Review: Swimmer, The
4 / 5 Stars
The latest Silver Age release from FSM spotlights the first film to be scored by a young 24-year old Marvin Hamlisch. The film is The Swimmer,and even upon its 1968 release it was considered bold in its style and approach. It is the simple yet compelling portrait of a self-centered man, played by Burt Lancaster, who travels home by swimming through each of his neighbors\' pools. This new edition of the sonorous score features all tracks from original LP version, expanded, remixed and remastered.
The album begins with an uneasy drone from the strings in "Theme From The Swimmer ("Send for Me in Summer")/Big Splash" before a delicate, solo harp leads us into the main theme, heard first on harpsichord, then strings and woodwinds. It is a theme which seems to amble a bit, in slightly melancholic fashion, trying to rise up into a more ebullient state yet settling once more, unresolved. The latter half does blossom through fluttering flutes, brass accents and a more positive approach to the theme. "Easy Four / Bubbles" shifts gears into a light, period specific jazz number, highlighted by easygoing solos for piano, vibes, flute and electric keyboard. Lush, enveloping sounds open "The Dive/Don\'t Come Back/Slow Walk/The Horse", which then moves into a more syncopated, charging section amid a soaring rendition of the main theme. A lovely, delicate interlude then ties the track to its active, flourishing finish.
"Lucinda River / Two People" continues the bucolic flavor in high range strings, harp and winds, its second half toying with the main theme through various instruments above a warm bed of strings. "Together / Hurdles" begins in another lovely vein before a bristling, exciting percussion and brass rhythm races forth, full of winning, long-lined melodic gestures. The mood relaxes briefly in "Julie, Julie/The Little Flute/The Goodbye" and then in "Carnival" the listener is treated to another great, infectious jazz number, one augmented by swinging brass, keyboard and sax. A more mid-tempo, charming demeanor dominates "Lovely Hair", first through drums, piano and alto flute and later in a rising, proud solo trumpet line (based on a portion of the main theme).
The main theme returns in rich mid-range strings to open "Down the Steps/You Loved It/On the Road" as it then turns a bit pensive and lastly ominous, through sharp xylophone, flute and brass accents. The lengthiest track, " My Kids Love Me/Traveling Home/Closer to Home/Home/Marcia Funebre" starts with a dramatic sweep, staccato horns and escalating tension but is broken by gentle harp, chimes and high strings drifting through the main theme. The sweeping gestures return, heralded by punchy, tense brass, a small sense of triumph can be discerned in its stubborn progression and yet the track resolves in unsure manner, something which that opening chord in the first track presaged. "Theme from The Swimmer (Reprise)" closes the album in a brief but effective restatement, leaving the listener ruminating over the journey the score undertakes and how its various detours - sad, beautiful, carefree and troubled - etched a great impression.
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