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DAVID RAKSIN AT M-G-M (5 CD Box Set)

 

Thirteen Original Motion Picture Soundtracks, 1950 - 1957
Music composed and conducted by David Raksin.
Additional conducting by Johnny Green.
Orchestrations: Leo Arnaud, Al Sendrey, Arthur Morton, Ruby Raksin,
Robert Franklyn, Eugene Zador, Conrad Salinger, P.A. Marquardt, Wally Heglin,
Maurice De Packh, Alexander Courage, and David Raksin.

Collection Produced by Lukas Kendall.
Associate Producer: Marilee Bradford.
Production Executive for Turner Entertainment Co.: George Feltenstein.
Executive Producer for Screen Archives Entertainment: Craig Spaulding.
Music Score Remix by Michael McDonald.
Digital Remastering: Doug Schwartz.
Acetate Transfers by Jerru Burling and Chris Lembesis.
CD Art Direction by Joe Sikoryak.

All music recorded between 1949 and 1957 at M-G-M Studios Scoring Stage,
Culver City, California.

Film Score Monthly Vol. 12, No. 2 (Limited Edition of 1,500 copies)

Rating: ***1/2

 

CD One (Playing Time = 73:52)

Tracks 1-12: ACROSS THE WIDE MISSOURI (1951) - Additional music by Al Sendrey/ Orchestra conducted by David Raksin and Johnny Green
(Time = 47:31)
Tracks 18-26: Alternate Score (Time = 26:15)


CD Two (Playing Time = 72:03)

Tracks 1-12: KIND LADY (1951) (Time = 28:10)
Tracks 13-25: THE MAN WITH A CLOAK (1951) (Time = 35:50)
Tracks 26-28: Bonus Tracks (Time = 7:49)


CD Three (Playing Time = 74:37)

Tracks 1-12: THE GIRL IN WHITE (1952) (Time = 34:39)
Tracks 13-24: THE MAGNIFICENT YANKEE (1950) (Time = 31:26)
Tracks 25-27: THE NEXT VOICE YOU HEAR (1950) - Orchestra conducted by David Raksin and Johnny Green (Time = 2:46)
Tracks 28-30: RIGHT CROSS (1950) - Orchestra conducted by David Raksin and Johnny Green (Time = 3:11)
Track 31: GROUNDS FOR MARRIAGE (1950) - "Toy Concertino" - Orchestra conducted by Johnny Green (Time=2:09)


CD Four (Playing Time = 75:30)

Tracks 1-21: THE VINTAGE (1957) (Time = 49:31)
Tracks 22-30: Bonus Tracks (Time = 16:30)
Tracks 31-34: A LADY WITHOUT A PASSPORT (1950) - Orchestra conducted by Johnny Green (Time = 9:16)


CD Five (Playing Time = 76:36)

Tracks 1-18: UNTIL THEY SAIL (1957) (Time = 41:12) -
Song performed by Eyde Gorme
Tracks 19-21: Bonus Tracks (Time = 10:08)
Tracks 22-28: PAT AND MIKE (1952) (Time = 11:47)
Tracks 29-37: THE REFORMER AND THE REDHEAD (1950) (Time = 13:12)

 

 

First of all, I want to say that it is about time we had more scores by David Raksin available on CD.

David Raksin - Laura / The Bad & The Beautiful / Forever Amber

 

He was a film composer best known for three scores: LAURA, FOREVER AMBER, and THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL. All three of them were recorded on an excellent CD conducted by Raksin himself on RCA.

While none of the scores in this extensive 5 CD set with thriteen Raksin scores reaches the level of those three great scores, this is still a very good collection.

But there are some problems with this release.

Why release longer scores like ACROSS THE WIDE MISSOURI (73:52) and also include very short ones like RIGHT CROSS (3:11)? Also films of different genres as well. This seems a bit of mixmatching music scores. I believe it would have better to release ACROSS THE WIDE MISSOURI as a separate CD. Then perhaps several of the other scores could have been grouped together by year of release, for example: THE MAGNIFICENT YANKEE, A LADY WITHOUT A PASSPORT and THE REFORMER AND THE REDHEAD all from 1950 and could fit on one CD. Having thirteen scores of vastly different lengths makes for a confusing collection of this and that.

Another problem is the awkward plastic box set design, with a series of foldout sleeves holding the discs and the large booklet. It is very cumbersome setup trying to get the discs in and out of this box. It would have been better to have the 5 CDs in separate cases inside a large cardboard case. This has been done before with the larger sets from Film Score Monthly sets, such as the excellent Elmer Bernstein Film Music Collection. Even if the cost of the box set was a bit higher to accomodate the increased packaging I think it would have been more satisfactory.

Now that I have gotten the objectionable observations out of the way, I will move on with my overall assesment of this collection.

As might be expected with such a large compilation of film scores, some are quite good while others are just okay. To my ears, I found these scores the most appealing: ACROSS THE WIDE MISSOURI, THE MAGNIFICENT YANKEE, UNTIL THEY SAIL, and the delightful "Toy Concertino" from GROUND FOR MARRIAGE (Disc 3, track 31). Most of the other scores are typical of film scores from the glossy M-G-M Studio of the 1950s. But all of them are listenable and pleasant enough.

The elaborate and beautifully illustrated 36 page booklet contains a very good essay by Marilee Bradford and a Producer's Note by Lukas Kendall, who makes a point of mentioning "dead mono" as opposed to stereo, with only one very short cue in true stereo. So what if these scores are in mono? This alteration of mono with some reverb is equivalent to adding stereo to an old vintage film originally in mono sound. I'd prefer to have these scores as originally recorded, but that is just my preference.

As someone who greatly admired some of David Raksin's best known film scores and wrote a memoral article to him in Film Score Monthly (Volume 9/ Number 8, September 2004), I was a bit disappointed with of some of these scores, which sounded bombastic. For example, THE VINTAGE from 1957, with a pompous opening track and not much better in the tracks that follow.

But David Raksin probably would have been pleased to have his M-G-M scores released on CD.

He was a highly opinionated and somewhat self-important composer. When I spoke with him after a talk he gave in New York in 2001, I showed him the cover of a sheet music collection of his melodies. On the cover was a large photo of him in a scene from LAURA, with him dressed as the character played by Dana Andrews. I'll never forget how pleased he looked and how he proudly showed the photo to several of his friends who were with him.

Raksin would also have been quite pleased to have so many of his film scores available (nearly six hours worth!) on this 5 CD box set.

With a well produced booklet by Joe Sikoryak, plus thirteen film scores of varying lengths, this DAVID RAKSIN AT M-G-M is well worth adding to your collection -- even in reverberated "dead mono."

 

--Roger Hall, 30 March 2009

 


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