- Various Artists
Review: Essential Hollywood, The
4.5 / 5 Stars
When someone says, "essential" in the title, your eyebrow raises. Really? "Essential?" The end-all be all? There\'s plenty of compilation releases out there, so such a claim is foolhardy. How can you summarize 75 years of film music on two disks? This way. And well golly, they weren\'t kiddin\'.
In Essential Hollywood, the music spreads across over the history of film music. There isn\'t anything here past 1982, but those fifty core years beforehand are the foundation of the "Hollywood Sound". What\'s impressive about this two disk collection is the scope and variety of the music. Sure you have a lot of the big guns (Steiner, Korngold, Rozsa, Jarre, Williams, Herrman, Rota, Mancini, Bernstein and the first Newman), but no one takes over the album. Williams gets at most four tracks. Most of these selections are concert suites. There are the acknowledged great movies (Gone with the Wind, Casablanca, Lawrence of Arabia, Ben-Hur) along with the modern classics (Star Wars, James Bond, The Godfather, E.T.). Also included are some of the keystone early works (King Kong, The Adventures of Robin Hood) and other miscellaneous goodies.
For someone that really loves to delve into the history of film music, this selection is the nucleus of great film music. Many of these tracks literally created the template of introducing many classical styles of music into movies. And those that didn\'t are the ones that are referenced nowadays. It\'s a double helix of film music that Star Wars starts the set and Kings Row ends it. When you\'re done with disk two, jump immediately back to the beginning of disk one. See if anything sounds familiar.
The album is released by Sony Classical, so they are going to pull out the big guns. These are all premium recordings - not a single bad performance. Some of the tracks have the composers (Williams, Morricone, Bernstein, Mancini, Jarre, Raskin) conducting the material. And even the older recordings sound clean and vibrant. So all-in-all, a grade A effort.
What is really intriguing is the track selection, particularly the in-between tracks. You have the big fanfares of Ben-Hur and The Magnificent Seven, but what do you put between them? The obvious choice is fill those slots with fan favorites ("Pink Panther Theme", "Moon River") but they also use representative tracks from Citizen Kane, Sunset Boulevard and High Noon. Not all of these tracks are upbeat "Hurray for Hollywood" pieces. You have the nostalgic melancholy of Laura (still one of the great love themes) and the modernistic horror of Psycho (still one of the great horror scores). Though all classic movies, they aren\'t represented as much on these types of album releases. And good track arrangement between these styles keeps the flow from getting dull. They even manage to work in the Fox Fanfare (with How to Marry a Millionaire) and the Warner Brothers fanfare (at the beginning of the Casablanca suite).
If I\'m going to find anything to complain about, it would two things. The three Psycho tracks could have been combined into one suite. The Close Encounters "Dialogue" track is a good choice, but it\'s a re-recording in the Williams formal concert suite style that isn\'t as lively as the source music. It also ends very "Space Mountain"-y. But that\'s minor on the whole.
The best part is, when I thought about what I would add to this collection of music, nothing immediately came to mind. Sure I could come up with personal favorites. But nothing essential.
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