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Section Header
Air Force One
1997 Varèse

1998 Randy Newman Bootleg

1999 Bootleg (Sample Cover)

Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
Jerry Goldsmith

Additional Music Composed by:
Joel McNeely

Orchestrated by:
Alexander Courage

Rejected Score by:
Randy Newman

Labels and Dates:
Varèse Sarabande
(July 11th, 1997)

Newman Bootleg

Complete Score Bootleg

Also See:
Star Trek: First Contact
The Edge
The Mummy
The Sum of All Fears

Audio Clips:
Varèse Album:

1. The Parachutes (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (246K)
Real Audio (153K)

4. The Hijacking (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

7. Escape from Air Force One (0:28):
WMA (188K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

8. Welcome Aboard, Sir (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

The 1997 Varèse Sarabande album is a regular U.S. release. The release of the Randy Newman material shortly thereafter was originally done in promotional form, but bootlegs quickly resulted. The complete recordings of the Goldsmith/McNeely score only exist in bootleg form, and have circulated the secondary market since 1999.


Air Force One
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Buy it... if you enjoy Jerry Goldsmith's stock 1990's action style, no matter how derivative and predictable.

Avoid it... on the commercial album if you expect any of Joel McNeely's surprisingly good material or the majority of the Russian motifs heard in the film. Also avoid Randy Newman's highly overrated rejected score.

Air Force One: (Jerry Goldsmith/Joel McNeely/Randy Newman) There was a period in Hollywood when depictions of the President of the United States on the big screen showed men younger and skilled with weaponry, and perhaps the most ridiculous height of these fantasies came with Wolfgang Peterson's shamelessly patriotic Air Force One in 1997. The summer blockbuster gave audiences Harrison Ford as the leader of the free world, Glenn Close as his vice president, and Gary Oldman as the sinister Russian rebel who hijacks Air Force One on a return trip from Moscow. The plot is relatively simple (the plane itself receives it's due share of glory) and the film cruised to lofty earnings. Like many intentionally over-the-top action scenarios, Air Force One requires the suspension of logical thought from start to finish, and in an effort to accomplish some semblance of believability, a dead serious action score is mandatory. Unfortunately for the director, his employment of composer Randy Newman for the assignment was a woeful mistake. Newman was indeed revered for his ability to capture the essence of "Americana" in his scores, from The Natural and Avalon through Pleasantville and beyond. But his reputation had been built and maintained in the realm of his children's film scoring, with the success of Toy Story and Newman's plethora of quirky and jazzy songs defining his career. It should have come as no surprise to Peterson that Newman would write a somewhat silly, mocking score for Air Force One; he had never tackled an action film of this blockbuster size before, and he obviously looked at the genre with a sense of amusement rather than one of serious intent. Newman's score would still manage to offer a significant amount of viable action material in parts, using the logical choices of brass and snare to lead his fully orchestral ensemble (along with a few lightly synthesized effects). But this action material would fall into the trap of comedy action writing, attempting to move from motif to motif, rhythm to rhythm far too quickly for the accompanying scene to receive the sense of gravity it required.

Randy Newman's action cues for Air Force One would make for an interesting listen apart from the film, and they have been highly praised through the years. Composer Hans Zimmer once indicated that he considered these cues superior to any he had written at the time. Several distinct sequences would be seemingly reprised by Basil Poledouris in his forthcoming score for Starship Troopers. Critics awarded significant praise to Newman's score when it was leaked almost immediately as a promo CD to the collecting community. But there are significant weaknesses in Newman's score outside of a handful of the more consistent action cues. His themes, simply put, are atrocious for the genre. His concoction for the president includes a rollicking rhythm and jovial fanfare that places the film just one step away from your local carnival. Used in full during the early motorcade and hostage-freeing scenes, this theme would have been horrifyingly trivial in its futile attempts to infuse any sense of sincerity into the office of the president or his plane. In both structure and frivolous character, the theme mirrors the identity of David Newman's Galaxy Quest to a substantial degree. Equally dumb in a mock fashion is Randy Newman's theme for the Russians and their general, nearing the realm of parody in its prancing movements. His theme for the first family is adequate, though inconsequential. On the whole, his score is embarrassingly inappropriate in tone, despite the quality of a few individual action cues. Newman recorded an hour of material for the film before getting cut off by Peterson, who, with the release date of the film fast approaching, must have been experiencing a serious case of red-ass upon hearing Newman's recordings. There is no indication that Newman recorded music for either the opening credits or the final fifteen minutes of the film (and end credits). With only twelve days in which to record a replacement score, action veteran Jerry Goldsmith would make an attempt to save Peterson's film. Knowing that he couldn't accomplish the task alone, Goldsmith initially asked his son, Joel, to assist him in providing some of the music. Being unavailable, Goldsmith turned to rising composer Joel McNeely for assistance, and received superior results.

