 minutes on CD, including a 3 minute excerpt from a Vivaldi concerto) and primarily centered around a simple but very effective melody.  The score is not fully orchestral, but instead primarily written for guitar and horns.  Shire shifts to a very percussion-heavy cue during  “Exit Nixon” and then closes the score very satisfyingly with a bit more of a rhythmic presentation of the main theme in “Finale and End Title”

The score was released by Film Score Monthly a couple years ago as part of their Silver Age Classics series.  Due to the relatively short running time, the score is paired on CD with Michael Small’s score to Pakula’s Klute.  The relative simplicity of the score and its single primary melody does result it the album seeming a bit repetitive (particularly in the mid-section), but this is alleviated quite a bit by the short running time and the extremely satisfying conclusion.

Allan Quartermain and the Lost City of Gold

Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold (Michael Linn, 1987): For King Solomon’s Mines, Cannon Films hired Jerry Goldsmith, who provided an exciting adventure score with a memorable main theme.  For the sequel, they hired composer Michael Linn to write a relatively small amount of original music (about 30 minutes or so) and score the rest of the film using some of Goldsmith’s music from the first film as well as various library music from a number of composers.

La-La Land Records put out a fairly short CD containing Linn’s original music, which also includes some periodic quotes of Goldsmith’s theme that were incorporated into the music.  As you might expect, Linn’s approach to scoring this sequel was to create music that sounded as much like Goldsmith’s score as possible.  Stylistically it does fit, but there really isn’t much in the way of new thematic material in the score and the soundtrack ends up sounding more like supplementary music for the King Solomon’s Mines soundtrack than an original score of its own.

An Almost Perfect Affair

An Almost Perfect Affair (Georges Delerue, 1979): I absolutely love the music of Georges Delerue.  I don’t think there are any other film composers that quite matched Delerue’s talent for creating melodies.  His scores frequently were quite simply beautiful and, often, very joyful.

Delerue’s score for An Almost Perfect Affair shows off his strengths very effectively.  The music is constantly melodic with an extremely uplifiting quality that makes it extremely pleasant to listen to.  Right from the beginning with “Main Title”, the main melody is presented in a sweeping, full-orchestra presentation.  Much of the score is primarily focused on some very tender, romantic music.  Occasionally, such as in “Bicycle Thief” and “Kidnapping Maria”, there are some nice brassy fanfares as well.

Varese Sarabande released the score on a 33 minute CD as part of their CD Club.  The release was a 1,000 copy limited edition that is now sold out at their online store.  Fortunately, Amazon does show a number of used and new copies available and the prices aren’t significantly higher than the original release.  This is a score very much worth making the effort to obtain.

Always

Always (John Williams, 1989): Steven Spielberg’s modern remake of the 1940s romantic drama A Guy Named Joe is one of the director’s least remembered (and least seen) films, although I do think it is underrated.  The film has a low-key, old-fashioned feel to it that made it feel kind of lightweight, particularly compared to the big-budget blockbusters that were Spielberg’s main focus at the time.  It really is a very nicely written and acted film, though, and I particularly found that my opinion of the film elevated quite a bit on repeat viewings.

The score to the film was, of course, by John Williams and is one of his more subtle compositions.  The score tends to favor strings, woodwinds and the occasional solo horn or piano with less of the percussion and brass that is typical of Williams’ more bombastic scores, which often included his efforts for Spielberg.  The soundtrack features several fairly lengthy cues, including the 8 1/2 minute long opening cue “Among the Clouds”, which gives Williams quite a bit of time to establish a mood and build on it.

The music is very melodic, but the style is atmospheric and doesn’t try to establish particularly distinctive themes.  There is an ethereal, almost dreamlike quality to the music that reflects the supernatural aspect of the film.   The lengthy cue “Pete in Heaven” is a particularly strong example of this quality to the music.  A key exception to this approach is “Follow Me”, a short but fast paced and very entertainingly cheerful piece that scored a key comic relief sequence early in the film. The closing cue “Dorinda’s Solo Flight” provides a very stirring conclusion to the music.

The soundtrack album is a rare case of a John Williams score album that also contained a substantial number of songs, all grouped as the first 6 tracks on the CD followed by 45 minutes of Williams’ music.  The famous Jerome Kern song “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” plays a pivotal role in the film and is featured twice on the CD: a version recorded by J.D. Souther specifically for the film as well as the well-known rendition by The Platters.  These two versions open and close the song portion of the album, respectively.  The album also includes songs performed by Lyle Lovett, Jimmy Buffett, Denette Hoover & Sherwood Ball, and Michael Smotherman.  The songs all have a kind of old-fashioned, country/folk sound to them and did reflect the mood of the film pretty well.

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