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  • Composed by David Shire
  • Varese Sarabande CD Club VCL 0609 1096 / 2009 / 38:38

In 1979 legendary director Martin Ritt turned his attentions to Norma Rae, a biopic of a woman who battled to improve conditions for workers at a textile mill.  The film won two Oscars – one for Sally Field’s performance in the lead role; and one for David Shire and Norman Gimbel’s song “It Goes Like It Goes”.  That particular award (Best Song) has lost almost all relevance as the years have gone by – now almost always awarded to a nice song that happens to appear over the end credits – but there was a time when filmmakers used songs in their films for genuine dramatic effect, rather than to extend marketing opportunities.  This is one such time.  It’s a beautiful song, splendidly sung by Jennifer Warnes, featuring great lyrics by Gimbel – but the best part is Shire’s gorgeous melody, one of his most memorable.

The score itself is slightly unusual.  Most of it was excised from the film when director Ritt decided he wanted to go for a more documentary feel and lose any Hollywood gloss, so is heard for the first time on this album.  It’s a combination of gentle country instrumentals (which frequently sound more like source than score) and gorgeous trumpet-led Americana.  In Julie Kirgo’s excellent liner notes, Shire himself is characteristically modest when he says he can understand now why Ritt removed much of his score, and even that it sounds “too Hollywood” to him, looking back.  Well, it doesn’t sound too Hollywood to me – sensitive, lovely music throughout, so typical of this marvelous composer.  The album’s slightly disjointed feel prevents it from being put on the shelf alongside Shire’s very best, but this is a winner of an album, a revelation to most people who will never have heard most of this music before.   *** 1/2

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  1. Schnurpsel (Reply) on Saturday 12 September, 2009 at 16:21

    This is truly a real gem for any film music fan. Deep emotions painted with only a few notes. This is an art, almost extinct in modern times.