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Forever Young
  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • La-La Land Records / 2011 / 74:37

An unabashedly old-fashioned romance, Forever Young sees Mel Gibson play a test pilot cryogenically frozen in the late 1930s who wakes up in 1992 and longs for the love of his life.  It met with mixed reviews but did pretty well on its release in 1992; and it’s the only Gibson film scored by the great Jerry Goldsmith.  The composer relished the chance to score films like this, where he could write big themes of warmth and a little nostalgia – and if there’s one thing Forever Young does not lack, it’s big themes of warmth and a little nostalgia.

This expanded album from La-La Land opens with “Test Flight”, a wonderful piece of soaring music which introduces the score’s flying theme, which is full of heroism and adventure.  Big melodies of this kind are not really in vogue at the moment, but even if they were I doubt we’d be hearing many of this standard – there is magic in the air as Goldsmith produces what I consider to be one of his most thrilling pieces.  Notably, on this album much of the synth percussion which appeared in this cue and several others on the score’s first release is dialled-down considerably – Goldsmith had added it specifically for the album (it wasn’t in the film) and I prefer the purer sound here.  (The familiar cues from the old album where different from here are all presented as bonus tracks.)  Perhaps my favourite version of this theme is in “The Tree House” – again, I have to use the word “magic” to describe it – it’s music of such spirit and warmth and indeed excitement, the composer effortlessly adding action into the mix.

Jerry Goldsmith

That fantastic tune isn’t even the score’s main theme – that is a ravishingly rapturous love theme, one of the composer’s most memorable.  It gets a wonderful light jazz arrangement for soprano sax, piano and orchestra in a piece Goldsmith recorded especially for the album, evoking the golden age spirit of someone like Franz Waxman.  I’m amazed that it’s not talked about more as one of the great Goldsmith themes – perhaps his fanbase is more geared around the action and science fiction films he did so successfully, but when he went for this kind of sweeping melody he could really deliver.  In all its many appearances through the score, the theme is a warm-hearted delight.

Fans of his action style certainly aren’t short-changed, though – the pair of big cues that mark the score’s finale, “She’s Alive” and “Reunited”, see the composer reprising the score’s two fantastic primary themes and combining them with some first-rate, thrilling action music.  It’s all so full of adventure, warmth and excitement.

Many of the composer’s scores in the 1990s were met with an unfathomably lukewarm reception at the time and Forever Young was no exception.  Perhaps people were simply disappointed that the dazzling creativity with which this composer made his name was replaced by a more “standard” orchestral sound.  But even in a time when film composers were unafraid to wear their heart on their sleeve and big, memorable themes were to be expected in any number of scores in a given year, this one’s melodies stands out.  It’s even better on this album, which adds about 15 minutes of brand new material and features the superior film versions of several cues.  This is perhaps the most underrated score of Jerry Goldsmith’s career.  ****

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