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American Journey
Composed, Conducted, and Co-Produced by:
John Williams

Performed by:
The Utah Symphony and
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir

The Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles

The Boston Pops Orchestra

Co-Produced by:
Ken Wannberg

Sony Classical

Release Date:
January 15th, 2002

Also See:
Far and Away
The Patriot
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Audio Clips:
1. Call of the Champions (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (235K)
Real Audio (146K)

2. American Journey (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (250K)
Real Audio (155K)

11. For New York (0:30):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (238K)
Real Audio (147K)

12. Sound the Bells! (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

Regular U.S. release. The album's international pressings exist under the title "Call of the Champions."


American Journey

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Buy it... if you seek a safe and impressive collection of many of John Williams' most prominent concert works up to 2002.

Avoid it... if you expect the composer to transcend his predictable sense of Americana spirit and write music that truly merges the sounds of many cultures.

American Journey: (John Williams) When the people of the United States need a single composer or conductor to rally their spirits, who better than the venerable John Williams? One of the truly interesting aspects of Williams' career since the 1980's has been his ability to balance his artistic skills between both the scoring stage and the concert hall. His soundtracks for feature films are often best-sellers, as are his concert works, which sell equally well to collectors of classical music. He has, more than any other composer, infused modern film music with a sense of classical style, complex layers of orchestration, and a newly defined sense of tradition. With such a diverse resume of popular works, Williams has been called upon several times to write themes for the Olympic Games hosted by the United States. His popular theme for the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta was the centerpiece of yet another best-selling album for Williams. In early 2002, with the country's nerves on edge because of the previous year's terrorist attacks, the maestro was called upon once again to lift the American spirit and provide a bold rallying cry for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah. The resulting album contains a collection of other concert works of Americana inspiration by Williams, culminating in a product that is simply summarized with title of "American Journey." The album opens with a November, 2001, concert performance of the Olympic theme for Salt Lake City's event, "Call of the Champions" (which was the title of the album in foreign pressings). Unlike "Summon the Heroes," the theme for the 1996 game, "Call of the Champions" is performed by a prevailing local orchestra and choir, adding more depth and local significance to the recording. The piece is an arguably more impressive composition than the 1996 one, though it has lost some of the Roman and Greek-like historical appeal in the brass section that the previous theme featured with nobility. After the main 2002 attraction, the album continues with the six-part inspiration for the title of the album, "American Journey." The twenty-five or so minutes of this work was written for a multimedia presentation assembled for the Millennium celebrations supervised by Steven Spielberg in Washington D.C. a few years prior.

Each movement of the "American Journey" suite deals with another aspect of American history or culture portrayed in the presentation. The remaining selections on the album are odds and ends from both Williams' recent and not-so-recent specialty concert recordings. The "Song for World Peace" was written for a musical director and friend of Williams and performed by the Boston Pops. That piece, as well as "Sound the Bells!" (which was composed for a marriage in the Japanese Royal Family), were first performed in Tokyo a few years prior to this release. The "Hymn to New England," "Celebrate Discovery," and "Jubilee 350" pieces were composed as individual concert works for the Boston Pops through the years. The "Mission Theme" for NBC news is the most widely known piece on the album, dating back to the 1980's and needing no further explanation. Fan reaction to this album, like all of the other Williams concert compilations, has been positive, keeping it sailing off the shelves at an initially brisk pace. In the United States, that is. Williams' concert pieces are always a joy to hear, and his consistent excellence in thematic and orchestral intensity makes this album no less of an easy listening experience. There are no particularly weak tracks, nor are there any interruptions in the quality of the recordings. In these respects, the album is both flawless and a safe purchase. The actual compositions, however, came under more scrutiny than perhaps Williams' others, and the arguments against his lack of stylistic originality and diversity in instrumentation picked up a fair amount of steam at the time. It was an argument that didn't receive much attention until Williams' much anticipated score for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone originally failed to be the explosive hit that most had hoped for, a partial failure attributed (by many) to the seeming fact that Williams was simply recycling too much of his own material. The same argument regarding regurgitation could be made about many of the concert works on the "American Journey" album. The "Immigration and Building" piece contains passages obviously lifted directly from the score for Far and Away. The "Civil Rights and Women's Movement" piece, among a few others, mirrors the noble tones of The Patriot. Some have even debated the similarities between the "Mission Theme" and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and Williams' famous theme for the "Amazing Stories" series.

