Latest reviews of new albums:
The Trouble with Angels
  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • Intrada / 2015 / 75m (score 43m)

The Trouble with Angels was a 1966 comedy movie based on Jane Trahey’s semi-autographical novel Life with Mother Superior.  Directed by Ida Lupino, it starred Hayley Mills as a rebellious teenager at a Catholic school run by nuns, who has frequent run-ins with Mother Superior (Rosalind Russell).  It was generally well-received and financially successful, enough to see a sequel released a couple of years later (Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows – which was nowhere near as well-received, though hopes are high for the forthcoming remake aimed at the lucrative trigonometrist market, The Trouble with Angles).

Jerry Goldsmith was one of the few film composers who could tackle genuinely any genre of film and provide music of style and substance.  The genre that has proved most challenging to provide truly interesting music for over the years has been comedy, and Goldsmith didn’t do all that many of them, but he rose to that challenge – most notably in his later years in the Joe Dante films, but he seemed to enjoy an occasional diversion into the genre throughout his career, pleased I imagine to have the chance to write something light every now and again among the weightier films he did.

Jerry Goldsmith

Jerry Goldsmith

A soundtrack was released for The Trouble with Angels by Mainstream Records to coincide with the film, and the same label put it out on CD (coupled with Stagecoach) in the early 1990s; in common with other CD releases on the label it suffered from poor sound, but just as they did with their great collection of classic Elmer Bernstein albums recorded around the same time, Intrada has managed to make that album master sound absolutely pristine for this CD.  In addition to that 28-minute sequence in clear stereo, this album features the whole score in mono, running about 15 minutes longer and split into dozens of generally very short cues.  (First rule of expanded soundtracks: if the original release combined short cues together, separate them.  Second rule of expanded soundtracks: if the original release did not combine short cues together, combine them.)

It’s essentially a monothematic score, and as was so often the case, Goldsmith’s theme was extremely malleable and he was able to adapt it into various different situations.  This is heard even in the sub-three-minute main title piece, which goes from completely heavenly strings and flute into a madcap 50s-style rock arrangement and then a playful pizzicato section before taking the same journey in reverse, without drawing breath – it’s madcap and fun but at the same time warm and even at times sentimental.

Other highlights include “Welcome to St. Francis”, which certainly has a respectful air of academia to it, along with a slice of trademark Goldsmith Americana (not to mention a calliope).  “A Pot of Tea” is exquisitely pretty: lots of flowery little solos featuring various fragments of the theme, it’s vintage Goldsmith, reminiscent in some ways of his then-recent A Patch of Blue.  The final portion of “Sewing Circle” is just gorgeous and leads into the score’s loveliest piece, “Future Plans”, by which time the composer has shifted his score into full-on melancholic beauty.

This is a score blessed with the usual standards of musicianship and professionalism you’d expect from Goldsmith and even if it’s very Mickey-Mousey at times it’s certainly not a slight work; and the main theme is a truly infectious creation.  Having said that – it does flit about all over the place.  Douglass Fake rightly points out in his part of the liner notes that the numerous short cues do serve as self-contained vignettes but inevitably the sheer number of them leaves a somewhat bitty feel, even in the intelligently-assembled original album cues (which to tell the truth are all you really need, though of course the complete score is a very nice bonus).  The sound really is fantastic (nobody has ever heard this music with this clarity before) and Tim Greiving’s literate liner notes a definite boon.  The Trouble with Angels is a nice score, cleverly written and clearly a very welcome release for any fan of Goldsmith’s music of this period; it’s clearly not at the top end of his output even of 1966 (a year which also saw the release of The Sand Pebbles and The Blue Max) but at its best it really is exquisite, so light and airy.

Rating: *** 1/2 | |

Tags: , ,

  1. It‘s quiet in here! Why not leave a response?