Silva Screen Records, Ltd. (FILMCD 354)
Release Date: 2001
Conducted by Nic Raine
The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra
|2.||The Ride to Sherwood / The Ride to Nottingham (Film Version)||3:56|
|3.||Robin and Marian Meet / Fight & Recognition / "He Was My King"||3:00|
|4.||Dawn In Sherwood||2:26|
|5.||Over The Wall / Escape||3:50|
|6.||First Love Theme||1:30|
|9.||In The Church / This Way||2:01|
|10.||Second Love Theme||2:48|
|11.||The Ride to Sherwood / The Ride to Nottingham (Original Version)||3:48|
|12.||In Position / Preparations For Battle||4:23|
|13.||Third Love Theme||2:36|
|14.||The Fight Must Go On||3:39|
|15.||John Bursts In / The End||4:41|
|Total Album Time:||45:08|
|by Matt Barry
March 6, 2004
The more I listen to them, the more I'm pretty sure I could write a college thesis about the myriad contradictions pertaining to the average John Barry film score. On the one hand, his music almost always buoys even the weakest of films (such as The Scarlet Letter or that God-awful King Kong remake). But when separated from the film, I find a great deal of Barry's scores to be musical wallpaper, if not just downright tedious. Now there are always exceptions to every extreme generalization, so you Bond fans can stop sharpening your knives. Please note the key word here: "average".
By average, I mean a score that plays by the basic rules of the John Barry sound: first, a pretty and open ended main theme that will double as a love theme. Make sure it sounds lovely on flute, majestic on horns. Secondly, a darker motif featuring thundering drums and crashing brass for anything bad that may happen. Alternate between the two motifs, and repeat as necessary. If the film is extremely long, like say Dances With Wolves (which I genuinely enjoyed and respect), it may be necessary to come up with a few more lovely principal themes to pad out the proceedings. The success of the end result is, strangely enough, usually up to the film in question. Barry is kind of a musical Forrest Gump: he tends to stay blissfully the same, while the movies change around him. Some films take to a John Barry score amazingly well. Dances With Wolves, The Black Hole, and many more. Others, well, let's just say sometimes a Howard The Duck waddles onto the scene.
Planted firmly in the middle of these two extremes, in my humble opinion, is Barry's score to the 1976 revisionist medieval adventure Robin And Marian. In many ways, it could be a prototype for the formula I detailed above. The "Main Title" is the first of many examples of Barry's foreboding B-material, full of scattershot percussion hits and martial brass. Always a little tentative, a snake waiting to strike, with nebulous snatches of what may become a theme. "Over The Wall / Escape" and "In The Church / This Way" present more of the same, and will always remind me of my first encounter with this type of material, the "Pawnee Attack" from Wolves.
"The Ride To Sherwood / The Ride To Nottingham (Film Version)" offers up the A-theme for the first time, a grandiloquent horn motif over a patented Barry circular string and brass ostinato. As presented here, this cut was rearranged from what Barry wrote for the film by composer Richard Shores. Barry's original is featured later on the album, but the differences are, to my ears, virtually negligible. "Robin And Marian Meet", et all, presents the main theme in its first low-key setting, and the results are as bittersweet and beautiful as you'd expect. Fans of Somewhere In Time take heed, this CD is custom made for you. "Dawn In Sherwood" starts peacefully, but turns again to Barry's galloping strings and a wonderfully bold statement of the main theme.
And so it goes, alternating between these two approaches for the rest of a richly recorded forty-five minutes. A few remaining standouts include "Trapped", a splashy piece of frantic action writing co-composed by Richard Shores (it would seem that Barry's pulse, like Hannibal Lecter, never goes above 50). Another highlight is the last cue, "John Bursts In / The End", a sad and swelling restatement of the love theme that brings the album to a poignant close.
Nic Raine and the City of Prague Philharmonic do a fine job here, and the liner notes are handsome and detailed, if overly reverential. (Interestingly, "Will Scarlett" is credited here as having played himself and the late, great Denholm Elliot's name is oddly missing.) Basically, this package comes down to whether or not you are a big fan of Barry's music. To be fair, some folks eat this kind of thing up. But for myself, it's a tad repetitious to recommend to all.
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