After the fact, Goldsmith would claim that he would never again attempt such a last minute effort. And yet, by almost all accounts, the work that he and McNeely provided Air Force One is exactly what Peterson was looking for. Despite its effectiveness, though, Goldsmith's no-nonsense action style is derivative of his other works; originality wasn't a luxury afforded by time. He wrote all of the themes and motifs for the film and passed them on for McNeely to interpret as necessary. The three concepts for which Goldsmith would write themes would mirror the choices made by Newman, but they're executed in a far more conventional way. The title theme is a somewhat transparent re-working of the primary theme for Star Trek: First Contact from six months prior, replacing the stark nobility of the prior theme with instrumentation of a more patriotic slant. Its blatant heroic statements are the polar opposite of Newman's leading theme in attitude and distinction, and while they may be slightly obnoxious in their patriotism, they match the flamboyant displays in the film quite well. Also owing a page to Star Trek: First Contact is the construct of the softer, woodwind-based family theme heard most prominently in "No Security." The Russians are given two motifs that eventually blend into one spectacular moment of General Radek's death near the end of the film. First introduced in the latter half of "The Parachutes," this material would evolve into a grim snare march under stereotypically rigid Russian progressions for low strings and brass in the film's latter half. Goldsmith rarely has written for Russian settings, with the only other memorable use late in his career coming in The Sum of All Fears, but McNeely on the other hand provided a lavish, heavily choral Russian piece for the little know film Virus not long after Air Force One, leading some to incorrectly believe that McNeely was the original source of this music in Air Force One. The idea, however, was indeed Goldsmith's, and it should once again be noted that McNeely's job in providing support for Goldsmith was strictly in the interpolation department.

Ever since his Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire featured some fantastic adaptations of John Williams' style, McNeely has been known as a composer talented enough to mirror the style of anyone, which is partly why he's made such a competent conductor of re-recordings in the subsequent decade. All of McNeely's contributions to Air Force One came in the second act, and contrary to rumors, some of these cues are major action pieces (including all the scenes in which the plane is fired upon by friend and foe). The impression that McNeely handled the table scraps is incorrect; his impact on several scenes late in the film is significant, and many of the bland moments of underscore during dialogue scenes are actually Goldsmith's work. McNeely's adaptations of Goldsmith's themes for Air Force One are outstanding, even extending to the style of Goldsmith's stock 90's action material. He uses all of Goldsmith's themes, including the family theme and liberal usage of the Russian material. He also does a very competent job of altering the static title theme to some interesting variants by using key shifts and note substitutions worthy of praise. As for Goldsmith's own material, the "Hijacking" cue is among his more interesting 90's action music, though much of the rest sounds like stock insertions from the same library of study. He uses absolutely no synthetic elements in Air Force One, though, a rarity at the time for Goldsmith. McNeely utilizes a slight electronic rhythm-setter at the outset of the attack by Russian planes. The finale cue of "Welcome Aboard, Sir" takes substantial structural inspiration from the finale of Rudy (sharing the same feel-good attitude down to the precise instrumentation). Other small references can be made to the harsher brass usage in The Shadow. On the whole, the score has few truly standout Goldsmith moments, including "The Hijacking" and latter half of "The Parachutes" (the closing chimes are a nice touch), but the rest fails to attract much attention when compared to Goldsmith's standard output at the time. The truly interesting action material to be considered is indeed McNeely's, as well as the development of the Russian motifs by both composers.

Varèse Album:
Only $10.32
The album situation for Air Force One has always been a terrible mess, begging for some kind of expanded treatment in honor of the now-deceased Goldsmith. The Randy Newman score, as mentioned before, was leaked for public consumption not long after the film's release, and features two dozen tracks that were initially unlabeled but have since been given their proper titles. The sound quality on the pseudo-promo turned bootleg is decent enough not to be an issue. The commercial Varèse Sarabande release of the final score for Air Force One has been a touchy subject, both for fans and for the label. The release contained only about one-third of the recorded music from the film and presented its limited contents out of order. Additionally, while stating on the packaging that there exists "additional music in the picture by Joel McNeely," none of that material made it onto their album. While the two major action pieces highlighting the score are present on the 35-minute Varèse product, most of the Russian material is absent. This includes the extremely popular choral rendition of the Russian theme as the General is ceremoniously released from jail and then killed (the preceding song sung by the inmates is a traditional piece not written by any of the composers for the score). Given that Air Force One really needed at least a 45-minute album (but more likely a 60-minute one) to provide all of the noteworthy thematic material, the Varèse album has been ridiculed for ten years. This is an obvious sore point for the label, which claims to this day that it could not afford the re-use fees on any more of the music, especially the choral piece. Not surprisingly, the fans took care of their own problem by defying Varèse with a double CD bootleg that has famously circulated around the collector's market for years. While being complete, its sound quality is the primary issue. The Goldsmith material lifted from Varèse's album, as well as McNeely's contributions (which was leaked on his own promo), sound great. In fact, the McNeely portions are nothing short of spectacular in mixing quality. But the additional Goldsmith material is badly muted and difficult to enjoy. This includes the famed choral piece, which continues to elude collectors in its pristine form. Overall, the Varèse album will satisfy the casual collector, and the bootleg will reward you with McNeely's music. But there is no satisfactory presentation of this score in existence, and despite its undeserved hype, the Newman bootleg is no solution either. Approach the market for this score with lowered expectations. Price Hunt: CD or Download

