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Routine Goldsmith action/thriller score - but how refreshing it sounds
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2007 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
Let's face it, Jerry Goldsmith scored some real turds during his time, far more than a man of his stature and ability should ever have had to, but somehow no matter how deep the pile of shit he found himself working on he managed to swim through it and come out smelling of roses, making whatever film he worked on seem like it was somehow more important than it was. They truly didn't come much less important than The Vanishing, one of the most notoriously-awful films of the 1990s, but Goldsmith even made that seem like it was something worth watching (well, at times) - the only other thing worth watching is Kiefer Sutherland's gloriously awful outfit, with white chinos accompanied by a yellow woolly jumper - reproduced in crystal clear technicolour on the back of this album, I'm pleased to report.
However, this isn't a website for those on the lookout for sartorial elegance (as anyone who has ever glanced inside my wardrobe will surely attest) - it's one for film music opinions. Jerry Goldsmith passed away in 2004 - he had certainly not been churning out the hits with the regularity he so tirelessly displayed during his awesome prime, but even so the years since have seemed especially barren, due in no small part to there being no new Goldsmith music to hear. Even when working on rubbish, and even when his music no longer quite had the magic it once did, there was a special thrill to hearing a new Jerry Goldsmith score.
In truth, The Vanishing is just another in the long line of 1990s action/thriller scores like Chain Reaction, US Marshals and so on which were dismissed as "routine" at the time, but which seem - at least to this listener - about a dozen times more exciting than any action score penned since the composer's death. He was perhaps a victim of his own success - so prolific, with so many new scores coming year after year, perhaps we took him for granted, didn't really appreciate what we were getting until we stopped getting it.
The Vanishing is no masterpiece - there are hints here of Basic Instinct, hints of the same cleverness as runs through that score, but it never quite hits the same heights - but nobody else ever wrote music like this for films, and I don't suppose anyone will. It's all based on melody, little fragments which appear in one place and then end up forming the basis of an action piece later on, the B-section of a theme so short you wouldn't notice it suddenly cropping up as counterpoint to a different theme somewhere else in the score - everything is so cleverly interwoven, everything has a purpose, there's nothing here just to be filler. There are some good action cues, including an enormous piece for the film's climax; there's suspense which is built musically, not just having orchestral stings suddenly blaring over the top of drum loops; a sexy main theme; and a lovely, jazzy love theme, brilliantly arranged for the end title.
The score is finally available as part of Varese Sarabande's CD Club - it was one of the only Goldsmith scores of the CD age which wasn't released at the time of the film. For sure, there are dozens upon dozens of better Goldsmith scores than The Vanishing, but boy - I wish there was someone around capable of writing this type of thing today. To hear music of this intelligence and professionalism, somehow rising above the film for which it was written to take on a life of its own, and at the same time contemplating that for however good it seems, its composer was responsible for writing probably a hundred scores which are even better - wow. Mr Goldsmith, you are sorely, sorely missed.