Official Jerry Goldsmith Suggestions
by Jeff Bond
Probably the only thing more difficult than narrowing down the field
of possible Goldsmith scores to purchase would be choosing from Ennio Morricone's
current selection of a few thousand available CDs. What I've tried to do
in the soon-to-be-controversial selections below is to cover the highpoints
of Goldsmith's output in the past thirty-odd years or so, picking works
that should be familiar to anyone interested in exploring this composer's
remarkably varied, high-quality output. Selections are in alphabetical
order. And yes, there are more than ten:
1. Air Force One (1997), Varese Sarabande, VSD-5825. Since the
beginning of the 90s Goldsmith has been moving on the periphery of the
"A" action picture, with efforts like Congo and Chain
Reaction suffering from their connection to extremely bad movies. Air
Force One is frequently just as dumb as something like Congo,
but it's mounted with conviction by Wolfgang Peterson and benefits greatly
from the grounding star quality of Harrison Ford. And Goldsmith's blend
of sweeping patriotism and ferocious, wildly energetic action writing is
the best thing to come from the composer in years.
2. Alien (1979), Silva Screen FilmCD 003. Yes, I mentioned it
already in the horror article. But it's a perfect combination of the sort
of neoromanticism that will appeal to current fans of Goldsmith's output
and the frightening avant garde effects he excelled at in the 60s and 70s.
3. Basic Instinct (1992), Varese VSD-5360. Goldsmith's icy-cool
sex music enlivened Paul Verhoeven's sleek but unsatisfying cop thriller;
the action cues seem sort of like Goldsmith working out the remaining threads
of his Total Recall ostinato festivities. A touchstone of recent
suspense film trailer music.
4. The Blue Max (1966), Sony Legacy JK 57890. An amazing example
of how the composer mixed a heroic, vaulting lyricism with extremely harsh,
modernistic writing, all while effectively evoking the atmosphere of World
War I arial dogfighting. Goldsmith has seldom been granted better scoring
opportunities than those afforded by the arial photography in this film.
5. The Cassandra Crossing (1977), RCA OST 102. A great example
of the strange approaches Goldsmith took to action scores in the '70s.
His main title here is a beautiful piece of pop songwriting without words,
while the rest of the score features a non-stop collection of odd-metered
action rhythms, harpsichords, strange metallic sounds, and very European-sounding
woodwind writing. "Helicopter Rescue" is one of the great, twisted
Goldsmith action cues. For further examples, try GNP's coupling of Capricorn
One and Outland.
6. Chinatown (1974), Varese VSD-5677. Along with Patton,
this represents the zenith of Goldsmith's skill at dramatic scoring, capturing
the feel of the 30s with its melancholy, gorgeous trumpet solo title theme,
and underlining the gripping angst of Roman Polanski's superb gumshoe film
with richly-textured, eerie avant garde string and piano effects.
7. Damien - Omen 2 (1978), Silva Screen FilmCD 002. I'll lump
the Omen series (The Omen, Varese 5281 and The Final Conflict,
Varese VSD-47242) together here as one of the great horror film gimmicks
in modern film. These scores owe a lot to Carl Orff and Stravinsky (although
not quite as much as some people think they do), but Goldsmith's approach
crystalized the idea of chanting Latin text as a satanic Greek chorus.
8. The Ghost and the Darkness (1996), Hollywood Records HR-62089-2.
You need to move past Goldsmith's simplistic use of Irish folk rhythms
in his main theme to appreciate this exciting score, which achieves some
truly epic moments along with a lot of spooky sound effects to characterize
attacks by two unstoppable African lions. It's one of the rare films of
the 90s to fully employ Goldsmith's imagination.
9. Legend (1985), Silva Screen FilmCD 045. You need to get into
that whole elf-and-wizard mindset to overlook some of the sappy qualities
of this score (that "wringle-wrangle" piece is the ultimate test
for true Goldsmith junkies), but the scale of this work (one of the last
fully-written works from Goldsmith's early 80s period) and a number of
captivating set pieces make this well worth purchasing, and at 70 minutes
its one of the fullest representations of a Goldsmith work ever released.
10. Logan's Run (1976), Bay Cities BCD 3024/A22722. This out-of-print
CD features one of Goldsmith's greatest scores, and it's living proof of
the composer's ability to pull a silk purse out of a sow's ear. The glitzy,
pre-disco floorshow that is Michael Anderson's film is a triumph of cheese
over story, but the abstract sets and action freed Goldsmith up and allowed
his avant garde instincts to soar, resulting in a gorgeous love theme,
moving Coplandesque outdoor music ("The Sun" is a lyrical masterpiece),
and fantastically agitated, thumping Stravinskyesque action cues.