    Randy Newman's Score: **
    Jerry Goldsmith's Score: ***
    Joel McNeely's Contribution: ****
    Varèse Sarabande Album: **
    Bootleg Albums: ***
    Overall: ***

Bias Check:For Jerry Goldsmith reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.26 (in 113 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.26 (in 138,497 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.71 Stars
Smart Average: 3.54 Stars*
***** 1112 
**** 1398 
*** 1025 
** 334 
* 196 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   A Highly Underrated Score
  Rebecca -- 6/28/11 (4:33 p.m.)
   Re: Radek's Death.mp3
  Cboy -- 11/27/07 (12:10 p.m.)
   Re: anyone have the complete score???
  Cboy -- 11/27/07 (9:38 a.m.)
   Re: Radek's Death.mp3
  Cboy -- 11/27/07 (9:09 a.m.)
   Radek's Death.mp3
  Quentin -- 8/16/07 (12:31 p.m.)
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 Track Listings (Varèse Sarabande Album): Total Time: 35:40

• 1. The Parachutes (5:14)
• 2. The Motorcade (2:40)
• 3. Empty Rooms (4:02)
• 4. The Hijacking (7:30)
• 5. No Security (2:59)
• 6. Free Flight (4:41)
• 7. Escape from Air Force One (5:25)
• 8. Welcome Aboard, Sir (2:06)

 Track Listings (Randy Newman Bootleg): Total Time: 59:29

• 1. The Parachutes (3:27)
• 2. The Motorcade (4:44)
• 3. The First Family (3:38)
• 4. About Gibbs (0:34)
• 5. The Hijacking (Part 1) (4:33)
• 6. The Hijacking (Part 2) (3:09)
• 7. Empty Rooms (4:20)
• 8. Element of Surprise (1:10)
• 9. Mother Russia (1:33)
• 10. Outside Call (1:57)
• 11. Disarming the Bomb (1:47)
• 12. The Marshall Plan (4:09)
• 13. Firing on Air Force One (2:38)
• 14. Sending the Fax (1:24)
• 15. Korshunov's Big Speech (4:28)
• 16. Second Execution (1:01)
• 17. Dumping Fuel (2:28)
• 18. Freeing the Hostages (Part 1) (0:30)
• 19. Freeing the Hostages (Part 2) (0:45)
• 20. Freeing the Hostages (Part 3) (0:33)
• 21. Radek is Released (1:02)
• 22. Tough Decisions (0:50)
• 23. Get Off My Plane (4:41)
• 24. The MIG Attack (4:08)

 Track Listings (Complete Goldsmith/McNeely Bootleg): Total Time: 102:14

CD1: (43:26)

• 1. Main Title/The Parachutes** (5:24)
• 2. The Motorcade** (2:45)
• 3. President Aboard (2:00)
• 4. No Security** (3:08)
• 5. About Gibbs (0:32)
• 6. The Hijacking** (7:52)
• 7. Empty Pod (3:09)
• 8. Ivan Calls the White House (0:56)
• 9. The President is Alive (2:39)
• 10. The Marshall Plan (Part 1)*** (1:07)
• 11. The Marshall Plan (Part 2)*** (0:48)
• 12. Empty Rooms** (3:53)
• 13. Element of Surprise (0:49)
• 14. Waiting for the Call (1:29)
• 15. First Execution (1:16)
• 16. Mother Russia (1:24)
• 17. Outside Call* (1:36)
• 18. Firing on Air Force One* (2:39)
CD2: (58:48)

• 1. Downstairs (1:10)
• 2. The Hostage* (1:21)
• 3. Second Execution (2:52)
• 4. Hostages (0:30)
• 5. Dumping Fuel* (2:28)
• 6. Freeing the Hostages*/*** (3:30)
• 7. Free Flight** (4:55)
• 8. Marshall Meets Korshunov* (3:06)
• 9. Face to Face (3:42)
• 10. Radek is Released (2:02)
• 11. Get Off My Plane (4:56)
• 12. Radek's Death (1:41)
• 13. Under Attack* (4:13)
• 14. No Way to Land* (3:13)
• 15. Escape from Air Force One** (5:30)
• 16. Welcome Aboard, Sir** (2:11)
• 17. End Credits (6:01)
• 18. The Parachutes (Alternative)*** (5:27)

* Composed by Joel McNeely
** Previously released
*** Tracks that may be combined, split, or missing on alternative bootlegs

 Notes and Quotes:  

None of the albums' inserts include any extra information about the film or scores.

  All artwork and sound clips from Air Force One are Copyright © 1997, Varèse Sarabande, Newman Bootleg, Complete Score Bootleg. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 7/28/97 and last updated 5/20/07. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1997-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.