The Music of John Williams: The Definitive CollectionSilva America (SILCD1382)
Released: February 21, 2012
Format: CD (412 min)
Review: Fitzwilly / The Long Goodbye
4.5 / 5 Stars
As with Jerry Goldsmith and John Barry, I believe the release of any John Williams score is worth celebrating. The two scores included on this special limited edition CD from Varese Sarabande are previously unreleased and from an era predating his reign as the world's most famous film composer. During this time, Williams often worked in oddball comedies such The Guide For The Married Man and How To Steal A Million or dramatic fare such as The Reivers and Heidi, giving few clues to large-scale orchestral heights he would achieve several years later when collaborating with Steven Spielberg, Richard Donner and George Lucas. His music from this earlier time is no less enjoyable, rich in melody and a playful insouciance.
From 1967 is the Dick Van Dyke vehicle Fitzwilly, a film chronicling the attempts of a faithful butler trying to keep his newly widowed employee at the same high standard of living to which she was accustomed. The album and the film began with the stately yet zany "Main Title / Overture". A comic tone is carried through in percolating woodwinds and blustering tuba and trombones, and then joined by harpsichord and a particularly bright trumpet fanfare to represent the privileged upper class setting. The endearingly daffy British quality continues through the rousing cue, providing yet another indelible melody from the pen of Williams. This is followed by a cool orchestral and jazz combo interpretation of the vocal title, "Make Me Rainbows", very much in Henry Mancini's style. This idiom is then continued into "Fitzwilly's Date", but with a smaller ensemble highlighted by sax, drums and guitar. Sonorous, silky strings dominate "Lefty Louie's Love Life", with the main theme in plaintive woodwinds.
Thematic material from the "Overture" returns in fine form in "The Gimbel's Robbery", which begins unassumingly with cautious bassoons, clarinets and pizzicato strings before the intensity grows into a syncopated string dialogue and then finally blossoms into and finishes as a rousing rendition with a mighty flourish. The vocal version of "Make Me Rainbows" follows, in the late 60's style of mixed, swinging choral ensembles presented instead of a solo singer. "The Xerox Crisis" opens with panicked outburst from strings and flutes, surprisingly foreshadowing some of the action portions of Jaws, then settles into a lush variation of "Make Me Rainbows". The chilled jazz style resurfaces in "Samson & Delilah", another pleasant number, while the album shifts back to the sprightly comic "Main Title" material in "More Thefts", highlighted by an agile tuba performance. This theme also dominates the "End Title", wraps up the enjoyable listen, and closes with a brief quote of the "Make Me Rainbows" melody.
The second score on the album was written for Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye, a film starring Elliot Gould as private eye Phillip Marlowe. For this project Williams composed one theme and wove this into the fabric of the film in a myriad of interpretations. Therefore, on this release we are presented with the various incarnations of theme, allowing us fans to choose which we prefer and play that track to our heart's content. Three vocal versions are included, my favorite being that with the Dave Grusin Trio. A slow tango tempo version is titled "Trio Version", while "Trumpet Version" and "Mario in Mexico" continue the Latin flavor in different tempos, propelled by respectively by brass and then Spanish guitar. Very pleasing stuff all around.
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