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THE GOLDEN SEAL
Lovely adventure music from a master melodist
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 The Samuel Goldwyn Jr. Family Trust; review copyright (c) 2009 James Southall.
The Golden Seal sounds like it should be about Queen Victoria, have been made in the 1950s and scored by Miklos Rozsa, but actually it is about a golden seal. I suppose nobody could accuse the filmmakers of not coming up with a literal title. The legendary seal in question lives somewhere near the Aleutian Islands and it becomes one boy's quest to find it - little knowing that he is unwittingly allowing two rival hunters to find it too, and collect the great bounty which has been placed on its poor little head. To make matters worse, one of the hunters is the boy's father - dads, eh?
Musically, the film represents a rare collaboration between Barry and another composer. He would have scored the film himself, but a scheduling conflict meant Octopussy had to take priority, so Dana Kaproff (more well-known for his television work) was brought on board to write some of the score, mostly based on Barry's themes. And what themes they are! If you can truly resist a full-on long-lined Barry theme then, frankly, there's not much hope for you; I can't, and there are some great ones here.
"The Frolic" is an absolute Barry gem, a classic worthy of going alongside all his others. The film's main theme sandwiches a majestic piece of opulent adventure music, the kind of soaring piece Barry has delivered with such panache on several occasions. The frolic referred to in the track title is between the boy and the golden seal in the water, and those moments provide similar musical highlights later on. "In the Water" features a full reading of the main theme; and the outstanding "Goodbye" tugs at the heart strings in no uncertain terms.
While the main musical highlights come from the tracks credited exclusively to Barry in the album booklet, the Kaproff sections are not without their moments. The latter composer wrote the score's few moments of real action music; "The Bridge" is rather exciting, and Kaproff also scored much of the film's action-packed conclusion, with the highlight being the pairing of "The Choice" and "You're Safe Now", the former featuring a propulsive brass figure and the latter - featuring a reprise of a harmonic theme by Barry introduced much earlier in the score - releasing the tension in a very satisfying way. While the action music sounds nothing like what Barry would have written, Kaproff skilfully manages to keep it entirely integrated into the overall feeling of the score - there are no jarring transitions from Composer A to Composer B here.
The final musical element is the very pleasant song "Letting Go", written by Barry and his regular lyricist Don Black, based on his main theme, sung by the great Glen Campbell. Of course it's not hard-hitting, but it's a charming inclusion in the Barry song repertoire. The Golden Seal is a very impressive score and album (Intrada's CD being a modest expansion of the old LP) - don't be put off by the word "and" after "John Barry" on the front cover, this is a fine piece of music which will appeal to Barry's legion of fans as well as anyone else who likes thematically-rich family adventure music.