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MARY, QUEEN OF SCOTS
Beautiful Barry classic on CD at last
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2008 Universal Music Enterprises; review copyright (c) 2008 James Southall
The third of John Barry's "historical trilogy", Mary, Queen of Scots came hot on the heels of The Lion in Winter and The Last Valley, two of the composer's standout scores. Those two share much in common - but he took a rather different tack with Mary, serving up a romantic treat for this tragic tale. It emphasises the great breadth of material he was working on at the time - the other two scores he wrote during 1971 being Walkabout and Diamonds are Forever - quite a range for a composer increasingly, unfairly pigeonholed as "the James Bond guy" or "the Dances with Wolves guy".
This new album from Intrada is the first time the original tracks have been released on CD (though a rerecorded suite was included on Silva Screen's The Lion in Winter release) - sadly it only includes the tracks which were featured on the original LP, running to just under half an hour, but there's still plenty of fine music here to savour. The main theme is vintage Barry - heartfelt, moving, truly beautiful - it's far more intimate here in its harpsichord arrangement than it is in the more sweeping symphonic version heard on compilations and in concert - a classic.
Having said that, it's almost guaranteed that a John Barry film score album is going to include a good theme - how often did he fail to deliver one of those? - so perhaps what separates the great from the good is the depth of other material - and Mary more than delivers in that regard. If anything, the "Vivre et Mourir" theme is even more spellbindingly gorgeous - both versions on this album are vocal arrangements, sung (beautifully) by Vanessa Redgrave, and it's a bit of a shame not to have a straight orchestral treatment - but the melody is a real stunner. Then, a far more dynamic theme for Mary is introduced in "But Not Through My Realm", one of those catchy Barry themes which stick around in your head for an age.
Queen Elizabeth I also gets her own material, with "Journey to Scotland" opening with a fine little trumpet fanfare before settling into another (ironically) very sweet theme. The score does (of course) have a darker side too - "Black Night" is full of deep tragedy. All of this - and only in the first five cues. It's top-drawer John Barry, his great dramatic instincts combining with his melodic gifts for a truly wonderful album. Sound quality is not the best in a couple of places, but is generally fine; and Jon Burlingame's interesting notes finish off the package. Brilliant.