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Artwork copyright (c) 2005 Silva Screen Records Ltd.; review copyright (c) 2005 James Southall



Wonderfully sexy compilation of great music


Composer of over two hundred film scores, Michel Legrand remains virtually unknown to even staunch film music fans.  Quite why this should be is rather mysterious, since his career has seen him write almost always attractive music for a wide variety of films, some of them very famous (though many, admittedly, most certainly not) and pen one of the most enduring and indelible film songs, "The Windmills of your Mind" from The Thomas Crown Affair.  That won an Oscar, as did his scores for Summer of '42 and Yentl.  Not bad going, really!  And he's still very active today, with ten new scores since the turn of the decade.  The time would therefore seem more than right for a retrospective of his work, which is what this 13-piece compilation does.  It features new recordings, of Legrand conducting the Flemish Radio Orchestra playing suites and themes from some of his finest scores.

The disc opens with the wonderfully nostalgic, gorgeous The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, the score that brought Legrand his first real recognition on the international stage (with the whole film featuring not a single line of spoken dialogue, instead the whole lot being sung to his music).  Les Demoiselles de Rochefort ("Girls of Cheese") is a big band piece, full of swaggering, smouldering swing; another treat.  One of the composer's most famous scores is Summer of '42 (which, as I said earlier, won Legrand an Oscar) though John Barry fans will find the theme sounding really rather familiar.  Never Say Never Again is a score which polarises opinion like few others; whatever its merits in the film, the theme is a sexy and impressive one, with the fluttering flute solo (so typical of the composer) a particular highlight.

"Best Friend" is another big band-style piece (though with full orchestra) and another swinging delight; then comes an unfamiliar arrangement of Legrand's most famous theme, The Thomas Crown Affair.  I suppose the piece must seem to Legrand a bit like "Spirit in the Sky" would seem to Norman Greenbaum, which explains the fresh (and nice) arrangement.  It's one of the sexiest scores ever written.  The Happy Ending features romance on a far more sweeping scale, though it still highlights the composer's trademark wind solos to give it a personal touch.  Richard Lester's The Three Musketeers is a very different kind of score from those that have gone before (it opens with thunderous action music before leading into a nice presentation of the vigorous, immensely catchy main theme) but equally impressive, and rather preferable to Lalo Schifrin's hard-to-like music for its sequel.

Wuthering Heights is a dramatic and weighty score, still boasting a fine, melodic theme, but considerably darker than much of what has gone before on the album.  Brian's Song is one of the most gorgeous pieces on the album, another extremely catchy tune (though a film I've never heard of).  Dingo sounds like it might be an Australian movie (the sequel to Dunny, perhaps) though I'm sure it isn't; the music, with a mournful muted trumpet solo dominating, is another delight.  The album ends with two lengthy suites, from Yentl and The Go-Between; the heaviest, most serious-minded music on the album, these show a mature and impressive dramatic element of Legrand's style and mark a fine way to end the album.  

The latest entry in Silva Screen's "Essential" collection, this is perhaps the best so far, if for no other reason than it will open the door to a much winder audience for the underappreciated composer.  Though it's been released by Silva, the recording has apparently been produced by Reader's Digest and features neither Silva's usual orchestra nor any of the other familiar names associated with their releases.  While the fine liner notes which typically accompany Silva releases are certainly missed, Legrand entices an excellent performance from his orchestra and this is one of the most impressive film music albums of 2005.  While their styles are all very different, somehow Legrand's music shares the same uniquely French joie de vivre as Maurice Jarre's and Georges Delerue's; they are all, always, eminently listenable composers, able to write breezy music to bring a smile to the listener's face.  Hopefully this album can go some way to bring recognition of Legrand towards that afforded his two fellow countrymen.

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  1. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (5:07)
  2. Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (4:27)
  3. Summer of '42 (3:56)
  4. Never Say Never Again (3:33)
  5. Best Friend (6:00)
  6. The Thomas Crown Affair (3:53)
  7. The Happy Ending (5:59)
  8. The Three Musketeers (8:04)
  9. Wuthering Heights (5:08)
  10. Brian's Song (3:17)
  11. Dingo (4:03)
  12. Yentl (14:00)
  13. The Go-Between (13:58)