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PCD 158

Artwork copyright (c) 2005 Prometheus Records; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Dynamite 60s action score gets re-released


A little-remembered 1969 movie, The Chairman was a vaguely Hitchcockian thriller which reunited star Gregory Peck with director J. Lee Thompson (after Cape Fear) and saw Peck play an American double agent who pretends to defect to the Chinese in order to steal some secrets off them, meeting Chairman Mao along the way.  It was the first of four collaborations between Thompson and composer Jerry Goldsmith, coming before The Reincarnation of Peter Proud, Caboblanco and King Solomon's Mines - none of them is a great movie but the quality of the scores go to show the affection Goldsmith must have had for the director (who also made films scored by Dimitri Tiomkin, Bernard Herrmann, Franz Waxman, Elmer Bernstein, John Williams and John Barry - an unbelievable fact which I doubt could be matched by any other director).

While he didn't venture out East very often for his scores, when Goldsmith did, the results tended to be pretty spectacular, and The Chairman is no exception.  It isn't quite in the league of The Sand Pebbles, which came shortly before it, but isn't far behind (and frankly, very little is in the league of The Sand Pebbles).  There are two main themes.  On this new release, the first that appears is the sweeping, soaring love theme, "The World That Only Lovers See", whose arrangement is slightly dated but whose romantic beauty (featuring a rapturous piano solo performed by Goldsmith himself) is timeless indeed.  It still features the Chinese flavour which dominates the score, but to a lesser extent.

After that comes the dynamite main title, a magnificent piece which introduces the main theme and whose power makes a lasting impression.  It's the sort of dynamic, driving piece which Goldsmith used to throw out with prodigious regularity yet you can never tire of hearing.  Much of the rest of the first half of the album comes with expressive, very colourful suspense music; the great care and attention-to-detail the composer put into it is plain to see and it maintains a great beauty, culminating in the simply gorgeous "Hathaway's Farewell", a truly touching piece which tugs at the heart strings.  The final few tracks are dominated by trademark Goldsmith action music, some of which is truly explosive, all of which is typically impressive.  Of particular note is the breathless "Fire Fight", an intensive and thrilling piece of action.

This is the score's second release on CD.  It was originally packaged together with Ransom on the Silva Screen label, but has been resequenced and remastered for this release by Prometheus.  The sound still isn't great, but certainly isn't bad either and is likely to be as good as it's ever going to get.  The resequencing groups the quieter material all together in the first half and the action music in the second which I'm not sure is entirely beneficial, but if I hadn't been used to the previous running order I doubt I would have noticed.  This is a very impressive Goldsmith score, a wonderful combination of his taut action style of the 1970s with the beautifully expressive music he wrote during the 60s.  If you don't already have the Silva release then this one's unmissable.

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  1. The World That Only Lovers See (2:25)
  2. Main Title (2:23)
  3. Goodbye for Now (1:45)
  4. A Late Visitor (2:44)
  5. The Tour (2:37)
  6. Soong Chu (2:17)
  7. The Red Guard (3:15)
  8. Hathaway's Farewell (2:45)
  9. Escape (3:02)
  10. Fire Fight (3:20)
  11. The Fence (1:40)
  12. End Title (3:13)