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A Gathering of Eagles
  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • Varese Sarabande CD Club VCL 0910 1110 / 2010 / 49:53

A Gathering of Eagles was intended to be a “look how great the military is!” movie brought out to counter the message of the forthcoming Dr Strangelove.  It was made with the full cooperation of the US Air Force Chief of Staff, filmed at real bases with real personnel and was reasonably well-received.  It was one of the first films scored by Jerry Goldsmith after his breakthrough year of 1962 (which saw him brought to wide attention through Lonely are the Brave and his Oscar-nominated Freud).  He wrote an exciting score, dominated by militaristic action music – he became something of a specialist for contemporary war films in the decade to come, but this was his first.  He was still forming his voice as a composer here (the violent brass outbursts share a lot more in common with Goldsmith’s hero Alex North than they do with Goldsmith’s own later war scores) – but this is still an impressive piece of work.

The almost-constant snare drums and piercing brass figures dominate that action music – it’s riveting stuff.  The score does have a more romantic side too, where Goldsmith provides a lush, shimmering wall of strings which is quite unlike the kind of music he would go on to write – I’m not sure he was entirely comfortable writing in that Golden Age style, and while those passages do have a certain appeal, I imagine that they will prove something of a stumbling block for those more used to Goldsmith’s more modern style.  The pinnacle of that Golden Age sound in this score is “Fowler’s Accident”, in which the composer manages to get the Alfred Newman string sound to generate a genuine feeling of tragedy.  This is an interesting score – it is skillfully written (Julie Kirgo concludes her excellent liner notes by observing that while the film “may have been intended as one kind of propaganda, Jerry Goldsmith’s artistry leads us, subtly, in quite another direction”) – and it contains some very impressive music – but it will inevitably leave a number of younger listeners a little cold.  For fans of the very early scores of this composer, though, it’s a must-have.  *** 1/2

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