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Born on the Fourth of July
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Trumpet Performed by:
Tim Morrison

MCA Records

Release Date:
December 19th, 1989

Also See:
Saving Private Ryan

Audio Clips:
9. Prologue (0:27):
WMA (179K)  MP3 (224K)
Real Audio (158K)

11. The Shooting of Wilson (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

13. Homecoming (0:33):
WMA (211K)  MP3 (269K)
Real Audio (189K)

14. Born on the Fourth of July (0:30):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

Regular U.S. release.

  Nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.

Born on the Fourth of July
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Sales Rank: 10860

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Buy it... if you respect John Williams' masterful ability to merge the lush sounds of Americana and the stark representations of alienation in one powerful package.

Avoid it... if the album's inclusion of period songs, as well as Williams' largely unlistenable war cues, don't compensate for only 25 minutes of score on the product.

Born on the Fourth of July: (John Williams) The 1980's were the renaissance for films about the brutal effects of the Vietnam War, and Oliver Stone's Born on the Fourth of July was one of the more powerful entries in that series. A snapshot of an American life ruined and redeemed, the film tackled both horrors of the war itself and its aftermath on the disillusioned veterans who were often shunned upon their return to America. The story of Born on the Fourth of July follows one man's similar journey, and through Stone's realistic examination of sanity in its primary character, the film remains an underestimated and unfortunately diminished memory for most viewers. One of the most powerful elements of the film was John Williams' remarkable score. The maestro would begin to accept more projects of a grand political stature in the late 1980's and early 1990's, and while the quality of these scores would vary (as would the quality of the Stone films for which Williams would write music), the composer always seemed to capture the grim solitude of the subject matter better than anyone else. His sense of translating alienation and heroicism into remorseful and sorrowful solo performances in the orchestra is unmatched in the era. His integration of those solos into the full ensemble performances is also of note, particularly in Born on the Fourth of July. The instrument of choice for Williams here, as it would be in JFK, is the trumpet, and Tim Morrison's solo performances in this score are not to be missed. It is in these slightly harsh, but ultra-noble trumpet solos that Williams flawlessly captures the concept of alienation, and he is not about to let you forget about its effect.

At both the outset and finale, as well as in the middle of the horrific scenes of devastation, Williams uses the instrument to constantly remind the viewer and listener that no matter the attention given to a veteran of such horrors, there will always be trials that exist within that veteran's psyche. On a technical level, the trumpet is mixed brilliantly with the ensemble, always front and center with outstanding clarity, aiding in its effectiveness. The score opens with the solo trumpet performing its dedicated theme over a droning note of bass strings and electronics, joined only by a faint single note of violins in the latter half. The stark realism in this cue is striking. Almost as striking is Williams' secondary theme, a layered string piece that represents the more romantic elements of service to one's country, and the broad scope of not only the war, but of American culture as well. In "The Early Days," Williams addresses the innocence of pre-war days as children play war in green yards with this theme. Its middle-America sincerity is conveyed in its harmonic simplicity and grand layers of strings. An oboe delicately takes the theme before the strings hand it over once again to trumpet. This cue spans two separate pre-war scenes in the film, and cannot be more of a contrast from what follows. The two engaging war cues represented on the album for Born on the Fourth of July are largely unlistenable, but easy to respect. For the nightmarish "The Shooting of Wilson," Williams cranks up the same strings to high, dissonant layers, with uncomfortable percussion blasts, atonal brass, and whining violins offering as unpleasant a five minutes as possible. The following "Cua Viet River" cue takes the Americana theme from the early scenes and turns it distinctly tragic and morbid, as the war tears that innocence away with dramatic thuds under the languishing strings.

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As the primary character is suddenly shot, the themes are ripped away and replaced with eerie electronic effects, including a series of whispering voices over random droning notes from the ensemble. The redeeming "Homecoming" cue inserts new passion into the Americana theme, introducing a rock rhythm over the trumpet's subtheme from within the performances of innocence earlier in the film. Even at the end of this cue, however, the rhythm fades away and leads to the droning bass and solo trumpet performing the alienation theme from the start. It's a stark reminder of the horrific journey that continues for the veterans. Williams can't resist the usual concert suite at the end, of course, and he opens it with a resplendently lush string performance of the Americana theme. After the trumpet's upbeat performance of this theme's secondary passage, Williams allows the track to once again devolve into the same droning bass note under solo trumpet. If the message isn't clear by the end of this suite, then you'll probably never get it. Overall, Born on the Fourth of July is a very mixed listening experience on album. As per Williams' score, the two tracks featuring lengthy performances of the delightfully layered strings for the Americana theme are easy to enjoy. The remainder of the score demands respect, and can be appreciated for its effectiveness, but the war cues are hardly listenable. Also a potential difficulty are the numerous songs from the film that MCA included on the album release. Before the 25 minutes of Williams' score, eight songs from the 1950's and 60's are provided. While they are staples of the era, a few of the 50's songs are insufferable, and all of them detract from the drama of Williams' score. Still, that score is one that demands respect, regardless of your ability to enjoy the album to any degree. **** 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 338,223 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

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   Born on Fourth of July-Donated Review
  R.E. Groter -- 11/12/09 (1:54 a.m.)
   Filmtracks Sponsored Donated Review
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   Unavoidable To Listen
  Sheridan -- 7/4/06 (3:50 a.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 57:24

• 1. A Hard Rain's a Gonna Fall (4:58)
Performed by Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
• 2. Born on the Bayou (4:54)
Performed by The Broken Hornes
• 3. Brown Eyed Girl (3:07)
Performed by Van Morrison
• 4. American Pie (8:32)
Performed by Don McLean
• 5. My Girl (2:43)
Performed by The Temptations
• 6. Soldier Boy (2:39)
Performed by The Shirelles
• 7. Venus (2:21)
Performed by Frankie Avalon
• 8. Moon River (2:41)
Performed by Henry Mancini

Original Score:
• 9. Prologue (1:22)
• 10.The Early Days, Massapequa, 1957 (4:57)
• 11. The Shooting of Wilson (5:07)
• 12. Cua Viet River, Vietnam, 1968 (5:02)
• 13. Homecoming (2:38)
• 14. Born on the Fourth of July (5:44)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert notes include a short paragraph from the director of the film, but has no extra information about the score.

  All artwork and sound clips from Born on the Fourth of July are Copyright © 1989, MCA Records. 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 6/14/98 and last updated 7/30/06. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1998-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.