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THE PICK-UP ARTIST and
SHERLOCK HOLMES IN NEW YORK
A pair of little-known greats
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
The Pick-Up Artist composed by
Holmes in New York composed
Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
Intrada Records has been around for over a couple of decades now, initially a fairly minor player, releasing the occasional score, with a retail business bolted on the side which was I suspect where the money was made. Indeed, there was a time, not very long ago at all, when new releases from the label seemed to be so uncommon that it was beginning to look like the label's days of releasing scores may have been over for good. What a difference a few years makes - the internet-only boom ignited by Film Score Monthly and then the reawakened Varese Sarabande CD Club showed how successful limited edition releases sold only via the internet could be, and these days Intrada leads the field in terms of those releases. They generally have impeccable taste, as a look through the list of composers featured in their releases quickly demonstrates - Jerry Goldsmith and Bruce Broughton feature heavily (indeed, the label has released the vast majority of those scores by the latter which have been made available to the public) and there are other composers who crop up frequently. Now, two more can be added, with Intrada's debut releases of scores by Georges Delerue and Richard Rodney Bennett - there is no sign that their impeccable taste is on the wane.
As Julie Kirgo's liner notes say in their opening paragraph, one of the great joys of being a fan of film music is finding those little-known gems which very few people ever mention, and loving them so much you want to spread the word. It is so hard to explain to "non-believers" about the reasons for buying soundtracks for films we've never even seen - but with The Pick-Up Artist and Sherlock Holmes in New York, here's the reason why - you can experience great music written for long-forgotten productions, which lives so happily by itself it is easy to forget that it wasn't actually written with this in mind in the first place.
The Pick-Up Artist is long forgotten, notable only really for being one of the earliest leading roles for the excellent Robert Downey Jr., and for being one of a string of entirely unworthy films scored by the incomparably great Georges Delerue during the 1980s. Bizarrely, despite it being just about the only good thing the film had going for it, most of the composer's score was removed from the film, and until now listeners have only been familiar with it thanks to the brief theme Delerue recorded as part of "The London Sessions" albums for Varese.
The whole score is actually only 27 minutes long, but that's plenty of time for Delerue to showcase his talents for writing the most effortlessly charming, heartwarming romantic music. Ken Russell said "Not many people can [bring the sun out on a rainy day]. Only God and Georges Delerue." It's music like this which reinforces that - with his gently-flowing music for a modest ensemble showcasing flute, guitars, piano and strings, this could surely bring a smile to the most sullen face. The opening "New York" combines several shorter cues into one suite, including that familiar theme which was previously-released, and is all disarmingly gorgeous; but then the true genius of Delerue shines through in all its power in "A Thing of Beauty", the most sumptuously-appropriate name ever given to a piece of music. It's four minutes of the most calming, soothing, edifying piano music you'll ever hear. The eight-minute "Happiness" follows, a gleefully Parisien piece of old-fashioned romance which might seem a bit corny - but is quite irresistible! A few shorter cues follow in which the mood becomes a little sadder (but remains permanently beautiful) and, while this isn't in the top-tier of Delerue efforts even on these forgettable American films he scored, it's still wonderful music.
Connected seemingly only through the film being set in New York (and not being very good), Sherlock Holmes in New York was a 1976 tv movie starring Roger Moore, Patrick Macnee and (believe it or not) John Huston. Richard Rodney Bennett had not long before written what remains his most famous film score, Murder on the Orient Express, so it's easy to see why he would have been picked for this tale of the Victorian sleuth. The gallop which opens the score is full of charm, a beautifully witty little piece which sets the tone perfectly for the tale of an Englishman abroad. Bennett obviously had a whale of a time with the music, making the kind of grandly dramatic statements a film composer could only ever get away with in a period film, and doing so with the greatest flair and panache. There's the melodramatically sinister "Moriarty", an old-fashioned waltz in "Irene", playful underscore in "The Boy", before more subtle, serious drama in "The Vaults", which begins with some genuine suspense before once again taking on a perfectly-judged lighthearted air. "Irene and Sherlock" is an extended romantic piece, before the rousing finale.
Here are two delightful (though completely unrelated) scores, the type that only a few years ago it would have been impossible to imagine ever being released. Sadly they were only available for a brief time (the album was limited to 1,200 copies and sold out within a few hours of being announced) but if you can snag a copy from anywhere, go ahead - it's first-rate film music from first-rate film composers. The liner notes add another touch of class to a great package. Highly recommended.