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Nice, tuneful early score from Broughton

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Album cover copyright (c) 2008 CPT Holdings, Inc.; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall.

The Olympics have inspired many things, of course, and there is a pleasing aura which seems to be generated around the world every four years when the Games take place.  One of things they have inspired since 1984 is great music by everyone's favourite composer, John Williams, through his music written for opening ceremonies and television broadcasts; and many other great film composers have lent their talents to various Games over the years, including the beloved, much-missed Michael Kamen and Basil Poledouris.  The same year Williams was writing his first Olympic piece, so was Bruce Broughton - in a different way - not for the Los Angeles games taking place that summer, but instead for The First Olympics, a television miniseries about the first modern Olympics, in Athens in 1896.

Broughton's music has been much-requested over the years, and finally sees the light of day through (inevitably) Intrada, who have been champions of this excellent composer's music since they first started up.  His music here is tuneful and pleasant throughout, suggesting a happy atmosphere and being really quite charming.  It is dominated by its strong theme, an expansive piece not unlike the ones Williams would go on to write, which is very lovely and never outstays its welcome, despite the frequency with which it appears.  The album's finest tracks are almost all based around the theme - Broughton does enough with it to keep things interesting.  The longest pieces, like "Starting to Improve" and "First Attempts", are the most satisfying, allowing the composer a good opportunity to develop his music a little more.  The piano theme and susequent orchestral shenanigans in "Serious Consequences" is the highlight of the pieces which don't focus so much on the theme - for once the music takes a very slightly darker tone, which is welcome, 

As is common with television music, there are a lot of short pieces here, which are nice little vignettes, but can make the overall feeling of the album a little too haphazard for it to be entirely satisfying.  This isn't Broughton's fault, of course - it's simply the way that television music generally works, and actually it's a very pleasant surprise that there are four or five pieces which are much longer.  All in all it makes for an entertaining score, running almost an hour, which is pleasant throughout and if not top-drawer Broughton, still a welcome addition to the composer's discography.  The album's limited to 2,000 copies, though is unusually expensive, apparently because it cost more than usual to put together - $30 for a 57-minute score is a lot to pay, particularly in times where financial belts are being tightened around the world, even with interesting liner notes and good sound quality as there is here.  It's certainly worth it for Broughton devotees but for others, there are several cheaper, superior scores which would be higher up the list.

Disc One

  1. Main Titles (1:19)
  2. The Sorbonne (1:12)
  3. Coubertin's Plea (3:13)
  4. Olympic Punishment (:23)
  5. First Attempts (6:15)
  6. Underdressed (1:03)
  7. Starting Training (2:39)
  8. Connolly Drops Out (1:42)
  9. Starting to Improve (6:43)
  10. We Are Going to Win (:43)
  11. Serious Consequences (4:43)
  12. Part 1: End Titles (:53)
  13. Bumper II / New Starting Positions (3:51)
  14. Connolly, Blake and the Train (4:16)
  15. Half a World Away (3:32)
  16. Alone (3:10)
  17. A Lot of History (1:43)
  18. Preparations (1:23)
  19. Athens, 1896 (3:23)
  20. Epilogue (2:32)
  21. Part 2: End Titles (:56)
  22. Bumper I (:07)

Disc Two

  1. Hotel Garden (2:16)
  2. Wedding Waltz (2:37)
  3. Palm Court Trio (2:09)
  4. Greek Party (2:37)
  5. Bugler #1 (:58)
  6. Bugle Call (:19)
  7. Bugler #2 (:44)
  8. Bugles Announcement (:05)
  9. God Save the Queen (:38)
  10. Star Spangled Banner (1:14)
  11. Match: Athens, 1895 (3:50)
  12. Olympic Procession (5:34)
  13. Lady Liberty #1 (2:36)
  14. Lady Liberty #2 (2:07)
  15. Hymn to Liberty (:48)

    Special Suite
  16. Opening Titles (1:20)
  17. First Attempts (3:37)
  18. Starting to Train (2:41)
  19. The Train (1:57)
  20. Improvements (6:46)
  21. Epilogue (2:21)
  22. End Credits (:53)