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  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • First Night Records / 2014 / 34m

When Britain’s ambassador to the great nation Scandinavia is taken hostage by a group of terrorists, “Head of Security for Scandinavia” Sean Connery thinks his day can’t get any worse, until another group of terrorists turn up in a hijacked plane and attempt to help the first group of terrorists escape.  Only it turns out the second group of terrorists is not a group of terrorists at all, it’s actually British special forces trying to fool the first group of terrorists into giving them back their ambassador.  Sean is not pleased and starts shooting people – he is the Head of Security, after all.  It’s all a bit daft but it’s enjoyably daft and, well, it was 1974.

Specialising in scoring daft films (and not-so-daft films) around that time – especially when they starred Sean Connery – was Jerry Goldsmith.  His rollicking action score is perhaps the film’s greatest asset and is as hugely enjoyable as most of his action scores, from whichever period of his career they may have appeared.  A vinyl album was released at the time of the film and most (but, oddly, not all) of it was put out on CD by Silva Screen in 1991, coupled with The Chairman.  In 2005 Prometheus Records offered a resequenced version of the whole original album, which curiously featured two complete cues twice (the end titles and “No Alternative”).  Now in 2014, First Night Records has released the same content as a downloadable album.  It’s worth noting that all of the digital-era releases are mastered from vinyl and none sounds exactly stellar; but the more recent two are a little better than Silva’s earlier mastering.

Jerry Goldsmith in salmon

Jerry Goldsmith in salmon

The later albums begin with the first version of the end titles, highlighting the film’s stellar main theme; stylish, quintessentially 1970s, it’s sexy and stylish, the kind of thing Goldsmith did a few times through the decade, particularly on European-made thrillers.  The album continues with a different, slightly jazzy arrangement of the theme in “Standard Issue” before the first action appears in the dynamic “Queen’s Messenger”, the sexy strings balancing beautifully against the arresting percussion and brass.

“Mission Aborted” opens with a more suspenseful passage before Goldsmith relieves the tension beautifully with some breathless action music based on the main theme; it’s a familiar sound to any fan of the composer, and of course a glorious one, with the jabbing piano, sweeping strings and percussive figures joined here with a different flavour (harpsichord).  “No Alternative” begins with another brief burst of action, before a surprisingly soft, tender version of the main theme, all the more effective because of its placement.

The lengthy “Sky Chaser” is bona fide Goldsmith action dynamite, bold and brassy and ballsy – he did action music not just better than any other film composer before or since, but many orders of magnitude better.  This cue just leaps from the speakers, so exciting with the soaring version of the theme early and late on – maximum thrills are generated even though at no point is the kitchen sink thrown at things – there’s no 120-piece orchestra, no 100-member choir, no gimmicks – just a blistering demonstration of both compositional and dramatic skill.  The action continues in “Course of Action”, slower paced but no less thrilling for that.  The theme is back to open “Just Sit Tight”, in one of its most forthright arrangements (it’s one of the two cues not heard on the Silva Screen CD, the other being the light “Standard Issue”).

Reprises of “No Alternative” and the end titles sandwich “Peeping Tom”, a dashing piece which marks a return of the 70s suave.  Ransom is a great little action score by the master of such things, a hugely-satisfying album with not a single dull moment.  It’s full of such panache, such style, and is so unmistakably Goldsmith throughout.  The only shame is that the sound quality doesn’t do it justice (some of it would sound just massive); presumably the original masters have not been found, necessitating the master from the vinyl source.  But it’s nowhere near bad enough to detract from the fantastic music, pulse-pounding throughout and essentially for any Jerry Goldsmith fan.

Rating: **** | |

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  1. Jens (Reply) on Friday 21 February, 2014 at 03:59

    This is one of my favorite Goldsmith action scores and would be one of my favorite albums if it weren’t for the lousy sound. It’s absolutely prime material for a reconstruction ala QB VII or The Salamander. The Ransom Concert Suite on the latter album is a perfect illustration of just how great this score could potentially sound.

  2. Yavar Moradi (Reply) on Friday 21 February, 2014 at 20:36

    Unfortunately I felt that suite while good suffered in comparison performance-wise compared with the OST — listen to the quick piano passage in Sky Chaser for the most noticeable example. It just doesn’t have the same energy and zip.

    That said, I loved The Salamander and it’s a must-own disc…

  3. Jens (Reply) on Saturday 22 February, 2014 at 14:04

    I agree the energy isn’t quite there – I was just happy to hear Ransom sound so clean. If Tadlow were to do a proper re-recording, surely they’d more precisely match the original performance. Think how incredibly close they god with QB VII.