Horner’s Magnificent Fall

legfallJust arrived from Intrada (via France and Music Box) is the expanded edition of James Horner’s magnificent Legends of the Fall soundtrack. I didn’t really ever see this coming- like the expanded The Thin Red Line set that La La Land Records released last year, this was an expansion that I figured would never happen. To be fair, the original score release was pretty good (Horner’s albums at that point -1995! crikey!- were usually pretty lengthy and a far cry from the paltry 30-minute highlights editions we were used to in the 1980s) but when a score is as good as this one, well, more is always better.

I don’t buy many soundtrack albums these days – part of this is just because, over the years, most everything I’d have wanted has fortunately gotten released, even Silent Running, and I’ve so many discs from Intrada and La La Land etc collected over the years that I often pick one off the shelf and can listen to it like its something new (except for The Thin Red Line, which as I have remarked upon before, I seem to be listening to all the time). Couple that with the crazy cost of shipping these days making the CDs so very expensive, I really have to think twice about releases (recent expansions of John  Williams’ Far and Away and The River failing to make the grade).

Didn’t have to think twice about this one though. This dates back to James Horner at his absolute peak, back when he was doing scores like Glory, Braveheart and Field of Dreams, when each one used to be fresh and thrilling, and, in the case with Legends of the Fall, sweepingly epic and dramatic. Scores like this were rare even back in the day, and today, well they are frankly non-existent. No-one scores films like this anymore, probably because nobody at the Studios asks them to. Listening to this album will be great, but also a little sad. 1995 and all that. Where has all the time gone?

(I plan on blasting this out while working at home tomorrow, should make those ten hours at the veritable desktop workface a little more bearable).

1995 and a Waterworld mystery

waterworldA friend at work lent me a copy of Arrow’s recent release of Waterworld on Blu-ray, as I’d confessed to never having seen the film before, odd as that may sound, but, you know, some films slip us by. Well, back home Claire told me we had indeed seen it before, but I insisted I hadn’t. I mean, I honestly could not remember any of it, other than maybe the odd scene that I stumbled upon when it was aired on tv over the years (for awhile, it seemed to aired all the time on various cable stations etc, and even then I never sat down to watch it).

So Claire went off to find proof- and returned with her diary from 1995, which indeed confirmed that we had indeed seen it, at a Showcase Cinema on August 22nd, 1995. Which I honestly cannot remember, at all. Can a film be that bad, that forgettable, that it just fades entirely from memory? It still baffled me, as I could not remember it at all- indeed, it felt all a little bit scary. Is this how it begins, losing your mind?

Strangest of all, Claire had a list in the back of her diary of all the films we had seen that year at the cinema- 34 of them. Yeah, that’s right, 34 of them. I don’t think I see that many films at the cinema in a decade now. My only excuse, we were courting back then, before we got married and settled down to domesticity and the joys of home cinema. But 34 films? Crikey. While my eyes water at the state my wallet must have been in back then, here’s the list, just for curiosity sake: When  A Man Loves A Woman, Timecop, Stargate, Nostradamus, Shallow Grave, Natural Born Killers, Interview With The Vampire, Leon, The Shawshank Redemption, Little Women, 101 Dalmatians, Nobody’s Fool, Outbeak, Legends of the Fall, Apollo 13, In the Mouth of Madness, Don Juan de Marco, Judge Dredd, Braveheart, Waterworld, First Knight, Congo, Batman Forever, Species, Die Hard With A Vengeance, Delores Claiborne, While You Were Sleeping, Pocahontas, Mortal Kombat, Haunted, Jade, Crimson Tide, A Walk in the Clouds, Babe.

Well, there’s a few there I can barely remember either. There’s a few I would like to forget but can’t.

As for Waterworld, well, we watched it Saturday night, and other than one or two scenes, such as the dive down to the submerged ruins (which I swore I recalled from stumbling onto a tv showing, to be honest) it absolutely failed to ring any bells memory-wise. It was like I was absolutely watching it for the first time. It was utterly bizarre. Unless Claire had gone to see it with some other fella I must have just wiped that film from my memory completely in some kind of post-traumatic shock. Well, yeah, it was a pretty forgettable film, so that would be part of it- that, and nearly 24 years.

The time to lock me away in a padded room is when I forget I ever saw Blade Runner, obviously.


Horner’s Apollo 13 expanded

apollo-13-expandedCue a really neat segue from my last post, and its proposals of lunar excursions in the next two MI films, to the confirmation that Intrada over in the US has released an expanded and remastered 2-disc edition of James Horner’s Apollo 13 score.

