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Comments about the soundtrack for Amazing Stories (John Williams/Georges Delerue)

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Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review
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• Posted by: Mike Dougherty   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Friday, October 5, 2007, at 6:11 p.m.
• IP Address: donated.filmtracks.com

(The following donated review by Mike Dougherty was moved by Filmtracks to this comment section in October, 2007. It was written when only the Varèse Sarabande album was available.)


Amazing Stories: (John Williams/Georges Delerue) Steven Spielberg's Amazing Stories has been no stranger to pre-debut hype; it's probably safe to say the series has been through this situation twice in it's nearly 15-year history. In September, 1985, Amazing Stories became one of the most eagerly awaited television series in the history of the small screen. In May, 1999, the series receives its second wave of hype as film score fans eagerly await Varèse Sarabande's release of music featured in the cult series. Here it is!

It's about time, considering that no record company had ever released John Williams' main and end titles. Also unreleased is the material scored by such gifted composers as Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, Danny Elfman, Alan Silvestri, and Thomas Newman. The first in a series of Amazing Stories albums has finally arrived, but unlike the show's premier episode, this album debuts to much more satisfaction. The music has a sort of "wine effect": having been unreleased for over a decade, Amazing Stories is now more exhilarating to listen to than ever before! It's no surprise that Amazing Stories is just another excellent re-recording from Varèse Sarabande and their gifted collaboration of artists. The album is a product of that ever-successful marriage of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conductors Joel McNeely and John Debney, producer Robert Townson, and cover artist Matthew Joseph Peak. Both conductors McNeely and Debney lead the Royal Scottish, an orchestra now famous for its gift of consistently performing with spirit and accuracy. Much like the re-recording of Superman: The Movie, the members of the Royal Scottish capture that Williams magic in their performance of the main and end titles. These two tracks bookend this album, and act as a musical guide for the listener.

From the blare of the French horns, Williams' adventurous main title carries the listener to a world of fiction, and lands the listener back in reality via Williams' lovely end title. The main title for Amazing Stories is quintessential 1980s Williams: a swash-buckling theme for trumpets and brass, followed by a charming tune for the strings, then a comeback from the brass to close the piece. (What's more is that all of the material is presented in glorious 20-bit digital sound.) The disc concludes with the lovely end title for piano and orchestra, a track that offers a lighter arrangement of the main title. The track's similarity to the the end credits from E.T. The Extra Terrestrial is probably meant to give a sense of boyish charm and wonder. This is perfect, since Spielberg did adapt Amazing stories from the popular magazine of the same name. McNeely conducts both titles.

Even though the RSNO's performance of the main title is alone worth the price of the disc, two scores from Amazing Stories are the real main attraction on this album. "The Mission" was an hour-long segment directed by Spielberg, and told the poignant story of a WWII bellygunner flying his final mission. (Be careful not to confuse "The Mission" with Williams' NBC News fanfare of the same name.) Williams composed over 25 minutes of music for "The Mission", all of which this album features! The score's presence on the album is essential, given that this Spielberg episode was one of the finest entries into the series, if not the finest. What is rather questionable is the appearance of Georges Delerue's 12-minute underscore to "Dorothy and Ben". Aside from the score's gentle and innocent beauty, it doesn't seem like the right accompaniment for a WWII score such as "The Mission". One might rather hear Horner's score to "Alamo Jobe," Goldsmith's "Boo!," or Williams' "Ghost Train."

"The Mission", conducted by McNeely, has the WWII material and feeling that Williams has composed so often during his collaboration with Spielberg. An unmistakable variation of the flying music from 1941 becomes this score's main melody throughout. It's a rousing melody that expresses the freedom of the air as does the flying music in Goldsmith's Forever Young. The score reaches its zenith with "Jonathan Begins to Draw", a suspense-building track very similar to "Airplane Fight" from Raiders of the Lost Ark. Williams mounts the suspense with a steady beat coming from the kettledrums. The track suddenly becomes "The Landing" as the strings break the tension and appear for a glorious and uplifting reprise of the flying melody ...classic Williams magic. Delerue's "Dorothy and Ben" has some equally beautiful moments; the arrangements for strings are reminiscent of John Barry's style. Debney conducts this one. The high moment of this score comes in "Face Changes", a track that finally brings together the full melody for strings. It's such a great moment when this happens, since the first part of the score tends to wander. The piece may even draw a tear or two, which is why "Dorothy and Ben" is such a contrast to "The Mission"; Delerue's score is very sad. In spite of that, it's a mildly touching score that probably works better at drawing those emotions when accompanied by the episode's visuals.

"The Mission" and "Dorothy and Ben" don't offer any strong, recognizable theme development; it takes a second careful listening to grow familiar with the melodies. Then again, Williams and Delerue wrote both scores for the small screen. Unlike big screen scores, these aren't meant to be rich or extravagant. Still, "The Mission" and "Dorothy and Ben" are little gems; the quality of the music and performances match that of film scores. This is a rare situation in television. Hopefully, this album marks the beginning of Amazing Stories' second life...a life on compact disc. This second life should be a fruitful one, thanks to the number of gifted composers whose Amazing Stories material remains unreleased. Perhaps a future release may present the music of other composers like Bruce Broughton, Michael Kamen, John Addison, David Shire, or Fred Steiner. Until then, bravo to Varèse Sarabande and that great collaboration or artists who have given film music fans another re-recording to enjoy! ****






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