11. A Patch of Blue (1965), Intrada MAF 7076. At the other end
of the spectrum is this masterfully delicate lyrical score for a little
drama about a blind girl and her relationship with a caring black man played
by Sidney Poitier, circa 1965. One of the most probing, thoughtful and
adroit dramatic underscores for small ensemble (piano, harp and strings)
you'll ever hear.
12. Papillon (1973), Silva Screen FilmCD 029. Goldsmith's score
for this adventure about a Frenchman's lifelong attempt to escape from
the penal colony of French Guyana is a great mix of action and heartfelt
drama, with some of Goldsmith's wildest, most powerful chase cues. The
end title coda is a marvel of anguished dramatic power.
13. Patton/Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970), Varese VSD-5796. At present
this is the only official version of Goldsmith's seminal WWII biographical
score available, and it's a mixed bag because the fading trumpet triplets
(echoed electronically in the film) are recreated acoustically here. Nevertheless,
all of Goldsmith's score is here to be re-experienced for the first time,
and it's a tremendously moving work, with brooding sensitivity standing
alongside some of the most stirring martial overtures in modern film. Tora!
Tora! Tora! showcases Goldsmith's 60s avant garde style and his skill
at writing sleekly atmospheric, modernistic Oriental-sounding music.
14. Planet of the Apes (1968), Varese VSD-5848. Finally, the
ultimate bizarre science fiction film score is available on CD, along with
sixteen extra-wacky minutes of the urbanized sequel Escape From the
Planet of the Apes. This will horrify fans of Rudy, but people
who grew up on Goldsmith will treasure this wild ride, full of fascinating
experiments in acoustic sound effects. Dig those ape hoots!
15. Poltergeist (1982), Rhino Records R2 72725. Goldsmith's most
spectacular horror score is like the scary side of Star Trek: The Motion
Picture, now available on a superbly-restored new soundtrack CD. Frightening
16. Rambo: First Blood Part 2 (1985), Varese VCD-47234. The Rambo
scores (First Blood, Intrada 8001D and Rambo III, Intrada 6006D)
are a great way to work your way back to some of Goldsmith's grittier writing
by first absorbing the smooth, almost lyrical stylings of the Afghanistan-set
Rambo III, moving into the energetic, rousing heroic themes of the
seminal Reagan-era celebration of jingoism, Rambo: First Blood Part
2, and finally exploring the dark, heavy territory of First Blood,
which bears more resemblance to very early '80s work like The Final
Conflict and Outland than it does to the later Rambo film
17. Rio Conchos (1964), Intrada RVF 6007D. A beautiful rerecording
of one of Goldsmith's great early western adventure scores, brimming with
tough, percussive action cues and beautifully assembled orchestral effects.
Even better is "The Artist Who Did Not Want to Paint" a gorgeous
semi-classical documentary score, with Goldsmith playing eloquent variations
of a beautiful, complex string melody, backed by French horns.
18. Rudy (1993), Varese VSD-5446. This is not my favorite effort
by Goldsmith, but chances are if you've just recently gotten into the composer,
Rudy is one of the reasons. If you like this score you'll probably
find much to enjoy about Patton, which has the same kind of rah-rah
feel to its battle cues; and if you can put up with its heavy drum machine
effects, you should love Goldsmith's Oscar-nominated Hoosiers score
(only available as "Best Shot" on a British CD).
19. Total Recall (1990), Varese VSD-5267. On the other hand,
fans of Goldsmith's more romantic recent work will find this an anamoly:
this effort for Paul Verhoven's fascinating but incredibly violent SF thriller
is one of the last over-the-top action scores from Goldsmith that can still
stand alongside his best work. Goldsmith uses the entire orchestra as a
percussion instrument here, slamming every Schwarzenneger punch home and
driving chase cues with some hammering ostinato-driven action cues. Equally
effective is his sly, "dream-like" scoring of the film's reality-based
sequences. The lengthy climactic cue "The End of a Dream" (largely
unused in the film) is a doozy.
20. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979), Columbia CK 36334.
Long one of the composer's most popular works, this great space score will
finally see an expanded CD release from Sony later this year. A decade
of Star Trek: The Next Generation only redoubled the popularity
of Goldsmith's title march, and the score is a neat mix of majestic overtures
and strange, Herrmannesque V'ger cues.
21. Under Fire (1983), Warner Japan WPCP-4936. A great example
of how Goldsmith can transcend the scoring process and produce an album
whose appeal stretches far beyond that of a standard film score. His opening,
lengthy piece for guitar and orchestra is one of his great album achievements,
driving and gorgeous, and the rest of the score creates a wonderful alien
feeling with pan flutes, orchestra and electronics.
22. The Wind and the Lion (1975), Intrada MAF 7005D. One of the
all-time great adventure scores from its thrilling title theme and furious,
ethnic-driven action cues to its sweeping, lush romantic theme, The Wind
and the Lion is Goldsmith's ultimate Hollywood-style score. If you think
First Knight or Lionheart are great epic soundtrack albums,
try this one on for size.
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