Tag Archives: JOHN WILLIAMS

THE JOHN WILLIAMS DISASTER MOVIE SOUNDTRACK COLLECTION.

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.

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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 Towering Inferno - 1
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.

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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 - 1

 

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.

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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.

 

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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 - 1

 

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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STAR WARS-THE RISE OF SKYWALKER.

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The Star Wars saga continues and sadly they say it reaches its climax and end with the latest instalment THE RISE OF SKYWALKER. No matter what has happened in this glorious saga the coming and going of characters, the deaths of heroes and the emergence of new villains, there is one thing that has remained a constant throughout and that is the symphonic supremely inspiring music of composer John Williams. Who is on board for this the last episode and it also marks his final time writing the score for a STAR WARS film even any so-called spin offs that will inevitably pop up in the future? THE RISE OF SKYWALKER is for me probably the most energetic STAR WARS score of them all, there is so much pace to it and every track seems to step up to the mark to create thrilling and exuberant flourishes, Williams has fashioned a score that successfully encompasses music from the entire saga, the composer referring to old established favourites and intertwining these with new and fresh sounding leitmotivs that build into full blown thematic majesty, that is rich vibrant and lush intis style and sound, Williams is a master of the theme or leitmotif, each character having their own theme or maybe a reference to a theme used in the past that is arranged differently. The score opens with the traditional STAR WARS theme, the brass flourishes inspired by Korngold’s KONGS ROW once again heralding another chapter in the STAR WARS adventure. FANFARE AND PROLOGUE, is an inspiring piece that contains what we have come to expect from John Williams, the fanfares being followed by a tensely urgent and atmospheric piece, that is both apprehensive and foreboding and is an introduction to the remainder of the score. This dark and powerful cue sets the scene for much of what is to follow. THE RISE OF SKYWALKER is filled to overflowing with the now familiar musical trade marks of Williams, the fly away woods, swirling strings, that turn into wistful and yet wildly romantic passages at the blink of an eye, booming percussion and those rasping and raw sounding brass lines, all of these components are present and the composer fuses them together with ease to fashion yet another imposing and commanding set of themes. One of the highlights for me personally is the cue THE RISE OF SKYWALKER, this is again typical of Williams in a more romantic mood, with rich and lavish strings creating a beautifully surging and affecting theme that Max Steiner would have been proud of, in fact the entire score is like a salute, a tribute or a homage, and not just to the entire STAR WARS saga musically, but also a nod in the direction of composers such as Steiner, Newman, Waxman and of course the Master himself Erich Wolfgang Korngold.

SKY WALKER

THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (Track number 3) is a sublime and engrossing piece, its emotive and inspiring qualities bursting through. I also felt that maybe there was a sound and style that we associate with the likes of Walton present here, because the track is filled to brimming with a proud and even patriotic air. THE OLD DEATH STAR (track number 4) is certainly a step back into the realms of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, with Darth Vader’s theme being present and bolstered by increased use of pounding percussion, the low driving strings raise their heads mid-way through the composition and are supported by bellowing but melodic horns that add a sense of dread to the proceedings. Track number 5, THE SPEEDER CHASE is full throttle and a piece that has at its core brass and strings which seem to be themselves racing against each other, the strings climb with the brass underlining and stabbing at the strings, this is Williams in super action mode. DESTINY OF THE JEDI (Track number 6).begins in a mysterious fashion, with strings opening the cue, we then get a brief glimpse of REYS THEME but this is just fleeting and slightly watered down, before the piece starts to become more melodic, building to a crescendo of sorts before dipping back down into a more subdued persona, but although it is not booming or racing, the cue still has to it a certain aura of fearfulness.

 

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The STAR WARS theme is also brought into play but this time a more romantic arrangement with strings elevating it to new heights and brass flourishes supporting. ANTHEM OF EVIL is an interesting cue, (track number 7). Shades here of the Emperors theme, a choral work, which is most definitely sinister because of its low key sound initially, the composer adding strings and those proud sounding horns he does so well fused with additional striking brass and rumbles of percussion to purvey a sense of virulence and urgency. I think I am going to stop here, because this is a score that you should savour for your self and make up your mind if it is excellent, sublime or awesome. This is a soundtrack for heroes, villains and some who are not too sure about if they are either, its sweeping, commanding and entertaining Recommended.

DRACULA.

