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  • Composed by Henry Mancini
  • Quartet Records / 2012 / 62:48

The great Blake Edwards probably damaged his reputation a bit with the string of somewhat dubious films he made towards the end of his career.  Sunset, starring Bruce Willis as Tom Mix and James Garner as Wyatt Earp trying to solve a murder at the 1929 Oscar ceremony (really), is one of those, attracting poor reviews and little financial success on its release in 1988.  For some reason, Edwards’s collaboration with composer Henry Mancini is rarely mentioned as one of the great director/composer relationships, but it really was.  Perhaps the lighter nature of many of the films is what keeps it from being seen as a Hitchcock/Herrmann or Spielberg/Williams, but Mancini wrote some of the finest film music that anyone’s ever written as part of this collaboration.  The composer was himself nearing the end of his career at the time of Sunset and it is perhaps the last major dramatic score he wrote (despite its premise, the film isn’t really a comedy).

There are – not surprisingly – some great themes here.  The score opens with “The Cowboys”, an energetic and heroic piece which is heard little through the body of the score.  “The Mixenarp March” is a Sousa-styled piece of fluff, enjoyable enough.  “Theme For Cheryl” is perhaps the standout, a poignant piece of gentle jazz full of old-fashioned romance.  But the bulk of the central part of the score is actually brooding suspense music – the film’s a noir at heart – and while it’s handled with customary aplomb and works perfectly in the unusual film (for which finding the right tone must have been very challenging for the composer), it’s not all that interesting as a CD listen.  Despite the PR claims that accompanied this album’s release, this isn’t really a major Mancini score, but it’s still full of charm and more than enough quality to satisfy the composer’s many fans; three pieces were included on the composer’s 1990 album “Mancini in Surround” but this album from Quartet, which features interview material with – amongst others – the composer’s daughter Monica Mancini in the liner notes, is the first time the score’s been put out on album.  It’s an easy-going, enjoyable CD.  *** |

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