Latest reviews of new albums:
  • Composed by Michael Kamen
  • Varèse Sarabande CD Club / 2013 / 38m

Peter Yates made one of the most iconic and stylish films of the 60s when he directed Bullitt; it’s fair to say that even though his career lasted almost four further decades, he never approached those heights again, though he did work with a number of great composers, including Georges Delerue, John Barry, Elmer Bernstein, James Horner (Krull!) and, for 1987’s courtroom thriller Suspect, Michael Kamen.  The late composer’s career was very much in the ascendancy at the time – he had just done Lethal Weapon, was about to do Die Hard – and in some ways this score is like a precursor to his music for John McClane and Hans Gruber’s little tiff (sans Beethoven, of course).  The darkly ominous strings and low winds, punctuated by staccato bursts from the brass and percussion, developed here would become the composer’s signature action movie style over the following few years.

There’s more to this score than just that, though – there’s a kind of ironic beauty which creeps in at times in some shimmering strings, with more than a hint of the great Bernard Herrmann.  What’s impressive is that even though that most distinctive of film composers is clearly being evoked, this music is still so unmistakably Kamen’s – the duo of “Kathleen” and “Help Me” opens with a lonely horn call, builds through a lengthy passage of suspense, leads to a tense wash of strings – it’s masterful suspense scoring and that’s typical of the album as a whole.  It doesn’t necessarily shout out and make you stand to attention, rarely breaking into full-on action; rather it gradually sucks you in, puts you through the wringer before finally spitting you out in the angry, growling “The Cells”.  The end titles piece is more sweeping than the rest of the score, but makes a terrific climax, the long-lined melody finally giving way in the final bars to one last hint of suspense, one last suggestion that everything is not as it seems.  This release offers the same content as the original 1987 album but this time indexes it into separate tracks (there were two long suites before), the sound is perfect and Julie Kirgo’s notes are witty and wonderful.  As mentioned, it doesn’t offer the instant gratification of Kamen’s most famous works, but it’s a deep and at times complex score that is certainly worth of some attention.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

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  1. Marco (Reply) on Friday 3 November, 2017 at 10:52

    I like the movie and the soundtrack. May I ask whethere it was orchestrated by Mr Kamen himself?
    Thank you.