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Artwork copyright (c) 1992 Silva Screen Records; review copyright (c) 2004 James Southall



Goldsmith: Legend


Jerry Goldsmith's relationship with Ridley Scott - one of the most successful directors he's ever worked with - was strained and unpleasant.  First was Alien, for which Goldsmith wrote an extraordinary score, but unfortunately Scott had fallen so in love with his temp track that he abused and misused the composer's masterpiece, which deeply upset Goldsmith.  However, he was willing to let bygones be bygones and work again with Scott on Legend, after he fell in love with the script.  Sadly, it would prove to be one of his most horrifying experiences ever; after spending three months creating an extraordinary, experimental powerhouse of a score, Universal chairman Sidney Sheinberg decided the film needed something that would appeal more to a younger audience and so not only cut out over a quarter of the film but replaced Goldsmith's score entirely with one by Tangerine Dream; the European release was longer and did feature Goldsmith music, but it was strewn all over the place and, once again, bits of the temp-track (such as Goldsmith's own Psycho 2 score) remained.

The film is a colossal fantasy about the struggle between light and dark, with goblins, unicorns, faeries and the like doing battle.  It had (has) so much potential that it's a great pity that Sheinberg decided to meddle (and just about finish his career) - despite his "improvements", the film was a box office disaster.  This only adds to the frustration that Goldsmith must have felt, because his score is one of his absolute finest.  It opens with "The Goblins", a dazzling mix of synthesisers, orchestra and full choir, which introduces the first theme, a dark and ominous motif for the villainous goblins.  It is immediately plain that Goldsmith was intent on creating something unique and experimental - the synthesised accompaniment seems a wholly natural extension of the orchestra, but is so multi-layered and detailed that it probably took more time to arrange than the actual orchestra!  The integration of the music's four key elements - synthesisers, orchestra, vocal soloists and full choir - is stunning.  Goldsmith writes wonderfully for each element individually, when necessary, and also various combinations of them - never in all of film music before and since have electronics been incorporated into an orchestral score so naturally and successfully.

"My True Love's Eyes" presents the score's wonderful love theme, probably the most beautiful the composer has ever penned.  Usually set to lyrics by John Bettis and heard sung by a female vocalist (uncredited), its power is immense.  "The Unicorns" shows just how ambitious and detailed this music is, an extended (eight-minute) piece of majestic beauty, expressive and colourful to the max, a gleeful fantasy.  The first real action music comes in "Bumps and Hollows", and it sees Goldsmith staying firmly in the boisterous territory he explored so effectively through the early 1980s.  Big, bold, based around an excellent motif, it's a killer piece, made all the better by another truly stunning short piece for female vocalist, a melody that simply melts the heart, related to the "My True Love's Eyes" theme.  Traces of horror are introduced in "The Freeze" - somewhat similar to Poltergeist, but even more creative and terrifying.  Goldsmith creates a cavernous, enormous sound.

"The Faeries" are underscored with ethereal, other-wordly synthesisers, though there is also an interesting folk-like motif for violin which is heard in a few cues through the score (it is heavily-disguised in this cue, but it's there all right).  Also introduced is a dance piece for the faeries, turned into a song for male choir in "Sing the Wee".  More dramatic material is revisited in "Forgive Me", a piece awash with colour and emotion.  "Faerie Dance" is another expressive piece, a lovely piece of music (which was written before filming so that the scene could be choreographed to the music - of course, the scene then went on to be cut) that reaches an absolute frenzy of excitement by its conclusion.  The faerie music continues at the opening of "The Armour", but then another of the score's finest moments is heard as yet another new theme, a noble piece for French horn, is introduced - it seems to come and go very quickly, but leaves a lasting impression.  "Oona" brings some very busy music for strings and brass that is exciting and a little scary, though there are moments of respite, such as when the "Sing the Wee" melody appears for a few bars; by and large, however, this is the most avant garde orchestral writing in the score.  "The Dress Waltz" is an extraordinarily powerful dance piece evoking Ravel at his finest (no, not Revell - Ravel).  The three concluding tracks constitute a real tour-de-force even by this score's sky-high standards.  "Darkness Falls" does what you might expect it to, as a light and heartening atmosphere gradually becomes overwhelmed by a ferocious onslaught of musical darkness.  Breathtaking!  "The Ring" then sees the reversal of this process in another expressive and detailed portrait of beauty featuring some stunning writing for choir.  "Reunited" goes through a few of the main themes, including the stunning love theme, wrapping up the score and album in remarkable fashion.

This album from Silva Screen was originally released in 1992, greatly expanding upon the original release thanks to tireless efforts from James Fitzpatrick and engineer Mike Ross-Trevor, who fortunately had kept private copies of the tapes from the recording sessions (otherwise this music would have been lost forever).  A decade later, it was repressed to coincide with the DVD release of the film (allowing American audiences to see the European release with Goldsmith's score for the first time).

I think that Goldsmith was so shocked by what happened to his score for Legend that it completely changed his approach to film scoring.  Never again would he even attempt anything so ambitious, so complex, preferring instead to write more streamlined scores for more mainstream movies virtually every time, seeming to put a little less of himself into the music and just get on and give the director exactly what they asked for, whatever their lack of ambition for the score.  That's not to say that he hasn't written some great scores - he certainly has, on many occasions - since Legend - he's just never attempted anything quite of this scope.  Is it his best work?  Yes, it may well be.  For some reason, unlike his other masterpieces, this one does not attract quite such a level of praise from most quarters, even Goldsmith fanatics, but this reviewer thinks it is an unbelievably beautiful work worthy of the highest praise, reaching levels only the very, very finest film scores have ever touched.  Sure, at times is can be complex and challenging, but that should be seen as a highly positive thing, not a negative.  A more recent trilogy of film scores that go with hobbits and elves does not even approach the ambition or scope of Goldsmith's Legend, which arguably shows above any of his other works that he truly does deserve to be considered among the finest composers of his day, one whose reputation in the wider world of music never reached the heights it should have done, purely because of the snobbish attitude towards film music in general.  Some of it may be generic, some of it may be bland, but Jerry Goldsmith's Legend is a masterpiece of epic proportions.

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  1. The Goblins (5:45)
  2. My True Love's Eyes / The Cottage (5:04)
  3. The Unicorns (7:53)
  4. Living River / Bumps and Hollows / The Freeze (7:21)
  5. The Faeries / The Riddle (4:52)
  6. Sing the Wee (1:07)
  7. Forgive Me (5:13)
  8. Faerie Dance (1:51)
  9. The Armour (2:16)
  10. Oona / The Jewels (6:44)
  11. The Dress Waltz (2:47)
  12. Darkness Falls (7:27)
  13. The Ring (6:28)
  14. Reunited (5:18)