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CD Reviews 12/18/00


Grand Prix/Ryan's Daughter ***

MAURICE JARRE

Chapter III CHA 1001-2

23 tracks - 67:13

This Chapter III Classics reissue is a combo album of two '60s-era Maurice Jarre scores: John Frankenheimer's Grand Prix and David Lean's Ryan's Daughter. Given Jarre's primarily electronic output in recent decades, these two more traditional scores are a good example of why Jarre has been able to coast largely on the coattails of things like Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. Jarre excels at sweeping orchestral effects, but when he strays from them his music becomes unfocused.

Grand Prix is a decent grab-bag of Jarre tricks, setting a pompous main theme in a variety of musical settings. Thrown into the mix are odd bossa-nova tracks ("Sarti's Love Theme," "Scott's Theme") that don't make much sense, seeing as this was a film about race-car drivers. Jarre's scoring of a race sequence ("The Zandvoort Race") is even more bizarre; he approaches it like it's a fandango left over from Lawrence of Arabia. (I pictured camels galloping around a racetrack.) There's plenty of diversity in Grand Prix, but nothing really gels; Jarre's stylistic variations are more gimmicky than anything else.

Fortunately, Ryan's Daughter has more life. Jarre's score to David Lean's penultimate film has its share of offbeat musical effects (like the quasi-comic stylings of "Michael's Theme" and the mock-militaristic rhythms of "The Major" and "The Shakes"), but unlike Grand Prix, the music is coherent. Jarre's romantic main theme, blessedly, doesn't bring to mind his famous melodies from previous Lean epics. It instead has an intimate sensibility that keeps it from dwarfing the rest of the score. Subtle electronic effects are sprinkled throughout, particularly in "Ride Through the Woods," a subdued cue that works precisely because of its understatedness. Unfortunately, as with Grand Prix, the score builds up little momentum, despite nice spots here and there; it's like a sampling of a more coherent whole rather than a coherent album unto itself. -- Jason Comerford


Turbulence 2: Fear of Flying *1/2

DON DAVIS

Pacific Time PTE 8526

23 tracks - 72:54

You might ask: This is what Don Davis is relegated to after his fine work on The Matrix? Well, things might not be as bad as they seem -- he may have actually written Turbulence 2 back in '97 or '98, and it's just taken this long for the film to get picked up. (Then again, is House on Haunted Hill far above a project like this one?) Shirley Walker's score for the original Turbulence (Ray Liotta, Lauren Holly) can only be described as horrifying, and Davis' work on this "sequel" is better if only by default.

The 7/8 electronics-driven opening of the Turbulence 2 main title might pump up your expectations for a decent, low-rent Jerry Goldsmith knock-off score. False alarm. The entire score is synthesized (beefed with a decent sample here and there) -- the heavier and more active the music gets, the more the weaknesses of the synths are revealed. Lighter, James Newton Howard-influenced cuts like "Brewster Dash" are cleaner and more bearable, but they don't carry the album. You're unlikely to get far into this CD, especially if you are paying attention to it. If you throw it on in the background while you're driving somewhere you may accidentally listen to the whole thing. Don Davis shouldn't be judged on this. He's already proven his worth (at least for the time being).

Director David Mackay was very high on Davis when he hired him. Mackay also "absolutely felt we needed a live orchestra to play the music [for Turbulence 2]. And better yet, we had enough money for that! But not enough money for an orchestra and a composer." I have absolutely no idea what that means, but the end result is this bland synth score. Let's all hope that Davis gets to work on something decent before the first Matrix sequel. Tom Berenger gets third billing in the credit block on the back of the Turbulence 2 album, but he fails to appear in a single one of the 11 stills in the booklet -- suspicious. -- Jonathan Z. Kaplan

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