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MAX AND HELEN (1990) and THE OASIS (1984)

Music composed by Christopher Young

16 Tracks (Playing Time = 49:35)

 

 

Executive Album Producers: Ford A. Thaxton and Mark Banning. Album produced by Christopher Young. Orchestrations: Christopher Young and Jeff Vaughn. Orchestra conducted by Paul Francis Witt. Recorded and Mixed by Jeff Vaughn. Electronic Percussion and Tuned Water Glasses: Mark Zimoski. OASIS Recorded by Arnie Frager. OASIS Mixed by Michael Aarvold. OASIS Music Coordinator: Gigi DeYoung. Digitally Edited and Mastered by James Nelson. CD Art Direction: Mark Banning.

BSX Records BSXCD 8847

Rating: ***1/2

 

Christopher Young continues to have his previous film scores released which is a very good thing. I selected the BSX CD release of his SOMETHING THE LORD MADE for a well deserved Sammy Award.

This CD contains two of his earlier film scores: MAX AND HELEN and THE OASIS.

Not having seen either of these films I can't comment on how the music is used but have judged the scores as pure listening experiences.

MAX AND HELEN (1990) was a television film based on a book by Simon Weisenthal about Max (played by Treat Williams) a survivor of the Zalesie labor camp in Poland and his wife, Helen (played by Alice Krige), with Martin Landau playing Simon Weisenthal. There are eight cues included from this score. In the uncredited CD notes, it states that: "The music is a riveting combination of solo voice [wordless], bold drama, unnerving sonic manipulations, ethnic folk music and Max and Helen's favorite piece, Chopin's Piano Etude No. 3 in E." That Chopin piano piece is also a favorite of mine and I wrote lyrics for it and arranged the tune for a song I wrote many years ago. This beautiful melancholy Chopin piece reappears in several cues, such as the somber "Heart Lost" (track 4, 4:24), which also has the solo humming voice. This same track contains some highly emotional writing featuring solo horn and strings. It's a beautifully written cue.

Another exceptional cue is "Zalesie" (track 6, 4:44), again with the humming solo voice and some effective electronic sounds to echo the horrors of that camp. The last track of this score, "Forgiveness Of Sins" (track 8, 2;38) brings this fine score to an appropriate resolution, with the humming solo voice and sustained chords repeating the opening main theme.

"All they have is each other. How far will they go to survive?"
[From the publicity photo for THE OASIS (1984)] .

This was Chrsitopher Young's fourth film score and was composed while he was still a student at UCLA. . There is a mistake on the CD jewel case which has the date of 1994, rather than 1984, for this film score. As described in the CD notes this film was :

"a disturbing story of nine strangers that survive an airplane crash on the Mexican Baja...The score is divided into two categories: tonal orchestra and nontonal percussion.Since the music budget was miniscule, the ensemble consisted primarily of a small string group augmented by flutes, harp and keyboards."

What Christopher Young makes of this small ensemble is quite impressive, giving the music a
fuller sound, as in the most appealing opening theme, "The Oasis" (track 9, 1:40). This score also has eight cues on the CD and contains a goodly amount of impressive cues. One of these is "Funeral Mountain" (track 13, 2:09) which has a hypnotic sustained sound in the strings and percussion that keeps up until the end of the track. The next track is also nicely done ("Gorlock" 3:59), with "nontonal" percussion carrying the music along with a series of fascinating sound patterns.

The composer says the following about the film's producer/ director, Sparkey Greene:

"He had the vision to give someone unproven a chance. This is a rare trait these days. Always stressing the word 'unusual' in describing what he wanted from the score, he was all thumbs up when I told him I wanted to write a quasi-jungle score laden with fat clusters. Sparkey and I are still good buddies."

The combination of these two scores might not seem a good idea but actually both scores complement each other in their separate approaches to the subject matter for each film. MAX AND HELEN has more somber quality, while THE OASIS provides "a quasi-jungle score laden with fat clusters"-- love that description!

This is a very good release and deserves to be added to the collection of those who admire the skill and talent of Christopher Young, one of the finest film composers working today.

Bravo to BSX Records for releasing and distributing this exceptional CD.

 

---Roger Hall, 5 March 2009

For more information see

BSX Records

Christopher Young Official Site

 

Comments regarding this review can be sent to: Film Music Review


 

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