Music from Pirates of the Caribbean, The English Patient, Jurassic Park, Shakespeare in Love, Batman, The Pink Panther, Mission Impossible, Love Story, Superman, Romeo and Juliet, The Godfather, The French Lieutenant's Woman.
Collections of film music have been coming out for years, but these recordings reached an unprecedented level of sophistication and popularity in the 1970s with the RCA Classic Film Score Series conducted by Charles Gerhardt. Other pops specialists such as Arthur Fiedler and Erich Kunzel have also promoted film music. The format of these albums focused on fairly straightforward presentations of individual themes versus more musically interesting short suites emphasized by Gerhardt. Carl Davis cannot compete with Gerhardt (or the production values and sonics of his RCA series), but he is probably better suited to conduct film music than most of the other competition because of his diverse abilities as composer, arranger, and conductor. This CD is similar in concept to Davis's first Naxos album of film music in that he tends to favor the themes concept more than lengthy suites. Most of the selections are from fairly recent films, but Davis includes Henry Mancini's The Pink Panther (1963) and Lalo Shifrin's theme from the TV show Mission Impossible in a sizzling arrangement. The Pink Panther theme sounds pretty bland when compared to Mancini's original soundtrack (largely because of its sensational Living Stereo sound). In the dramatic scores that predominate, Davis usually chooses fairly swift tempos, probably in an effort to avoid excessive sentiment in a collection like this. Batman (Danny Elfman), Romeo and Juliet (Nino Rota), The English Patient (Gabriel Yared), and the Superman March and Love Theme (John Williams) all work well. On the other hand, Davis's fast tempo largely misses the sense of wonder and grandeur in the Theme from Jurassic Park, even if it does have considerable urgency and dramatic thrust. The Godfather is almost totally devoid of its authentic flavor. Once again, as with Kunzel on Telarc, Klaus Badelt's music from Pirates of the Caribbean sounds much better when it is played by an orchestra with no synthesizers. The brief excerpts from The English Patient and Davis's The French Lieutenant's Woman are highlights. The sound is good with no gimmicky multi-miking, but the music would benefit from more presence and bass impact (as with Telarc). My biggest problem is that an album devoted to the film music of this period contains nothing by Jerry Goldsmith. I could easily do without the pop-schlock arrangement of the theme from Love Story (Francis Lai) or Stephen Warbeck's vapid and interminable music from Shakespeare in Love. The CD would be much more desirable if they were replaced by a couple of Goldsmith gems. Nevertheless, Carl Davis can always be counted on to conduct fine arrangements of film music, and this is no exception--if you are into this kind of compilation. -- Arthur Lintgen, Fanfare, Jan-Feb 2010