ONE MAN JURY (1978)
Music composed and conducted by Morton Stevens.
19 Tracks (Total Playing Time = 55:38)
Performed by the National Philharmonic Orchestra. Album produced by James Nelson. Digitally edited and mastering by James Nelson at Digital Outland. Music originall recorded at The Music Centre, Wembley, UK, by John Richards. Music edited by Michael Tronick. CD art direction by Mark Banning.
Limited Edition of 1000 copies.
This release is another of many recent discs featuring lesser known, but no less important composers from the latter part of the 20 th Century. Morton Stevens is one of those least represented on discs His most familiar, if not the most famous of his tunes, is the theme for HAWAII 5-0, undoubtedly one of the best 1970s TV themes. Film Score Monthly helped increase the availability of Stevens’ television music when they included his work from several MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. episodes as well as a reworked film score for 1965’s THE SPY WITH MY FACE. So BSX’s release of this 1978 Jack Palance cop thriller, ONE MAN JURY, allows us to hear the composer working on a larger orchestral palette and with likely larger budget than he usually had at his disposal. He only scores a handful of films which makes this release all the more welcome. The present release represents the first time any of the score has been heard apart from its film and it is helped a lot by the use of the National Philharmonic Orchestra’s sound.
The score opens with a skittish, almost Baroque-like string idea that soon adds in contemporary disco beats while adding just an air of class with a horn section beneath all the energy. This is a score that fits the classic mold of 1970s thrillers and when the killing action takes place strings take on a PSYCHO-like mood (a bit more off-beat in its syncopation) after a series of unsettling tone clusters. These moments of macabre sounds are set alongside brief lyric motifs with an accompaniment recalling Goldsmith (“ Wendy Walking”). Gentle lyric music also appears for “Bedroom Scene” to help provide some variety to what is generally a harsh and often more visceral score. There is plenty of intriguing orchestral color that Stevens employs when things quiet down in between the angular and more atonal structures that appear at every turn for the killer. Tension is constantly underlying most every cue in this score and the music has an insinuating and unsettling quality hinting at inner conflicts when the atonal action ideas are not coming forcefully at you. It makes those moments when the more lyric thematic ideas appear all the more engaging even if they are often quite brief. The action cues have plenty of relentless percussion in exciting syncopated rhythms often cast against brass splashes and chromatic string ideas that can suddenly turn to dissonant clusters and odd sounds all created with a variety of acoustic instruments. There are not any big thematic statements that will stand out, but this is a tight knit thriller score that makes for a fascinating listen.
The disc is filled out by five “muzak”-titled cues from identified lounge to redneck bars. A variety of clips from the score are available at the label’s website: http://buysoundtrax.stores.yahoo.net/onemanjuorso.html
Though no doubt a relatively smaller market is out there for this score, the 1000 unit run suggests that those interested in having representation of Stevens’ meager film scoring assignments in their film music library would do well to act soon.
Steven A. Kennedy, 7 October 2008
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