Ten Tracks Today – A John Williams Special #1 – 27th October 2011

01 – “Commando Raid” – Black Sunday

I have vague recollections of this film but had no memory of the score until I heard the clips once FSM had announced this for release. This is a great suspenseful score from Williams – as well as having some excellent action scoring. It’s quite different from his score to Star Wars and is a clear indication of how great Williams was/is as a film composer. This track is full of interesting suspense scoring. Less is definitely more here: lean orchestrations convey everything that needs to be said. Not as action-packed as the track’s title suggests!

02 – “Dracula’s Death” – Dracula

A great rendition of Williams’ theme for Dracula is the highlight of this track. The swirling and sweeping strings adds an emotional romanticism to the whole piece and it all builds to a rather subdued final few seconds.

03 – “Main Title / Approaching The Death Star” – Return of The Jedi

Goosebumps! The Star Wars main title theme is always one to savour when it’s heard. And it is interesting to hear how Williams gets out of this familiar theme and into the score proper. Quite similar to the beginning of Star Wars itself, it’s a quiet, suspenseful piece that I remember being quite disappointed with when I heard it the first time. This latter part of this score summarises a lot of the score as a whole – it is more snippets of themes strung together rather than sweeping passages. But it is a great track to hear variations on the Imperial March.

04 – “Main Theme” – The Poseidon Adventure

Not one of the easiest John Williams scores to listen to all the way through but once the main theme proper starts it’s an understated piece that effectively communicates the sweeping grandeur of the doomed ship. I was always much more familiar with the tune “The Morning After”.

05 – “Seven Years In Tibet” – Seven Years In Tibet

Somehow this puts me in mind of a hybrid between the second Star Wars trilogy scores, The Fury and Schindler’s List. The latter connection is easy to understand – the string solos of Yo-Yo Ma. As for the rest, I cannot explain. It does remind me of something else but I can’t quite place it at the moment. Williams’ string writing is sweeping but the score isn’t the sparse, economical scores I prefer from his earlier career. And there’s just enough ethnic hints for it to be obvious but not overbearing.

06 – “Catch Me If You Can” – Catch Me If You Can

I can only take this score in very small doses – and this title track is about as much as I need. I like the feel of the piece rather than the composition itself – if that makes any sense.

07 – “The Planet Krypton” – Superman: The Movie

I don’t watch it myself but surely some WWF wrestler must have snagged the brass fanfare at the beginning of this track for their entrance into the ring? The whole sequence where the criminals are judged and sentenced is a great piece of writing. And I just love film music that featured ominous bells!

08 – “The Imperial Probe / Aboard The Executor” – The Empire Strikes Back

After quite an unusual sequence of music (for what was heard in the original release of this score) it’s great to hear a full-blooded rendition of the Imperial March – makes me want to see the movie again asap!

09 – “Boys Into Battle I” – Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of The Sith

What I like about this sequence is the martial feel to it, with the pounding timpani and the snare drum rhythms. It harkens back to when Williams didn’t use so much of the orchestra at any one time.

10 – “Main Title” – Earthquake

A film I remember from my childhood – and I loved it. But not for the music – that came later! Apart from the ominous start to the cue the theme focuses more on the more upbeat, almost romantic aspects of the score.

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