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In short, the sum of the argument against Williams is that he is blinded by his own sense of Americana and is incapable of writing a truly international concert. So deeply rooted in his Western classical styles, he might be incapable of capturing the multi-cultural spirit of the Olympics and, especially, in pieces that are supposedly dedicated to world peace. In these regards, Williams's music is just as much a symbol of America as McDonald's and Coca-Cola, and for him to compose "world" music is a potentially irritating prospect to many people of other cultures. Because of this blatant style of American bombast that saturates the entirety of this collection of music, some referred to the "Call of the Champions" theme as "Call of the Americans" or even "Call of the Bomb-Sniffing Dogs." There really is nothing international about any of the music on this album, including the themes for the two Olympics, with the instrumentation limited to the stereotypical orchestra, choir, and large bells and chimes that best represent the composer's very comfortable sense of community. Even within the United States, Williams' style is distinctly tied to the East Coast, with the bulk of his efforts in tribute to New England, New York and the traditions of music unique in those regions of the country. The "American Journey" suite has nothing, for instance, to musically represent California or the Rocky Mountain region. Is any of this really a problem? Well, that depends on whether you think Williams' job in writing the Olympics material was to encompass the sounds of many different world cultures. If so, then perhaps a composer like Mychael Danna would be a better fit. Williams is ultimately a product of American patriotism, however, and for most listeners, the socio-political implications of the music won't be important. It is wholesome, entertaining music either way, and the sound quality from each of the recording venues is, as usual for Williams' concert albums, equally resounding. Ultimately, it's hard not to once again be attracted to the "Mission Theme" for NBC News as the highlight of the product. It's an enduring piece that remained appropriate given the NBC network's long contract to broadcast the games. Overall, if you can separate the music from its intended meaning and lack of cultural diversity, this album is an impressive collection of many of Williams' most prominent concert works. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Williams reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.74 (in 69 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.59 (in 337,522 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.24 Stars
Smart Average: 3.18 Stars*
***** 202 
**** 192 
*** 196 
** 131 
* 127 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   John Williams Music Is Too Good For All You...
  Ray Robinson -- 4/16/05 (12:52 a.m.)
   Re: You Americans think you know everything...
  Kevin -- 3/13/03 (6:19 a.m.)
   not so much stars IMO
  cs~TBL -- 7/23/02 (10:09 a.m.)
   Call of the Champions rules
  Darth Willem -- 3/9/02 (9:20 a.m.)
   I am new to John Williams but...
  Chris Cat -- 3/8/02 (4:15 a.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings: Total Time: 60:53

• 1. Call of the Champions (The Official Theme of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games) (5:00)
• 2. American Journey: Immigration and Building (5:38)
• 3. American Journey: The Country at War (3:22)
• 4. American Journey: Popular Entertainment (2:29)
• 5. American Journey: Sports and Celebrities (2:37)
• 6. American Journey: Civil Rights and The Woman's Movement (3:26)
• 7. American Journey: Technology and Flight (7:09)
• 8. Song for World Peace (4:41)
• 9. Jubilee 350 (3:44)
• 10. The Mission Theme (Theme for NBC News) (3:30)
• 11. For New York (Variations on Themes of Leonard Bernstein) (3:02)
• 12. Sound the Bells! (2:50)
• 13. Hymn to New England (3:11)
• 14. Celebrate Discovery (3:50)
• 15. Summon the Heroes (The Official Theme of the 1996 Olympic Summer Games) (6:16)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes extensive credits and a note about each selection by Jackson Braider of WGBH Radio.

  All artwork and sound clips from American Journey are Copyright © 2002, Sony Classical. 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 1/14/02 and last updated 11/20/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2002-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.