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The Beyondness of Things
  • Composed by John Barry
  • Decca / 1998 / 55:25

In 1998, John Barry was virtually at the end of his film scoring career (though few knew it at the time, including, I daresay, him).  At the start of the year, he had four film projects due for release within a few months – the prestigious-seeming The Horse Whisperer, the less-prestigious-seeming Goodbye Lover, the action film Mercury Rising and the smaller movie Playing by Heart.  Unfortunately, within a relatively short space of time, two of these scores were completely rejected and the other two at least partially replaced (the fact that some of Barry’s music remains in Playing by Heart is reportedly only due to replacement composer Christopher Young insisting to the film’s producers that he wouldn’t be able to write anything so good).  

Now, the rights and wrongs of that situation could be debated ad nauseum (and there are no prizes for guessing which side of the debate I’d be on), but it was presumably as a result of that – having written a lot of music which Barry himself was very happy with, yet wasn’t actually featured in any films – that the composer signed a deal with Decca Records to release orchestral concept albums.  Thus, The Beyondness of Things was born.  It was never officially confirmed, but there has been constant speculation that some of the music on the album is actually themes from the composer’s rejected score for The Horse Whisperer, indeed there has even been suggestion that one track comes from a demo theme the composer wrote for The Bodyguard several years beforehand.

John Barry

The official story was that this was a kind of musical autobiography from the composer, each piece representing some part of his life.  In truth, regardless of the music’s origins, one thing is for sure – it is gorgeous.  Twelve pieces of music, most of them written very much in the latter-day Barry’s grand, romantic style, performed by the (greatly augmented) English Chamber Orchestra, prominent harmonica solos by Tommy Morgan – the album really does play like a set of film themes that never were, but not only that, they’re first-rate ones too.

There’s overt, lush beauty of the title track and “Give Me a Smile”; more playful, intimate romance in “Kissably Close”; different shades of nostalgia in “A Childhood Memory” and “Nocturnal New York”; a certain epic quality to a couple of pieces, like “Dawn Chorus” and the considerably darker “The Day the Earth Fell Silent” (which was reportedly inspired by memories of President Kennedy’s assassination); a certain sultry quality to the vaguely Body Heat-like “The Fictionist”.  The most obvious candidate to be from The Horse Whisperer is “Meadow of Delight and Sadness”, a lively piece not unlike “The Buffalo Hunt” from Dances With Wolves.

After listening to the album for over a decade now, my favourite track has (perhaps surprisingly) become the finale, “Dance with Reality”, which stands out as something really rather different from the rest.  A rhythm section and electric guitar is added to the orchestra and the piece plays like a wistful, now-poignant memory of the composer’s swinging past.  But each of the twelve pieces of music here is impressive; the album, one of my favourites.  It’s hard to imagine that any fan of John Barry’s work from 1990 onwards wouldn’t say the same thing.  Beautiful, entertaining, evocative.  Typical Barry.  *****

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  1. TDidz927 on Tuesday 10 November, 2015 at 21:32

    Read this article and bought the album. What a great one, thanks for recommending it!