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  • treasure_four_crownsComposed by Ennio Morricone
  • Intrada Special Collection volume 81 / 2008 / 55:01

I’m pretty sure that Forrest Gump never expressed an opinion on Ennio Morricone albums; but equally sure that if he had done, then I know what he would have said.  Honestly, you never know what you’re going to get. Treasure of the Four Crowns is a little-remembered attempted 3-D cash-in on Raiders of the Lost Ark from Cannon Films (that bastion of high quality); that fact – and a look at the bright cover – leads to inevitable preconceptions about the music.  Well, chuck away those preconceptions.  This is a score dominated by interminable – in fact, if such a thing is possible, very interminable – suspense music.  Our hero J.T. Striker (really) is not accompanied by heroic fanfares; his heroine not accompanied by sweeping strings.  In fact, listening to the score, one is forced to wonder whether Striker spends the whole film undergoing some kind of psychological torture.  Harsh dissonance dominates – Morricone does it extremely well, as we’ve heard on a number of occasions – the trouble is, he does it so well, that apart from those who are able to take such “intellectual” music and derive pleasure from its construction, few would ever be able to make it through the album.

There is one exception, and it’s a decent one – the main theme, aptly called “Crowning Glory”, is a winner.  OK, so it’s not worthy of a place on the table next to the composer’s best, but it has a soaring quality to it which makes it a pure delight, so its appearances at the start and end of the album and sporadically in between are most welcome.  As for the rest – well, if it’s the sort of thing that floats your boat, you’ll find much to enjoy here.  But I can’t help but think, when reading the liner notes’ bizarrely patronising dismissal of the score’s LP release (which was 15 minutes shorter), culminating with something which is intended as a put-down but which I’d have thought should be the highest compliment one could pay – saying the earlier album was “an attempt to provide a more musical listening experience” – that the art of producing soundtrack albums is one that is not exactly going through one of its finest hours. **

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  1. thomas (Reply) on Wednesday 16 September, 2009 at 21:58

    I am rather more fond of this score than you are then James. True, there is a lot of suspense music, but its good stuff and easy to listen to, thrown in with a few Morricone trademarks. And the ‘Crowning Glory’ theme is really pretty impressive and memorable. Just be thankful he didnt wheel out a sub-standard Williams tribute…..

  2. Alex Cope (Reply) on Thursday 17 September, 2009 at 00:51

    I wouldn’t say I’m more fond of the score as a whole (I certainly take your point about the art of producing a soundtrack album that stands apart from the film), but I’m more fond of the “Crowning Glory” theme than you seem to be. The ending fanfare reminds me of the finale from Mission to Mars, perhaps my favorite piece of film music. Sure, it’s not up there with the best, but it’s got some of that Morricone magic to it. I also like the pleasant little love theme version of it.

    I had the original CD release, the one with the mediocre sound, and I sold it not long after, but I picked up the Intrada issue because of the improved quality. On the original the woodwind solos sounded scratchy and harsh when they reached the higher notes, whereas they are much cleaner here. That said, I don’t listen to this as an album (can’t stand that circus music and Bobsled Run cheese), but rather have it for those few tracks that I do enjoy. It’s a peculiar score, and in that sense, very very Morricone.

  3. James Southall (Reply) on Thursday 17 September, 2009 at 01:00

    Don’t get me wrong, I love the Crowning Glory theme and am happy (and grateful to Intrada) that I now have it in such good sound. But really, I think the album is pretty much unlistenable as released – I need to do some real pruning to get something I like.

  4. Alex Cope (Reply) on Thursday 17 September, 2009 at 05:08

    Speaking of pruning, before I sold my previous release of Four Crowns I made a CD-R of it in which I picked out the tracks that made for the best listen. It came out to about 15 minutes. To put it another way, if this were on iTunes, I would probably have spent closer to two dollars than twenty.

  5. Mathias (Reply) on Sunday 20 September, 2009 at 12:16

    Hi James!

    I just wanted to remind you that Baaria is to be released the 25th this month! Don´t miss it!
    I often read your reviews as I am a Morriconefan and Moviewave is the place to read Morriconereviews.
    You haven´t reviewed I Promessi Sposi, La Piovra and I Magi Randagi! If you haven´t heard them! I suggest you do so!
    Regards Mathias