Prometheus (PCR 509)
Year Released: 1967
Conducted by Alex North
Symphony Orchestra Graunke
4 / 5 Stars
I have to admit - I'm not an expert on Alex North. But I can recognize quality music when I hear it, and simply put, Africa blew me away. In 1968, this 4-hour long ABC special not only strove to create a tangible encapsulation of what Africa was, but it also featured a highly progressive and mesmerizing score by North. While the score was released on LP back then, it quickly went out of print and became a collectible item. Now Prometheus Records is re-issuing the score, with previously unreleased cues.
First up is the "Symphony For a New Continent". A symphony in four movements, North's music doesn't even seem like music. It is the life of Africa speaking through an orchestra. Closing ones eyes, you can actually envision the animals hunting, chasing, and living through the sounds. Innovative and clever orchestration allows the story of the earth cooling and evolution occurring to be told musically. It's really an incredible 30-minutes of music to experience.
Following the symphony is the Suite from Africa. Comprised of six cues from the show, the "Main Title Theme" is bold and brash. Featuring harsh percussion with an enormous brass ensemble accompanied by synchronous stings, this main theme is triumphant and almost heroic in nature, providing an uplifting introduction to the show. The sad lamentations of "Man in Africa" and the spiritually lifting rhythms of "The Joyful Days" are countered by the softness of the flutes and woodwinds in the previously unreleased cue, "Victoria Falls / Progress".
The liner notes are extensive, detailing the production of the score to "Africa", and provided a lot of interesting trivia, including a revelation about the re-recording of North's rejected score to 2001: A Space Odyssey. It turns out that due to a filing error, the main theme from Africa was filed under 2001, and it was assumed when Jerry Goldsmith recorded the score, that North had reused his "Africa" theme. The sound quality to the soundtrack is somewhat lacking in bass, and there is a bit of tape hiss. But to digitally reduce the noise would have resulted in diminished sound quality. But don't let the technical issues deter you. Running 50-minutes long, the album is available from www.soundtrackmag.com, and well worth it.