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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 and beautiful.

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 scores.

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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