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THE ACCIDENTAL TOURIST
Lovely monothematic score shows Williams's lighter side
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1988 Warner Bros. Pictures; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.
John Williams will forever be known as the composer of a huge number of blockbuster scores, and rightly so, but sandwiched in between them are a number of worthy projects which allowed him to flex his muscles in an entirely different way. Lawrence Kasdan's romantic drama The Accidental Tourist is one of those, and it is a popular, well-made film. Bruce Broughton was originally meant to score it, but left the project before writing his score because he and Kasdan couldn't agree which direction to take the music, so Williams became the third great film composer to work with Kasdan following Broughton and John Barry (and James Horner would score his next film - not a bad roster).
If you look at expanded editions of Ennio Morricone scores from the 60s and 70s, you will often find that many tracks have the same title - he would often just record a set of barely-altered variations on a single theme and play them throughout the film and album. Had this score been by Morricone, then all twelve tracks would have the same title - each of them presents the same theme, in subtly different ways, but if you buy the album you'd better hope you like that theme because you won't have much opportunity to avoid it. In fairness it contains two distinctive sections, but even so this isn't much material on which to base 42 minutes of music - Williams's skill is in massaging those two sections in different ways, turning the mood lighter or darker through orchestration and an unexpected use of synths. It's a lovely, sweet theme which sits alongside things like Stanley and Iris and Sabrina in its airy expression of romance.
Some of the variations are magical, none moreso than the wonderfully-named "Fixing the Plumbing on a Rainy Afternoon", but they do rather run into one another. It is still a pleasant listening experience, and that Williams manages to cast quite so many different shades over proceedings through just the single theme is certainly impressive. Lovely music - and obviously fans of Williams's lighter side will have to have it - and it's great that Film Score Monthly have reissued the original album, which had been out of print and hard to find for many, many years beforehand.