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1992 Original

2000 Expanded

2000 Re-Recording

Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Williams

Orchestrated by:
Herbert Spencer

2000 Decca Album Produced by:
Laurent Bouzereau

2000 Re-Recording Produced by:
Robert Townson

2000 Re-Recording Conducted by:
Joel McNeely

2000 Re-Recording Performed by:
The Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Labels and Dates:
MCA Records
(April 21st, 1992)

(July 11th, 2000)

Varèse Sarabande
(September 12th, 2000)

Also See:
The Towering Inferno
The Poseidon Adventure
The Fury

Audio Clips:
2000 Decca Album:

5. Shark Attack (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

7. Montage (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

11. Man Against Beast (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (243K)
Real Audio (151K)

15. The Great Shark Chase (0:30):
WMA (195K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

All of the albums are regular U.S. releases and can be readily found for reasonable prices.

  Winner of an Academy Award, a BAFTA Award, a Grammy Award, and a Golden Globe.

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Sales Rank: 186292

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Buy it... on the 2000 Decca album if you seek to conduct a definitive study of one of the most effective film scores of all time, or on the 2000 re-recording if you want to hear that classic music translated decently into digital sound.

Avoid it... on all the albums if you recognize, like many John Williams collectors do, that it is a great score in the context of the film, but not the most pleasant or cohesive listening experience on album.

Jaws: (John Williams) The first film to ever gross more than $100 million, Jaws also represented the mainstream debut of director Steven Spielberg. An incredibly well conceived concept and outstanding screenplay scared audiences in such a timeless fashion that the film is still effectively terrifying more than thirty years after its release. Another reason for the film's great memorability relates to its striking score by composer John Williams, who had previously worked with Spielberg on Sugarland Express. When Williams first invited the director to his studio and played on a piano the two-note theme he had conjured to represent the great white shark in Jaws, Spielberg responded by saying something along the lines of "you're kidding, right?" Fortunately for both, Williams wasn't kidding, and thus was born a film music and silver screen legend. Spielberg was still an up and coming director, with only a few small, successful films under his belt, but Williams was already an Academy Award winner and the composer of choice for large-scale disaster films. His popular scores of the early 1970's for The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, and, most notably, The Towering Inferno had offered a glimpse of the symphonic rebirth that Williams was initiating in Hollywood at the time. He would go on to earn Academy Award wins for both Jaws and Star Wars within a two year span, elevating him to a status of the top composer of the 1970's. The production of Jaws was a near disaster during its shooting, mostly due to "Bruce," the mechanical shark that was useless 90% of the time, and Spielberg was counting on a strong score with a dark and sweeping identity to help save the production. Such was the reason for Spielberg's surprise when Williams produced a title theme consisting of a repeating two-note phrase. On the piano, it sounded silly, but when performed by the large string section of an orchestra, both men were surprised by the monstrous thematic creation they had stumbled upon. There is no serious debate about the functionality of the music in the film. Part of the film's dominant success was due, directly, to its relatively deceptive use of music, however.

The ingenious idea of using the mindless two-note progression to represent the shark is effectively applied to the score by its tempo or even by its absence. The two-note progression was meant to match the blood pressure of the shark, but not the audience. Many people mistakenly believe that the theme was intended to reflect the horror level of the audience. In fact, the idea represents the internalized zeal of the shark itself, a flow that Williams and Spielberg allowed the audience to listen in on. The theme increases its pace as the shark gets excited, and it is absent from scenes in which the shark isn't anywhere near the present locale (most notably in the false alarm scenes of mistaken identity). The shark's primitive and brutal hunting instincts make the structurally simplistic two-note theme into the embodiment of the shark that Spielberg had struggled to obtain with the actual, physical shark that he had built for the film. Even if you see a fin in the water, if Williams' theme isn't heard, then there's no reason to worry or panic. A deep horn motif that actually serves as the primary theme for the film is usually presented on top of this simple ostinato, though this idea is truly overshadowed by its underlying rhythm. The theme's concert version and the cue "Man Against Beast" both build to a wondrous crescendo of melodramatic movie music fantasy on strings that is pure Williams in style. Accompanying the title theme is a pleasant, if not jubilant theme for the cozy beach town of Amity, one which provides a handful of thematic bursts that serve as early evidence of Williams' talent for capturing the Americana spirit. The enjoyable statements of adventure music as the Orca sails off and chases the shark are highlighted in "Man Against Beast" once again, which prompted Williams to compare that lengthy duel as having a "pirate spirit" that necessitated music that rolls along with jovial sport. Williams slowly takes that uplifting spirit and transfers it into one of increasing panic and desperation as the Orca comes under life-threatening attack, until the ultimate timpani roll declares relief as the decapitated shark's blood fills the ocean waters. Despite the awesome power and effectiveness of the score as heard in the film, the mass majority of the music doesn't make for one of Williams' better albums.

