We often as collectors of soundtracks or should I say film scores, ponder the question, how come this score has been released and this one has not, or why was this available on an LP recording or a cassette and there has not been a subsequent CD release or even a digital version made available. One such score is composer Carl Davis’s marvellously stirring soundtrack for CHAMPIONS-A TRUE STORY, which starred John Hurt in the role of Jockey Bob Champion. The film told of Champion’s battle against testicular cancer and his triumphant return to racing in which he won the Grand National riding the horse Aldaniti in 1981. The soundtrack or selections from it at least were issued at the time of the films release on an LP which was on Island records, this recording boasted the composer’s epic music and the theme song from the movie SOMETIMES performed by Dame Shirley Bassey. Since this release there has been nothing in the way of an official CD release, ok, yes there was a CD of the soundtrack issued on a label called Movie Tracks, but this was shall we say not exactly official. Plus, it omitted the title song by Bassey, I think probably because of the question of rights and royalties.
As I am sure Miss Bassey would not have hesitated to instruct her legal team to track down the label in question and make them pay. So why is this still not issued in any other format apart from the LP and a cassette that was issued in the USA? I have attempted to see if this could get a release but alas every time came up against a lot of red tape and invariably closed doors and brick walls. But this as they say is the nature of the beast, we call the film music business. The theme by Davis has been included on various compilations, normally of British film music, and on a handful of the recordings that Davis himself did with various orchestra’s over the years, but never the full soundtrack or even a straight re-issue of the tracks on the LP.
I was lucky if you can call it that to pick up the Movie Tracks compact disc many years ago, and glad I did so I can at times dip back into this wonderful emotive and inspiring work, but I still feel that there should be an official release and now some 35 years after the release of the LP thought maybe a review of the soundtrack might be in order, one never knows a record company might see it and think, this certainly is a score that needs releasing. (we can but dream and pray). Right from the opening bars of the first cue which is performed by a solitary and faraway sounding French horn which introduces The CHAMPIONS THEME we can hear immediately that this is going to be a rollercoaster ride of grandiose music that is filled with lush and lavish themes and vibrant and tantalising musical passages that will entertain, inspire and at the same emotionally destroy you.
The six note motif opens the proceedings and is repeated twice then a variation of it is performed again on horn, piano joins the proceedings and this in turn is underpinned by strings which sound warm and courageous, the string section begins to grow and expand upon the six note motif accompanied by piano and also haunting faraway sounding horns, trumpet is then added and strings embellish and support this until piano is then returned to create a stirring and concerto like sound as the strings swell and take on the central theme creating a melodic and drivingly beautiful piece that I think gets right to the heart and soul of the listener. Strings are then centre stage with piano dancing in and around them, percussion and brass are also brought into play as the piece moves towards its gloriously emotional and breath-taking crescendo. This opening piece is romance, and determination personified and one that I must admit sends shivers through my entire body on each listen, the surging strings, the proud brass, the elegant and powerful piano and the percussive elements are just perfection. The remainder of the score is equally as affecting and the music not only enhances and gives support to the movie, but it has a life of its own away from the images on screen. The tantalising colours and textures are varied and entertaining, with darkness, light, edgy moments, romantic interludes and melancholy compositions.
The Grand National sequence is particularly thrilling, with the music taking the lead and working beautifully with the exciting footage, its odd that this score has thus far not been given a CD release, as it is obviously a work of quality, richness and has a resounding and highly themeatic musical persona throughout, and also Carl Davis has to be one of the most renowned composers of film music in the world and is known for his numerous scores for silent movies as well as TV scores, ballets and concert hall music. This and the composers score for THE SNOW GOOSE would be a wonderful pairing on one compact disc don’t you think? So surely because of the sheer quality of the music on CHAMPIONS this has to be a contender for a release soon, Please…….are you listening, KRITZERLAND, KRONOS, SILVA SCREEN, or even Carl Davis,,,