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THE ESSENTIAL HOLLYWOOD (2006)

Rating: **1/2

DISC ONE TT: 55:50 (14 tracks)

DISC TWO TT: 57:06 (13 tracks)

Sony Classical 82876-77086-2

 

As much as those of us who love film music hate to admit it, the average music store browser is often cursorily interested at best in film music. And yet, many of us have stumbled upon a composer through the very kind of release that makes up this latest two-disc compilation.

“The Essential Hollywood” is what happens when two large companies merge: the catalogues are very cursorily examined and you get this collection. If you have not noticed, there are not a lot of new recordings made with American orchestras from the big labels these days. It is cheaper and economical for a label to rob their back catalogue and re-package than to go out and record, or re-record repertoire, at least with an American orchestra. The result is standard classical repertoire repackaged ad naseum. Now the marriage of two major labels have produced this two disc offspring of recordings that come from as far back as 1961 to within the last decade.

Though both BMG/RCA and Sony have access to original tracks for many of the recorded selections that appear here, they have settled mostly for the re-recorded versions, many of them from stellar releases themselves. They are likely trying to enter an arena cornered by Silva’s many re-recordings. The first of these was“The Hollywood Sound.” This was an amazing Sony release featuring the London Symphony Orchestra with John Williams conducting. It is that version of the STAR WARS “Main Title” which opens disc one. Other selections from that release are the “Flying Theme” from E.T., the JAWS theme, and music by Korngold ( THE ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD). Esa-Pekka Salonen’s superb Herrmann release with the Los Angeles Philharmonic supplies three selections from PSYCHO, and the “Scene d’Amour” from VERTIGO. Maurice Jarre’s recordings with the Royal Philharmonic feature his music from DR. ZHIVAGO and LAWRENCE OF ARABIA. Music from THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN comes from a recording featuring Elmer Bernstein and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. One of Sony’s Nino Rota releases conducted by Riccardo Muti provides the “End Title” from THE GODFATHER, Part II. Ennio Morricone’s Sony release with the St. Cecilia Academia is the source for the oddly arranged titles from THE GOOD, THE BAD AND THE UGLY.

Many of Charles Gerhardt’s releases are mined for performances of selections from GONE WITH THE WIND, STRRET SCENE, CASABLANCA, KING KONG, SUNSET BOULEVARD, CITIZEN KANE, and KINGS ROW. David Raksin’s RCA recording of LAURA is the source for the “Main Theme” from that score.” A recording of Williams’ “The Dialogue” from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND made with the Boston Pops appears here. The other Boston Pops recording is the classic Arthur Fiedler performance of Rosza’s “Parade of the Charioteers.” A cover of the Monty Norman’s “ James Bond Theme” conducted by John Barry is included along with Henry Mancini covers of “The Pink Panther” and “ Moon River.” Though it is hard to pinpoint exactly where these came from, they are the closest to OST tracks we get. The one surprise is the appearance of the theme from HIGH NOON with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra conducted by Dimitri Tiomkin.

The two CDs are nicely arranged musically moving easily across the 20th century with the variety of favorite musical moments from some of the most famous films of the century.

The first disc is heavier on the big orchestral side with only the Raksin hinting at a pops feel. Disc two opens with the Fox Fanfare and music from STREET SCENE which makes it a nice companion to the STAR WARS opening of disc one. The music from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS appears here oddly in a grouping of music that is otherwise from 1970 or earlier. More of the popular tunes appear here along with extensive suites from Gerhardt’s Max Steiner recordings.

The accompanying booklet at least gives orchestra and conductor information but there is no “originally from” credit. There are a couple of generic paragraphs about film music but nothing about any of the tracks individually. Since some of the releases are of historical interest it would have greatly enhanced this release by at least having some essay that discussed them.

The importance of some of the releases is historical from an audio perspective and none of those producers and engineers are acknowledged in the booklet. The one thing that is most ridiculous is that with such a wealth of musical recordings to choose from, these discs each play at less than an hour each.

If you are new to film music collecting this is a great release to add to your collection. The sound is stellar and rarely shows its age in the older recordings. Some of the newer releases feel like they have been recorded at higher levels at times to better equalize the sound quality from one track to the next. Those wishing for updated re-issues of the recordings from RCA’s back catalog as they were in the 1970s and 1980s may want to hold off and hope that this is a tease for their re-release.

If these musical giants wanted to do a favor to fans, a nice boxed set of the Gerhardt releases, pulling together all of those shorter albums into filled-out CDs, would be more than welcome. This release is well-organized otherwise with most of the more recent recordings appearing together on disc one and the older ones on disc two. The only real complaint is that this is essentially a “full-price” re-issue instead of a budget one. Of course, if you don’t want to take the ten or fifteen CDs along with you to the beach this summer, this will release will give you enough great music to see you through.

“The Essential Hollywood” is a release for the casual film music lover.

--Steven A. Kennedy 26 May 2006

Comments regarding this review can be sent to this address: stev4uth@hotmail.com

 


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