The Thorn Birds
Varese Sarabande (302 066 564 2)
Year Released: 1983 / 2004
|5.||Ralph, Meggie And Mary||2:25|
|6.||Stuie Grows Up||1:29|
|7.||Paddy And Fiona||2:47|
|9.||The Story Of The Thorn Birds||2:16|
|10.||Meggie Grows Up||1:33|
|11.||Baby Hal Dies||3:05|
|12.||The Rams And The Ewes||2:06|
|14.||The Thorn Birds Theme||2:36|
|15.||Fire On Drogheda||2:44|
|16.||Search For Paddy||3:08|
|17.||Father Ralph Returns And Funeral Procession||2:41|
|19.||It's Shearing You're Hearing||4:18|
|20.||Luke And Meggie||2:33|
|21.||Marry Me, Meggin||2:19|
|22.||Arrival At The Vatican||2:04|
|1.||Meggie Leaves Drogheda||1:21|
|2.||Arrival At Queensland||2:12|
|3.||Beginning Of The End||2:28|
|4.||Welcome To Himmelhock||1:52|
|5.||New Kid In Town||1:22|
|9.||Ralph And Meggie||1:57|
|12.||Meggie Leaves The Himmelhocks||1:44|
|13.||Meggie Goes Home||2:46|
|17.||Justine Visits Drogheda||1:30|
|18.||The Greek Tragedy||1:35|
|19.||Bye Bye Dane||1:46|
|20.||Loss Of A Son||2:54|
|21.||Meggie Reveals The Truth||5:07|
|25.||Anywhere The Heart Goes||2:28|
|Total Album Time:||117:21|
|by Andrew Granade
on July 4th, 2004
This has been a banner year for Henry Mancini fans, celebrating the 80th anniversary of his birth. Last fall saw the release of the composer's Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation after a wait of over forty years. This past April, the United States Post Office released a stamp commemorating Mr. Mancini. And now, the composer's most famous and most requested television score has finally been released in a deluxe two-disc set.
I grew up listening to Henry Mancini. Every year, my parents would slide A Merry Mancini Christmas into the 8-track player and we would decorate the house to his sparkling arrangements. To this day it does not seem like Christmas until I hear that album. Throughout the rest of the year, A Merry Mancini Christmas set on the shelf next to his music from The Pink Panther. I even played the "Baby Elephant's Walk" from Hatari! on the piano when I was first learning. To me, the name Henry Mancini was synonymous with warm memories laced with jazzy and swinging music.
I know many of you are shaking your heads in agreement; you had a similar childhood and while your grown-up tastes urge you to mention how much you enjoy the Touch of Evil score as well, you still hum the "Peter Gunn" theme as you drive the car. Well, to all of you I present what is one of the composer's, and the medium's, greatest scores and a far cry from the hipster music you know – Mancini's score for the television mini-series The Thorn Birds. Based on a novel by Colleen McCullough, The Thorn Birds starred Richard Chamberlain as an Australian priest who wrestles over his love for Meggie, a local girl played by Rachel Ward. With a plot full of enough unrequited love and social obstacles to fill several nights of entertainment, The Thorn Birds became the second most popular mini-series ever and cemented Chamberlain's reputation as king of the genre. Fans swooned over the star-crossed lovers' fate, an emotion aided by Mancini's emotional, evocative score.
As befits a mini-series of intense passions, the score is full of grand, sweeping gestures, but the majority of those motions are based on the main theme. Mancini demonstrated the range of his compositional skill though his manipulations of this theme, making it in turns sprightly, melancholy, reflective, and joyous. Although it first appears in the opening track, "Main Title," I would urge you to listen to the cue "The Thorn Birds Theme" in order to hear this theme as Mancini intended. In a gaffe that stands out all the more because of this package's general excellence, Varese mixed the first cue incorrectly and left out the dulcimer. (Yes, the dulcimer, which inevitably conjures images of Appalachia, carries the main theme in a story set in Australia. It's a minor quibble. Just go with it.) The "Main Title" instead opens with almost a full minute of autoharp chord changes and supporting strings until the violins finally take over the melody. We sent a message to Varese, but got no response as to if and how this problem will be fixed, so focus on "The Thorn Birds Theme." The dulcimer enters with a upbeat melody that rapidly rises and falls and is quickly replaced by a string melody that is its antithesis. This second theme barely moves outside the interval of a fifth, slowly rotating around a central pitch. The rest of the cue features this alternation between large-scale melodic movement and virtual stasis. It creates a balance and gave Mancini two sides of the theme to use for later cues. Every time there is action or jubliant emotion on screen, the first theme appears. Conversely, the second theme appears in the introspective or lamenting cues. For example, listen to the cue "Forbidden Love" on the second CD and notice how Mancini took the string melody, dropped it into the cellos, and then built off it to craft a truly beautiful cue that has the main theme as its genesis, but develops into something completely unique.
With two full CDs, this is a score with which to take your time. Even with the mis-step in the "Main Title" cue, Varese did an excellent job restoring the sound and has included fine liner notes as well. If you've never heard a rich, emotive Mancini score, you will find it a new experience and if you are already a fan of the mini-series or score, you will be mostly pleased with the presentation. As for myself, I may just end up hanging Christmas lights if I keep listening to this score.
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