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THE WIND AND THE LION
Epic adventure score is up there with the best
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 1975 Turner Entertainment Co.; review copyright (c) 2007 James Southall
Before he went a bit silly, John Milius did direct a couple of fine films - the taut crime drama Dillinger, and then the sweeping historical adventure The Wind and the Lion, which tells the story of President Roosevelt (the first) sending in troops to rescue an American family taken hostage by a Moroccan chieftain played by Sean Connery. It's good, old-fashioned filmmaking and would have been fertile territory for any film composer - and Milius enticed one of the best, Jerry Goldsmith, to write what was essentially his first large-scale adventure score - the epics he had worked on previously had all been more adult-themed than this romp.
It is one of his very finest scores, and Intrada's reissue of the original soundtrack LP was a prized posession of many Goldsmith fans, but had become something of a rarity in recent times. Much to everyone's delight, then, a project which had been said to be impossible because of complicated rights problems finally saw fruition, with Intrada releasing Goldsmith's complete, hour-long score for the film, adding about 25 minutes of unreleased music to the original album. With the prospect of extra music, all in improved sound, this is an album which should have any Goldsmith fan salivating.
The main theme is a classic - exotic, colourful, exciting, it's one of Goldsmith's best. He gets full mileage from it in the score, with the opening fanfare cropping up repeatedly in the score, played by every possible instrument in the orchestra at one time or another, binding everything together beautifully. The rest of the theme - for Connery's character, the Raisuli - is primarily used in action/adventure mode, sometimes in a more reflective way. At other times, Goldsmith sends the fanfare off in a different direction, developing from it a different theme (for Roosevelt) which is much warmer and more American in nature.
The other principle theme is "I Remember", the love theme, which again is one of the composer's best. It has such a wonderfully real quality about its emotional impact - such a sweeping piece wouldn't be heard in a modern film since the style has been eschewed, but in Goldsmith's hands he could imbue such a timeless quality that while it may be a trifle old-fashioned, it isn't dated. Add to that its yearning beauty, and you get the second all-time-great theme within the same score.
The exciting passages of the score are innumerable - "Lord of the Riff" is a stirring martial piece, "The Horsemen Arrive" an intense, floor-shaking action masterpiece - but not review of The Wind and the Lion could be complete without an expression of astonishment at "Raisuli Attacks", surely the most thrilling piece of action music Goldsmith (and, by extension, anyone) ever wrote. Brilliantly combining the score's main themes together for a piece of such furious excitement it might cause palpatations in the uninitiated, this is truly one of the high-water marks of film music, a cue constructed so well musically and functioning to raise the level of the film at the same fast rate it raises the roof of the CD listener, it's hard to stay in your seat. The other major cue is "A Bid for Freedom" (called "Something of Value" on the previous release), as some of the "Raisuli Attacks" action music is reprised but in slightly grander, more stately manner, and the cue concludes with a very satisfying version of the love theme.
The highlight of the new material is "The True Symbol", which includes an opening section not heard on the original album which features an exciting theme for Roosevelt. "The Blue People" is the longest new track, and features some surprisingly dissonant material which is a lot harsher and more abrasive than anything else in the score, and certainly lends the score an added element to enhance its depth. Otherwise, there are several new versions of already-familiar themes, but certainly not enough that none of them outstay their welcome.
It's such a wonderful score, and it's so good to be able to hear all of it for the first time away from the film - but on the other hand, the original album was exceptionally well-sequenced, balancing the action / adventure and romantic sections beautifully with each other. "Raisuli Attacks" is, very sadly, diluted on this new album by being combined with another cue which, while fine in itself, removes some of the breathless excitement created by that peerless track. Finally, "Something of Value" made such a terrific conclusion to the first album, again its effect is slightly lost by not being the finale here, but having three cues following it. Fortunately, Intrada has thought of this, and in addition to one disc featuring the complete score in chronological order, the second disc preserves Goldsmith's original album - but with improved sound. Talk about the best of both worlds!
There's also 20 minutes or so of source music which will satisfy the completists, and fine liner notes which tell us about the film, the score, and the unique way this album came about, as a collaboration between Intrada and Lukas Kendall of Film Score Monthly. Whether you've been waiting for this release for 32 years since you first saw the film - or are a younger fan curious what all the fuss is about - I couldn't recommend it more highly. One of Goldsmith's greatest scores - one of the most exciting ever written - it's nothing short of a masterpiece. Deserves a place in any film music collection. They just don't write 'em like this any more!