Regular readers here will know of my affection for James Horner’s music, particularly his early scores back when one great score followed another and it seemed like he could turn his hand at anything. There was a time that I’d buy a James Horner soundtrack blind, and go watch a film just because of his involvement.  Apollo 13 was released in 1995, just after Braveheart and Legends of the Fall, and just a few years before Titanic would really change everything (I mean, he was popular back then but Titanic would launch him beyond the stratosphere). There is some really great music in Apollo 13, but the original album release really confounded fans, being a strange mix of dialogue, pop songs, sound effects and score, relegating the score music to just a few tracks. Well, it looks like that horrible piece of corporate thinking has been rectified at long last with this edition, combining a disc of the complete score and a disc of Horner’s original aborted album assembly from all those years ago. Why exactly it has taken so long for this to happen is baffling but I suppose with how things are now with CD sales we should think ourselves lucky it’s finally here.

Its certainly a nice start to 2019. I’d really like to see new editions of his Field of Dreams and Legends of the Fall scores, so fingers crossed we have more releases of Horner’s work over the coming year.

This could be a great year for soundtrack albums, with a rumoured three or four-disc edition of Hans Zimmer’s sublime The Thin Red Line score possibly getting announced next week. As both film and score are among my very favourites, if this actually does happen I think this blog will go into some kind of meltdown…  and a depressed funk if it doesn’t.

Remembering the Music of James Horner

horner1The news this morning as I was just about to leave for work was such a shock- James Horner, film composer of the scores of so many films, was reported killed in a plane crash (Harrison Ford’s crash a few months ago now eerily prescient and a reminder of how we almost lost him in a similar manner too). Horner was just 61. Its taken all day, and much mulling over it at work, to come to terms with it. In his later years I rather lost touch with Horner’s work (I think The New World from 2005 was the last score of his I bought) as he had fallen into repeating his previous scores, but his early work was just simply extraordinary. Any repetition and familiarity in his later work can easily be forgiven when one considers the work he created early in his career in an incredible burst of originality and creativity.

For me it began with Brainstorm, watching a VHS rental copy one evening. Repeated viewings over the years would highlight the film’s failings but that first time I was utterly enthralled and captivated by the film, and no small part of this was the music score by James Horner. Beautiful, warm, sentimental, scary, the score managed to heighten all sorts of emotions during the film. I simply had to get the soundtrack album. This was back in the vinyl days, and I spent more than I could afford -really every last penny I had at the time- on the record. I still treasure it now. That album was actually a re-recording conducted by Horner with the LSO here in London (the film score recorded months earlier with a session orchestra in America I believe), and while it’s wonderful I have always hoped the actual film score would be released someday. Maybe one day.

horner3James Horner was, at the time Brainstorm was released, already a popular film composer, having had great success with the Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan score the year before. He would go on to greater success scoring films such as Cocoon, Aliens, Field of Dreams, Glory and so many others, culminating in a career high with his Oscar-winning Titanic. Horner seemed able to score anything; action films and comedies and emotional tear-jerkers, sometimes all in one movie. My personal preference in his work was the more quiet, contemplative scores or those with great emotional warmth and passion rather than the action material. Field of Dreams over Aliens, Legends of the Fall over Commando or Red Heat. But really in those mid-eighties I was such a huge fan of his work and the guy seemingly soundtracked my life at the time. It got so I’d buy a James Horner soundtrack without even having seen its movie; his name was enough, and if ever I saw the movie first I would often be racing to a record store afterwards. Something Wicked This Way Comes, Braveheart, Apollo 13, Rocketeer, The Spitfire Grill…   Brainstorm was always my favourite though. It was my first encounter with the Horner magic, after all, though I particularly loved Field of Dreams too. That movie was the only time I ever cried at the cinema, and I’m certain no small part of that was Horner’s heartfelt score.

I remember driving through Cannock Chase in my beaten-up old mini with my mate Andy one gorgeous summer morning blasting the Glory soundtrack out of the car speakers. Eventually we parked up and rather than go for the walk through the forest that we intended to, we sat in the stifling heat of the car marvelling to the music. Later when we did go for the walk all we did was talk about the score and blasted it out of the speakers again when we drove back home afterwards. Such good times listening to all those scores.

On a personal level, my own life would have been much less without being able to have heard and loved his music. His passing is a shock and very sad, my memories of those days filling me with some sense of how much we have lost. Perhaps his best work was behind him, but perhaps it yet lay ahead- now we will never know. Whatever one thinks of his post-Titanic scores, the world is a lesser place without his talent and he likely had great things ahead of him.

Well. I know what I’m doing tonight. Tonight I shall watch Apollo 13 in memory of this composers amazing life’s work and marvel at his incredible talent, when at his best, to elevate the films he scored to something akin to greatness.