LA LA LAND records is a label we all know and love, it’s a label that we often look to and await with bated breath at what wonders they will uncover and announce. This is a label that never sleeps, and in recent months have given us a number of great soundtracks and released them all in an expanded form.
THE TOWERING INFERNO is one such score by the ever-popular John Williams. It is a score that came quite early on his career or at least one that came with the credit of John Williams as opposed to Johnny Williams which we had known him as before. It is probably true to say that it was the likes of films such as THE TOWERING INFERNO and EARTHQUAKE that alerted the wider soundtrack collecting community to the delights and talents of Williams. These along with THE POSEIDEN ADVENTURE were the staple diet of cinema goers during the 1970’s and THE TOWERING INFERNO in particular was a movie that seemed to showcase the composers ample talent, the long opening sequence was a scene setter for the remainder of the movie, with Williams music taking centre stage as it enhanced and supported the approach of the helicopter and the sight of the tower itself in the opening credits. It is probably one of the longest and most effective opening title sequences in cinema history, but don’t quote me on that. The score itself is a highly dramatic one in which Williams enlists searing strings and apprehensive brass along with booming percussion that underscore the action scenes wonderfully. The score however also includes a number of less tense compositions, and the composer displays his versatility and provides us with some easy listening material as well as some near atonal pieces that although not strictly melodic do still contain a fleeting hint of a theme.
The music in the movie provided a inside view of what was going on or what was about to happen, the composer at times scoring the movie as if his music was either one of the characters or even the destructive fire itself. I think the easier sounding tracks such as cues like SHORT GOODBYES do have at their core a sound and style that has affiliations with Henry Mancini or at least his rich, haunting and melodious sound. There are I have to say a number of source music cues on the second disc of the score, but these are also interesting and a respite from the drama and mayhem. Williams employing horns underlining subtle vibes, sultry saxophones, piano, double bass and woods to create an air of the romantic or the laid back, as in LISOLETTE AND HARLEE and further embellishing these with strings, keyboard, electric bass guitar and light percussion. This two-disc edition of the score is a desirable one and I know it will be out of stock soon if it is not already.
It comes as part of the JOHN WILLIAMS DISASTER MOVIE SOUNDTRACK COLLECTION which also includes the EARTHQUAKE and THE POSEIDEN ADVENTURE. So, it’s a Williams fans dream come true, and I have to say that LA LA LAND are very good at making dreams come true in the soundtrack world. I did however find that on THE TOWERING INFERNO in-particular there was some mild distortion on a couple of the tracks, more noticeable in the MAIN TITLE on disc 2, but not enough to spoil the enjoyment of the listener. The two-disc have a total of fifty-eight tracks and include alternate takes and some cues that were not used in the movie. It’s a must have for any film music connoisseur.
EARTHQUAKE is one of my favourite John Williams scores, well I say score, but I think it’s the theme more than anything that attracts me to this soundtrack. I remember getting the LP record many years ago on MCA and playing the opening theme over and over again, in many ways the MAIN TITLE has to it a menacing musical persona a kind of lumbering sound but also contains a strong and pulsating thematic property. It has that subtle beginning that erupts after a few seconds into a horn led theme which is underlined by strings and punctuated by more brass. There was just something about it that I found irresistible and infectious. This edition of the soundtrack contains thirty-three tracks, which are taken from the film score and from the original LP recording, plus a handful of alternate takes.
We can hear within the score trademark sounds that were already evolving as the Williams sound and evoked a number of his TV scores such as LOST IN SPACE and THE LAND OF THE GIANTS, he also utilised electronic keyboard in one of the cues MILES ON WHEELS, which is a fast paced piece with brass and percussion, and again I say this could be the work of Mancini as it has that type of aura about it.
THE CITY THEME is one of the stand out pieces, performed by solo piano, it is a light and almost steamy piece that conjures up the sky line of a big metropolis, the composer adding a melancholy lone horn to the mix with strings and soothing woods. Which he brings together and creates a luxurious sound. Again, there are a number of source cues within the score, but these are all part and parcel of this great listening experience. EARTHQUAKE is a n interesting mix of dark and dramatic that weaves in and out of less action led themes that verge of the easy listening, jazz and lounge style of music as in the cue SOMETHING FOR REMY.
THE POSEIDON ADVENTURE was released in 1972, Williams opening theme I think was the inspiration for David Arnold’s theme for INDEPENDENCE DAY don’t you think or is it just me that detects the similarity? Also, I noticed the brief appearance of the love theme from STAR WARS within the cue ROGO TAKES COMMAND, which only just fleeting is most certainly present. THE POEIDON ADVENTURE maybe not as action led as TOWERING INFERNO and EARTHQUAKE, but certainly stands out even now as one of his finest scores.
There are a number of themes that the composer utilises and develops throughout, which are glimpses of the genius we were going to witness in the original STAR WARS trilogy as in THE RESCUE AND END TITLES. It has to it the Williams wistfulness and the flyaway style with strings and woods combining to create a wild but at the same time enchanting sound. Then in MAIN TITLE (alternate 1) we can hear the more complex Williams that would rise in the film CLOSE ENCOUNTERS, which is repeated in (alternate 2). Atonal but attractive and interesting. The recording contains thirty cues. Overall, this is a great set of three scores penned by the worlds greatest film music composer. Listening to them is an insight into what followed in the form of the scores for JAWS, INDIANA JONES, DRACULA, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, E.T. and so many more. This collection is far from a disaster. Recommended.