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THE DARK CRYSTAL
Great fantasy music is an early high-water mark for Trevor Jones
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1982 Nice Noise, Inc. / Cherry River Music Co. Inc.; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
By 1982 Trevor Jones had already attracted some attention in film music circles thanks to his music for Excalibur, but of course to the general public his contribution to that film was rather outshone by the use of other music; but he really put himself on the map with The Dark Crystal, Jim Henson's elaborate fantasty film which was presented as the first live action film which didn't feature any human actors. The original plan had been for an avant garde score, but eventually Henson and Jones agreed that a more traditional, symphonic sound was requried to make the film seem slightly more accessible to audiences.
Over the years Jones has become somewhat renowned for his grand, sweeping themes and that from The Dark Crystal is right up there; given a rapturous performance in the Overture, there's certainly an element of Miklos Rozsa there in its pomp and sweep (something else that Jones would do again later on in his career), and it's a first-rate piece of film music. Whereas sometimes Jones's scores may feature a fabulous main theme but little else of note, The Dark Crystal is - thankfully - not like that at all, with constantly-interesting and colourful underscore which means the album never drags (well, apart from the silly source music, but that's easy to programme out).
He cleverly integrates synths with orchestra to create a rather florid, extravagant sound - a little like Jerry Goldsmith would a few years later in his astonishing Legend score - and there are some grand highlights. "The Funerals" is fiercely intense, fantastically powerful, epic music full of little repeating cells which are tremendously effective; the piece it leads into, "Jen's Journey", may be completely different in style, but is no less impressive - carried by a simple (presumably electronic) wind solo, it's beautifully evocative and quite moving in its own way. "The Skeksis' Funeral" (there seem to be a lot of funerals here) is another grand piece, with an impressive brassy flourish of the main theme.
"Love Theme" isn't exactly memorable, particularly when placed against the main theme of the score, but it's absolutely lovely, and is given a very strong orchestral arrangement. There are still a couple of hints of what the score may have been had the original vision been carried through, with a few avant garde hints in "The Gelfling Ruins" and to a lesser extent "The Great Conjunction", which aren't really like anything else by Jones - but they're so rich and rewarding, it makes me wish he had had the opportunity to write more in that style in other scores.
The score ends in grand style with a seven-minute Finale piece, rounding out what is undoubtedly Trevor Jones's finest score so far. This album marks the first time the score has been widely-available on CD; released to coincide with the film's 25th anniversary, and boasting decent sound, it comes highly recommended. There was a previous CD release of the whole score made available in limited quantities, but that exposed weaknesses far more than it exacerbated strengths, with the lengthy presentation showing that all of the best music was on the original LP anyway. This is by far the best presentation of the score and La-La Land's release is first-rate.