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  • Composed by Marvin Hamlisch
  • La-La Land Records / 2014 / 47m

A couple find a young boy called Daryl wandering the streets.  He doesn’t know who he is or where he’s come from – he has no memory at all.  They take him in, parent him, fall in love with his.  But wait!  That’s not Daryl, that’s D.A.R.Y.L. – a robot created by the US Department of Defence (note the spelling)!  Oh, what are they to do?  So went Simon Wincer’s 1985 movie, one of a cluster of child-focused science fiction films released in the middle years of that decade.  Marvin Hamlisch couldn’t have seemed like a natural choice to score it, but he rose to the challenge well enough, combining his easy-going style (great to hear) with some 80s electronics (awful to hear).  The emphasis is very much on the former as the album begins, the Main Title introducing two main themes, the first whistled and then taken up by harmonica, the second using the melody of a song he wrote for the end titles (“Somewhere I Belong”, sung by Teddy Pendergrass – it’s not exactly top-tier Hamlisch considering his standards, but it’s warm-hearted and appealing).

There’s a hint of the other side introduced in “Baseball Montage” and then the wonderfully-titled “Turtle’s Homer”, pop synths joining the orchestra.  People loved them at the time I’m sure but 80s pop synths really don’t do anything for me.  Later, a second electronic element is introduced in “TASCOM”, a very harsh and abrasive cue for the military facility the robot child was created at.  It’s actually a very effective sound, but entirely unpleasant to listen to.  Fortunately such moments are continually punctuated by classy orchestral music – the various renditions of the song theme are particularly appealing, frequently very touching and emotional (a different theme later is actually even more touching, the absolutely gorgeous guitar melody heard at the beginning of “You Are a Person”).  In the second half of the score, the emphasis turns much more to action and suspense and these are handled particularly well – taut and exciting, a side not often heard in this composer’s film music but one he was good at.  I really can’t stand the electronics (too much a product of their time) but the rest of the score is impressive stuff, certainly worth checking out.

Rating: *** | |

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