CD Reviews 9/25/00
Jaws: The Revenge ***
Intrada MSML 1001
8 tracks - 27:38
Jaws: The Revenge was the fourth Jaws film and the final
nail in the coffin of the franchise. Today, the film remains as engagingly
unwatchable as it was back in 1987. Intrada's promo begins with Michael
Small's arrangement of John Williams' classic shark theme, incorporating
bits that don't even appear in the original film (but they were on the
concert arrangement from the old album). Jeff Bond thinks that the bridge
of Williams' shark theme lends an almost supernatural quality to Jaws.
In Jaws The Revenge, the shark is supernatural (it follows Mrs.
Brody to the Bahamas) so Small replies with an eerie synth motive based
on a see-sawing major third -- very '80s.
Most of the tracks on this album alternate between nautical, impressionistic
writing, and orchestral violence for the shark attacks, as in "Underwater."
"The Shark" underscores an underwater chase, with Small shaping
Williams' exciting original material into syncopated octatonic developments,
along with his own synth motive later taken up by a full string section.
Its effect in the film makes for big laughs. The most straight-faced action
music in the world cannot make the shark of this film more threatening
than the gray Styrofoam banana that it is. On the other hand, the effortless
simplicity and beauty of "The Bahamas" remind us that Small used
to write terrific scores for the likes of Marathon Man and The
On a CD, Small's material fares better since it's not accompanied by
the film. Sadly missing from the album is the cue for Mike Brody's daughter
mimicking his movements in the same way Shawn Brody imitates Chief Brody
(Roy Scheider) in the first film. Williams was working with a poignant
scene and he handled it brilliantly: a low, subtly disturbing pedal for
the depressed Brody, with a delicate bitonal music-box melody for Mike
copying his father's movements. In Jaws 4, Small actually Mickey-mouses
the little girl's every move. These two approaches to the same basic scene
encapsulate the differences between the Jaws and Jaws The Revenge
films. Small certainly gave Revenge a lot more than it deserved
-- and this a much better score than Deep Blue Sea...whatever that
means. The hysterical coda tacked onto the end of "Revenge and Finale"
is almost worth the price of the disc, as it no doubt sums up Small's opinion
of the film. It's sad that the great Michael Small was delegated utter
crap like Jaws the Revenge in the late '80s -- and even worse that
he never found his way back to the material that he deserves. -- AK Benjamin
Guns for San Sebastian/Dark of the Sun
ENNIO MORRICONE/JAQUES LOUSSIER
Chapter III CHA 0134
26 tracks - 62:29
Ennio Morricone's score for the 1968 western Guns of San Sebastian
kicks off Chapter III's "Chapter III Classics" reissue series,
and despite the inevitable similarities to The Good, the Bad and the
Ugly (written a year later), it's a terrific score and hopefully a
harbinger of things to come from the Chapter III label. Morricone's score
(33:20 on the CD) is, at times, more varied an effort than Ugly,
with Morricone's usual sweeping, melodic writing counterbalanced by a handful
of terrific action cues ("The Chase," "The Attack")
that would be at home in any action film made today. Interestingly enough,
Morricone's usual through-composition style doesn't result in many slow
spots in the first half of this album. There's more variation than with
a typical Morricone album, and his lyric writing develops an interestingly
secular feel towards the end (i.e., "Teclo's Death", "End
Title") that is markedly different from the sweeping "Overture"
that opens the album. Like many a western scored by Morricone in this time
period, he's evoking an emotional soundscape without being action-specific,
giving the film and its characters a mythological profundity that probably
wouldn't work if any other composer tried it. Guns of San Sebastian
doesn't have Morricone's usual instrumentational trickery; it's a somewhat
standard-issue score for him, but standard Morricone usually puts much
else to shame.
Dark of the Sun, on the other hand, was composed by Jaques Loussier,
a French jazz pianist-turned- composer. Surprisingly enough, Loussier's
work in an orchestral idiom (29:09 worth) is more eclectic than one might
think, and actually makes a good match with Morricone's music. "Claire's
First Appearance" showcases some terrific, throbbing string chords
over a steady pulse of percussion and harpsichord, and "The Mercenaries"
features some crazy pool-hall-jazz writing undercut with tense, sawing
string chords. "The Doctor is Found" is a beautifully elegiac
cue for with undulating piano and string writing, evoking a sense of tragic
emotion without sanctimoniousness. The album slows down in the middle section,
burdened by repetitive jazz writing ("Curry and the Diamonds",
"Claire and Curry") but it picks up momentum again with the marvelously
subdued cues "The Fight" and "Curry Kills Henlein,"
two eerily underwritten cues that don't resort to banshee melodramatics,
and instead opt for a nuanced, tragic feel. And despite the unaccountable
weirdness of "Friendly Natives Having Fun" -- which, honestly,
is a cue that fully lives up to its title -- the reprise of Loussier's
"Main Theme" provides the album with a great send-off.
The sound quality on these releases is somewhat pinched and dry -- there's
distortion here and there, and some evident tape hiss, but for enthusiasts
of this material, having this long-unavailable music on CD will be worth
it. And while there isn't any extra material, these albums were well-put-together
to begin with, and remain entertaining listens. -- Jason Comerford