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Exceptional score thrills, excites, dazzles with Williams brilliance
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1992 Universal City Studios, Inc. and Amblin Entertainment Inc.; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
Just as Steven Spielberg's Jaws ushered in a new era of popcorn films in Hollywood, so the same director's Jurassic Park saw a sea-change follow, thanks to its pioneering CGI visual effects. Never before had computer-generated imagery seemed so real to audiences, and since then they have been ubiquitous. Sadly, most of the time they are done with not nearly so much artistry as here, and are a key factor in many modern films' failings (where directors and studios seem to spend all their money on the effects, seeing them as a substitute for needing to spend time and money doing anything else). In Jurassic Park, Spielberg fashioned a marvelous film, one of his very best as pure entertainment - and of course, his old friend John Williams was along for the ride.
What most people remember most about this score is its two grand, melodic themes. The first is given a concert arrangement in "Theme from Jurassic Park" - a sweeping, pastoral, elegant piece, conveying the beauty and majesty of the recreated dinosaurs, heard to glorious effect in the film in "Journey to the Island", one of the highlights of Williams's career. That long (nearly nine-minute) piece also introduces the other main theme, a kind of noble extended fanfare full of the spirit of adventure and discovery. Put together in that piece - with subtle choral accompaniment, and given a beautiful, crisp recording by Shawn Murphy - it is sheer bliss for a Williams fan.
However, there is so much more to this score than those two themes. They are rich and wonderful - but there is an extraordinary wealth of other treasures here. Williams scored each major sequence in the film in its own distinctive way, giving each scene its own identity while making sure everything was cut from the same cloth. I'm not sure he has approached a film in quite this way since, coming up with such a rich tapestry of ideas (though of course he has written many very fine scores in the intervening decade-and-a-half).
The action music is phenomenal, starting with the ferocious "Incident at Island Nublar"; and then the vicious, unrelenting "The Raptor Attack", one of the most effectively terrifying pieces to have come from this distinguished composer. Williams gives the raptors a four-note theme and uses it much like he used that from Jaws, to signal impending doom and the onset of panic before letting rip with it in a cacophony of horror during the attack itself. The other side of the raptor coin is played in "Hatching Baby Raptor", which sees ethereal chorus accompany harp and high-register strings, the light side being presented against occasional grumbles from lower strings and brass perfectly capturing the beauty of the moment against the ominous repercussions which have not quite been grasped by the human protagonists yet.
"My Friend, the Brachiosaurus" is one of the score's most beautiful moments, a splendid pastoral piece of tremendous charm. This is followed by "Dennis Steals the Embryo" - and it seems that as well as stealing the embryo, Dennis may have been busying himself conspiring to murder President Kennedy, because the cue is a near-carbon copy of JFK's "The Conspirators". It's the only real misstep in the whole score, seeming to be out-of-place with what's around it. Fortunately things quickly get back to normal, with the exceptionally sweet "A Tree for My Bed" featuring the score's main theme in a lullaby-style arrangement.
The action returns in "High-Wire Stunts", with a very subtle playful edge (presumably to represent the children in peril) gradually being overwhelmed by the ominous growl of the dinosaur music. A brief respite comes in "Remembering Petticoat Lane", another lullaby (and another lovely one), but from then on it's action and suspense music all the way. "Jurassic Park Gate" is probably the most low-key of these final cues, with the fanfare theme opening it up accompanied by some jungle-style percussion and then suspense, setting up the viewer and listener for what is to come. "Eye to Eye" builds slowly, but arrives at some Indiana Jones-style martial, percussive music and sees the composer gradually build the tension to fever-pitch levels, before releasing it all in the sensational "T-Rex Rescue and Finale", the score's action highlight. Growling, snarling, rasping through many minutes, the music is an exceptional aural assault.
The score resolves itself perfectly in the end title piece, but bizarrely this is mislabeled "Welcome to Jurassic Park" and placed seemingly indiscriminately in the middle of the album, with only its second half being reprised at the end of the album - Williams worked so very hard to build up the tension through the score and then resolve it in the piece, it is simply crazy that it is then sequenced in the way it is - a spot of reprogramming (moving "Welcome to Jurassic Park" to the disc's end and then removing the unnecessary "End Credits" entirely) is essential to enjoy this score at its best. And boy, at its best, it is hard not to enjoy it - Williams had a tremendous decade in the 1990s, with a whole host of exceptional scores - but Jurassic Park may well be the best of them. It's an incredible film score - constructed with such intelligence, with so much thought, yet still managing to connect on the most fundamental level with the listener. A masterpiece.