 

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As I sit and read that John Williams has been taken ill and will sadly not be conducting the concert at the Royal Albert Hall in London on October 26th. I am sent the digital promo download for the expanded version of the composers score for DRACULA courtesy of Varese Sarabande. The movie itself I have always admired and I think that Frank Langella made a wonderful Count with great support from Laurence Olivier as Van Helsing, this for me was the best non Hammer films version of Bram Stokers dark and virulent tale but saying this the Hammer films have not aged well or stood the test of time and seem rather dated nowadays when watching them, don’t get me wrong they are still as enjoyable but somewhat lame and cliched in places. Whereas director John Badham’s DRACULA is still full of energy and vibrant passion, it has to it a spark a zest and also an alluring appearance. It was photographed beautifully and scored with sensitivity and style by John Williams, the composers somewhat wild sounding strings being well suited to the storyline and the locations in which the movie was shot. Many think of DRACULA as a horror movie or a tale of horrors and the macabre, a story of blood letting and evil, and yes to a degree these are the ingredients that are in the mix. But look closer and you will see a love story a sad and at the same time compelling tale of love lost. A story of a tormented soul who I think longs for peace but needs a companion so he can at last he can reach this. The move which was released in 1979 was met with mixed reactions, but has in recent years become a movie that is admired and applauded. The cast was an impressive one, not only Langella and Olivier produced believable and solid performances, but they were in turn complimented and supported by the likes of Donald Pleasance, Trevor Eve, Kate Nelligan and Jan Francis. The score by John Williams is a work that is sumptuous and lavish and one that is oozing with romantic undertones that accompany and enhance the darker and more dramatic parts of the work. In essence this is a score that deserves the title of Iconic. The composer was at the time of writing the score riding high on the success of the likes of STAR WARS, SUPERMAN, JAWS and CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. Williams was of course already a regular name on the credits of numerous movies and had scored blockbusters such as EARTHQUAKE and THE TOWERING INFERNO five years previous to working on DRACULA. Within DRACULA we hear the Williams sound or at least what was to become the sound and style that we associate with the composer. In many ways I liken the theme that Williams penned for Dracula to his work on the American TV movie JANE EYRE (1970), with its windswept strings and flyaway untamed sounding woods add to this the power and the lushness of CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND and the inventive and commanding elements that we heard in STAR WARS and we have DRACULA. The new edition of the score comes in a superb two disc set, the first disc containing the actual film score and comprising of twenty six tracks two of which are alternate takes of the LOVE THEME and MAIN TITLE AND STORM SEQUENCE. This is a grandiose near operatic work that purveys not only atmospheres of romance that are edged and underlined with sinister undercurrents but moods that are compelling and attractive, it has to it an untamed almost frantic appeal and a highly melodious heart.

 

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The soundtrack was originally released in 1979 on MCA records and received a re-issue on LP and CD on the Varese Sarabande label. It has been crying out for an expanded release as it is an important score not only within the canon of Williams but also within the history of cinema and film music. Most DRACULA movies had contained scores that were typical of the majority of horror soundtracks, (dare I say crash bang and thump with the accent of using the repeat indicator on the manuscript) the chance for romance or hints of it being very few and far between. Composer James Bernard who scored the lions share of Hammer films Dracula cycle, only dipped his toe into the romantic side of things a couple of times for a Dracula score most notably in TASTE THE BLOOD OF DRACULA in the composition entitled THE YOUNG LOVERS, which he did only on the instruction of the films producer who asked him to take a softer approach.

 

 

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The sound and style achieved by John Williams for DRACULA was a combination of the dramatic, the romantic and also the mysterious, there is a rich and dark atmosphere surrounding each and every cue that supports and ingratiates, punctuates and enhances, the music colours and adds texture and depth to every scene that is scored, bringing the already vibrant images to even more intensity. The foreboding and brooding musical persona being present and unrelenting throughout the work. It is I think difficult to review a score that so many are familiar with, we all know its good, so what can I say? Well the sound quality is excellent and the presentation is marvellous. The release has a second disc which is a re-issue of the original LP soundtrack which has been re-mastered. Stand out tracks, are the same as they have always been, but it is unfair to highlight any one or two cues as all are equally outstanding as in NIGHT JOURNEYS, THE LOVE THEME, MAIN TITLE AND STORM SEQUENCE etc. All I can really say is this is an epic work and a score that every self respecting film music fan should have in their

 

 

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collection.https://www.varesesarabande.com/products/dracula-the-deluxe-edition

 

 

SOLO-A STAR WARS STORY.

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Well at last SOLO a STAR WARS STORY has landed, not managed to see the movie yet, but the score by composer John Powell is in my opinion just great. It is filled with so many high-octane themes and great action pieces its hard to stop listening as it is a constant and relentless musical onslaught in a nice way. The composer keeps faithful the sound that we associate already with anything STAR WARS related, set pieces that are filled with proud and anthem like brass flourishes, booming percussion and racing and driving strings that carry the remainder of the orchestra along on the crest of an asteroid field never stopping, dodging, diving, zooming, rolling and blasting its way through establish itself as a score that is unstoppable. This I have to say is a soundtrack that is just a pure delight, it is sheer entertainment, just sit back listen and be transported to another world, a world that is jam packed to the overflowing with action, action and yes more action. Powell as I have already said stays true to the spirit of STAR WARS and weaves into his score several familiar themes written by John Williams, but he also lays the foundations of the work with his own style and musical fingerprint. I love the way that Powell employs percussion, it has to it an almost pop orientated sound, also he adds to this the symphonic and familiar orchestral style that we as collectors have come to know and love within the scores of Mr Williams for the franchise. Dark and threatening strings drive the work onwards in places and add a sinister and almost malevolent atmosphere to the proceedings. Powell is I have to say at home scoring an all action movie, but he also provides the picture with music that can turn in an instant and become romantic, melancholy and beautifully tragic, perfectly setting the tone and creating the right atmosphere for the story that is unfolding. Each cue is a delight, is a great fulfilling listen that is not only inspiring but is exciting and enjoyable. This is one for the collection, do not hesitate, go buy this NOW, highlight cues are, ALL OF THEM.

