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The Wicker Man (Original Soundtrack Album)

THE WICKER MAN (1973)

 

Music and songs composed by Paul Giovanni.

16 Tracks (Playing Time = 39:42)

Music performed by “Magnet.” Associate Musical Director, Gary Carpenter. Album relese coordinated by David Stoner and James Fitzpatrick. Digitally mastered by Rick Clark. Additional Mastering: Gareth Williams. Art Direction and Design: Sean Mowle.

Silva Screen Records 1342

Rating: ****

 

Anthony Sheffer had two semi-successful screenplays (FRENZY and SLEUTH) under his belt before THE WICKER MAN seemed to reverse the trend. The film takes place on a Scottish island, Summerisle, where a Sergeant Neil Howie arrives looking for a missing teenage girl and soon discovers a part of Britain behaving as pre-Christian pagans.

The film departed a bit from many 1960s British gothic horror films, though Christopher Lee stars in what he thought was one of his best roles. The troubled history of the film meant that the music went unreleased until now. It is worth noting that about 10 years ago some of the songs from the film were released on Trunk Records taken from mono sources.

Composer Paul Giovanni prepared an album of 8 songs that were to ready to be released but the film’s 1973 release proved to be unsuccessful and it was not until the US release in 1977/1978 that it began to receive a cult following. Varese Sarabande even toyed with an official score release at that time but this too went unrealized.

The songs for THE WICKER MAN were mostly performed by the actors in the film in studio, save for a couple of pieces recorded on set. They all have a sort of flower-child 1960s sensibility but with a sort of Renaissance melodic lilt coupled with a bit of Celtic musical influence that makes each of them quite engaging pieces on their own. Silva’s new release uses stereo masters for all the song material. Three additional songs exist in mono only but were digitally restored and enhanced for the current release.

This is also the first time the underscore has been released. The score itself features some of these song ideas mixed in with sound effects from the film often part of the underscore. The use of early instruments (pipes, recorders, etc.) lends the music its Renaissance feel, but the beautiful melodic flute line the comes to the forefront (“The Ruined Church”) is quite stunning. Different musical ideas appear in repetition before recessing into the musical background for different musical thematic ideas to play over the top. The effect has a magical quality that is mesmerizing. The ethnic fiddle playing helps quickly set the film’s locale and creates an easy folk-sense. The addition of electric organ (“Searching for Rowan”) belies the period a bit too but the on-screen music works blurring the diagetic and non-diagetic music as the scene plays out. Perhaps that is what makes the score so interesting in its minimal materials that create such engaging musical support.

Paul Giovanni’s career in film would be brief. His biggest success was the play, The Crucifer of Blood, which he wrote and directed at the Royal Haymarket Theater in London in 1979.

The music for this film is quite fascinating and has been available as an import since 2002 (Silva SSD 1141). If you have been waiting to hear this score, now is the time as it has finally been cleared for its US CD release (Silva made this available in Europe in 2002).

THE WICKER MAN is one of those surprising releases that is very much a part of its time and yet timeless.

Silva’s accompanying booklet is informative and makes for fascinating reading regarding the production of the music.

 

-- reviewed by Steven A. Kennedy, 26 September 2010

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

 

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