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VCL 0306 1047

Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall



Triumphant triumvirate from Conti, including one real great 


The current renaissance of interest in Bill Conti continues apace, with no fewer than three of his Twentieth Century Fox scores released on this new CD from the Varese Sarabande CD Club.  Three films that are unlikely to trouble the compilers of lists of great motion pictures, and indeed two that few are likely to have even heard of, their release nevertheless is extremely welcome, with Conti being one of the most overlooked and underrated composers in film music of the last three decades.

Headlining the release in all ways is Rookie of the Year, a 1993 movie about a little boy who ends up being a baseball superstar after a broken arm magically heals to become the best bowling arm in the sport.  Yes, well.  It was quite popular at the time.  Conti is simply the perfect composer for "inspirational" sports movies like that, with his blissfully unsubtle style entirely appropriate; and of course, he pretty much wrote the book on the genre with RockyRookie of the Year is an absolute treat.  It's all anchored around a wonderful main theme, aptly described in Julie Kirgo's witty liner notes as "part Mozart, part marching band" which is exactly correct, with the rousing march being one of Conti's most memorable creations (and there's no shortage of memorable creations from the composer).  "The River" is a delightful, small-scale guitar-and-piano piece; and "Jack's Big Mistake" a genuinely affecting piano version of the main theme.  Best of all are the sports sections themselves, notably "Mound Advice" and the exceptional finale, "Float It!", opening with some Hoosiers-style synths and developing into a rousing, brilliantly over-the-top piece which should be as infectious to film music fans as the H5N1 strain of bird flu is to our avian friends.

A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon was a coming-of-age piece starring River Phoenix (the more cruel-minded might suggest that he never actually appeared in anything other than coming-of-age pieces).  Conti's music, of course, is rather different from Rookie, dominated really by light pop, synth-heavy material, which is mostly charming, but inconsequential.  "Desperation" introduces the playful main theme; the electric guitar and synthetic pan pipe solos of "Reality" offer a slightly darker picture, though it still sounds like pop music of the time (1988).  Much of the score is on the lighter side and it's all rather pleasant.  With drum machines aplenty and little of real significance, I suspect most people would be disappointed if they'd paid money for it alone, but as part of a package of three scores, it's charming enough.

The most recent of the scores represented is Bushwacked, from 1995, a "riotous comedy" which I've never heard of.  The music is more substantial than Jimmy Reardon, and just as pleasant.  The opening theme, "Whacked!", is great fun, recalling Danny Elfman's Midnight Run in many ways.  Again, it's all very lighthearted, though more orchestral, pleasingly so, and is another nice way to spend 25 minutes or so.  Scoring comedy is rather difficult to do well, and the somewhat madcap style is no departure from the Elmer Bernstein-established way.  There's some surprisingly literate music here, like the martial "The Swat Team" and full-bodied orchestral pieces "The Hike" and especially the delightful "Our Leader", which even includes the briefest quote from the composer's Masters of the Universe.  It all ends with the ludicrously, delightfully over-the-top finale "Big Finish", which more than lives up to its name.

This album presents one superb Conti score, one rather good one and one that's pretty forgettable, but it's a no-brainer for fans of the composer, and an excellent opportunity for others to see what he's all about.  Highly recommended.  I hope more Conti releases are around the corner (or, better still, that he gets a new assignment or two).


  1. Rookie of the Year Man Title March (6:19)
  2. Miracle Throw (2:10)
  3. The River (2:07)
  4. A Great Summer (4:11)
  5. Mound Advice (2:48)
  6. Jack's Big Mistake (1:30)
  7. Henry's Got a Plan (2:44)
  8. Float It! (3:58)
  9. A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon Desperation (1:18)
  10. Reality (1:16)
  11. Go Around Back (3:22)
  12. Hawaiian Dreams (2:37)
  13. The Flood (2:54)
  14. The Note (1:57)
  15. Jimmy's Theories (2:39)
  16. I Want It Now (1:15)
  17. Atmosphere (2:12)
  18. The Bad "L" (:45)
  19. Heredity (3:33)
  20. Bushwacked Whacked! (1:48)
  21. The Fire (2:44)
  22. The New Girl (1:27)
  23. Max Meets Kids (1:48)
  24. Devil's Peak (1:05)
  25. The Swat Team (2:18)
  26. Danger! (2:22)
  27. The Hike (1:11)
  28. Mad Max (1:39)
  29. Palmered (1:11)
  30. Our Leader (3:14)
  31. Big Finish (4:17)