 

1.
The Adventures of Han (John Williams)
3:47
2.
Meet Han
2:18
3.
Corellia Chase
3:32
4.
Spaceport
4:05
5.
Flying With Chewie
3:28
6.
Train Heist
4:46
7.
Marauders Arrive
5:13
8.
Chicken In The Pot
2:07
9.
Is This Seat Taken?
2:34
10.
L3 & Millennium Falcon
3:15
11.
Lando’s Closet
2:11
12.
Mine Mission
4:09
13.
Break Out
6:13
14.
The Good Guy
5:23
15.
Reminiscence Therapy
6:11
16.
Into The Maw
4:47
17.
Savareen Stand-Off
4:24
18.
Good Thing You Were Listening
2:06
19.
Testing Allegiance
4:19
20.
Dice and Roll

STAR WARS. THE LAST JEDI.

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Ok, I do not profess to be an expert on STAR WARS, or even the STAR WARS soundtracks, but I do know what I like. As with every STAR WARS soundtrack, the score for THE LAST JEDI, opens with the now iconic theme that was penned by composer John Williams way back in the day, when we lived in, A FAR NICER AND SIMPLIER WORLD THAN WE DO NOWADAYS. The familiar brass flourishes and Erich Wolfgang Korngold inspired fanfares that in my opinion returned the world of film music back to where it should have been and reinstated the symphonic score to cinema, still send a chill of excitement and anticipation up one’s spine and make the hairs on the back of the neck bristle anticipation and expectation at the thought of what the composer might have in store for us. As with all scores for the STAR WARS saga, the opening theme soon segues seamlessly into the opening cue of the score, in this case the MAIN TITLES run for 1 min and 36 secs, then rumbling and booming percussion introduce the fast paced and driving track entitled ESCAPE, which oozes everything that is STAR WARS musically and is filled with the finesse, genius and perfection that we have come to expect from John Williams. In fact, this is a great opening that is filled with tense and edgy brass stabs and underlying dark strings that combine with the percussive elements of the piece to create a composition that verges on the Wagnerian and the operatic because of its powerfully enigmatic and commanding presence, the composer weaving the central theme into the cue and every so often lifting the darkness and foreboding atmosphere with mini fanfares and brass laden hope filled stabs. The brass and percussion work overtime for this opener and drive the piece forward with strings lacing and enveloping the already emotive and inspiring composition. For any soundtrack collector this will indeed be a feast of the artistry of John William’s at his dramatic and action packed best. This is a cue that is STAR WARS through and through, it contains, emotion, drama and a real romantic undercurrent that relays to the listener the ethos of the STAR WARS scores and evokes memories and thoughts of past triumphs of the previous movies and their soundtracks. There is a richness here, but also a degree of darkness and a romantic sense of adventure which to be honest only William’s can purvey via his heartfelt strings and flyaway woods, it is enchanting, beguiling and gets right to one’s core.

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As with his music for THE FORCE AWAKENS we hear the familiar themes and nuances that we expect, but are also treated to new and fresh material, with the familiar being given a new lease of life as the composer arranges and orchestrates them in varying ways at times combining elements of the original with the new, as in the SUPREMACY, which is a variation on DARTH VADERS theme.

 

With the near mournful and solitary horn leit-motif for Luke Skywalker, which is instantly recognisable that raises its head every so often throughout the work beginning as a poignant and fragile sounding piece but becoming a full-blown arrangement with the poignancy heightened and transformed into a more substantial and lush piece by surging and proud sounding strings that are embellished by brass, giving it a mesmeric quality that tugs at the heartstrings and washes over the listener in waves of emotion. The composer utilises this and it has a more pronounced impact in the cue, OLD FRIENDS, which in the first instant is low and ominous, but swiftly develops into a combination of both Luke and Leia’s themes. I cannot really say a lot more about the score, it is after all a STAR WARS soundtrack, and its John Williams, so what more could you possibly want, I will say however, that in my very humble opinion, THE LAST JEDI, does stand out more than its predecessor, there seems to be more for us to get our teeth into here, the last track, FINALE, is a delight, it is after all an overture of sorts, and contains all of the major themes from the score, thus combining old with new for a glorious 8 minutes or so. For a series of movies that has endured for so many years, it is surprising that the musical side of things has not become a little cliched or stale, but on listening to THE LAST JEDI, there is no chance of that happening, William’s unearths old and familiar themes and introduces new and vibrantly fresh pieces that will delight, thrill and inspire. Love the score, all 1 hour and 17 minutes of it. Buy this NOW….

 

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