CD Reviews John Williams

A Guide for the Married Man

A notable gap in early John Williams film music is filled with this very likeable original soundtrack recording of one of the composer’s previously-unreleased scores. Opening with the film’s theme song, recorded by the Turtles and previously available on some of their CDs, Williams’ music is in the late 60’s pop variety of HOW TO … Continue reading A Guide for the Married Man

American Journey

Ever since New Year’s Eve 1999, when I saw the Spielberg short film THE UNFINISHED JOURNEY on CBS, I’ve loved the music John Williams composed for it. Some weeks later, someone posted the audio track on the Internet, all the music and all the readings, just as it was on TV. I downloaded it, burned … Continue reading American Journey

Far and Away

FAR AND AWAY is a large and colorful epic score, and certainly one of John Williams’ most beautiful and moving works to date. In this score Williams makes use of a standard symphony orchestra, but has augmented it with an ensemble of Irish instruments, provided by the Chieftains. Curiously. Williams also makes use of pan … Continue reading Far and Away

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I loved the first Harry Potter movie, and I loved John Williams’s score for it. The new film, HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS, is a better film, and the score, composed by Williams and adapted and conducted by William Ross, is a pastiche of old and new themes that bring the new story … Continue reading Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

As a die-hard Williams fan, I’ve been looking forward to the HARRY POTTER score as much as anyone has. I’d read on the Internet that the composer was delighted to be working on three disparate projects in a row: first A.I., then POTTER, then ATTACK OF THE CLONES. I, for one, love the A.I. score, … Continue reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Jaws

JAWS changed everything. It launched a skyrocket of a career for Steven Spielberg, started Hollywood’s current blockbuster mentality, and was the first film to gross $100 million. A large part of the film’s success (as both art and business) is due to John Williams’s phenomenal score, which gave the shark all the menace it needed. … Continue reading Jaws

JFK

Hardly surprising, given the successful collaboration between Oliver Stone and Williams on BORN ON THE 4TH OF JULY, that the same composer would be chosen for JFK. The latter however must have appeared a much tougher proposition to score. The film, a powerful and emotive docu-drama, offers no obvious signposts per scoring and the sheer … Continue reading JFK

Midway

MIDWAY is both precursor and antithesis of SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. “Family” scenes receive underscoring in both films, but MIDWAY’s battles feature score and lithe music during scenes of anticipation. This makes the music very erratic, and the result is rarely flattering. But John Williams knows a dramatic tease when he composes one. The score, like … Continue reading Midway

Saving Private Ryan

For Steven Spielberg’s searing new World War II film, John Williams has created a most interesting score. It is decidedly quiet, even subdued, and at times hard to hear. But it is compelling all the same. Like someone who whispers, it requires you to concentrate, lean closer, and listen very closely. In other words, it … Continue reading Saving Private Ryan

Star Wars Trilogy

This is about as near to nirvana as the soundtrack collector can come. Fox Records’ STAR WARS TRILOGY is the first real boxed-CD set for soundtrack collectors (GNP Crescendo’s recent STAR TREK set while gathering four previously-released STAR TREK TV soundtracks into a box set, isn’t really what the “boxed set” has come to imply: … Continue reading Star Wars Trilogy

Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

Maybe you’ve heard: The new STAR WARS score has been released. So let me start by saying this: the PHANTOM MENACE score doesn’t sound like any of the other STAR WARS scores, so if that’s what you’re looking for, look elsewhere. If, however, you’re looking for a terrific film score, we can talk. Here are … Continue reading Star Wars: The Phantom Menace

Stepmom

More than once John Williams has chosen an artist from the concert world to perform on his scores. SEVEN YEARS IN TIBET featured the virtuoso cello playing of Yo-Yo Ma just as the earlier SCHINDLER’S UST featured the violin of Itzhak Perlman. With STEPMOM, Williams works with Christopher Parkening, the distinguished classical guitarist, to add … Continue reading Stepmom

The Accidental Tourist

Something was bothering me all through the score for The Accidental Tourist. I thought it was the lack of bombast, but on reflection the surprise here is really the paucity of leitmotifs. The main title introduces the score’s only theme. Williams plays with its elements throughout, and the theme becomes, rather than tiresome, progressively more … Continue reading The Accidental Tourist

The Cowboys

When Varèse announced their CD release to THE COWBOYS earlier this year, I went through the roof. Initially, the score was rumoured to appear in the limited edition Varèse club, but it soon transpired that Williams’s popular favourite was going to be available for all to enjoy. However, a disquieting rumour began to spread just … Continue reading The Cowboys

The Patriot

John Williams has composed a rich and evocative score for Roland Emmerick’s intimate look at the American Revolutionary War. This is battle music, wonderfully and thickly orchestrated, clearly resonant even at its most dissonant, held together by a pair of themes that embody the human element behind the conflict. Williams speaks to the heart of … Continue reading The Patriot

The River

It’s nice to see John Williams scoring a film that has no spaceships, drooling aliens or sacrifice scenes where people get their hearts ripped out. Clearly he needed a change. Though MONSIGNOR didn’t quite fit the bill, THE RIVER is a step in the correct direction. Like Williams’ score, the film is not entirely successful, … Continue reading The River

The Witches of Eastwick

Easily John Williams’ best score since E.T., not that there’s any comparison; E.T. was all sweetness and wonder, while THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK offers us wonder-workers of a more diabolical nature. Even great Williams albums like THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK have their slow spots, but there’s not one to be found in any of WITCHES’ … Continue reading The Witches of Eastwick