2000 Varèse Album:
Only $9.99
For most listeners, Jaws is a work of fine craftsmanship to appreciate on album rather than enjoy with ease. The sense of flighty adventure on the high seas during the chase sequence offers the only really listenable material on album. Who really wants to listen to the shark's theme on snowy day in Montana? Many people have suggested correctly that Williams' Jaws 2 is a better and more consistent listening experience on album. Despite this fact, the first film's score exists on three CD albums. The original LP and 1992 MCA CD feature about half an hour of music that Williams rearranged and re-recorded for the sole purposes of the album, and this was for a long time the only available music from the picture. In 2000, a sudden flurry of activity included the announcement by Varèse Sarabande that Joel McNeely would be conducting the Royal Scottish Orchestra in a performance of the entire Jaws score, scheduled for release later that year. Before that could be recorded, however, Universal decided to hasten the project of releasing the entire original 51 minutes of Jaws music (not the re-recordings done in 1975) on an album to coincide with the much hyped collector's DVD release celebrating the 25th anniversary of the film. For the casual fan of Williams' music, your best bet would be the 2000 remastered release of the original Jaws score, though there are those who regularly prefer Williams' typically strong rearrangements for his albums (The Fury is a good example of such disparity). If sound quality is your concern, then the RSO re-recording might be best, though the intimate sense of danger experienced during the original recordings of the Jaws themes is lost a bit by the echoing sound of the large, dynamic performance. That re-recording does feature some different tempi and instrumentation during key sequences, and this may bother listeners who are very familiar with the original. Note that Williams had a direct say in how the music was presented on the 1992 and 2000 releases of the two original Jaws recordings, so the cues are rearranged and renamed in parts of those albums to suit his wishes. Overall, outside of two or three cues, Jaws is not something you can sit and listen to for any great length of time. Study and admire its constructs and intelligent application, but don't expect it to freely entertain. Regardless of its arrangement for the albums, the score's application in the film is a stroke of genius. Price Hunt: CD or Download

    Music as Written for Film: *****
    Score as Heard on the 1992 MCA Records Album: ****
    Score as Heard on the 2000 Decca Records Album: *****
    Score as Heard on the 2000 Varèse Sarabande Re-Recording: ****
    Overall: *****

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.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 4.26 Stars
Smart Average: 3.95 Stars*
***** 1020 
**** 367 
*** 183 
** 101 
* 57 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   Re: A magnificient score
  krazie835 -- 7/26/14 (6:53 p.m.)
   Re: Oddly, I prefer the '92 release
  Faleel -- 11/6/11 (12:23 a.m.)
   Oddly, I prefer the '92 release
  Michael -- 12/30/07 (10:57 a.m.)
   Brass Section (Hollywood Studio Symphony)
  N.R.Q. -- 4/12/07 (10:26 a.m.)
   Re: query..?
  N B -- 12/19/06 (6:44 a.m.)
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 Track Listings (1992 MCA Records Album): Total Time: 35:12

• 1. Main Title (Theme From 'Jaws') (2:18)
• 2. Chrissie's Death (1:39)
• 3. Promenade (Tourists on the Menu) (2:46)
• 4. Out to Sea (2:26)
• 5. The Indianapolis Story (2:23)
• 6. Sea Attack Number One (5:23)
• 7. One Barrel Chase (3:04)
• 8. Preparing the Cage (3:23)
• 9. Night Search (3:29)
• 10. The Underwater Siege (3:31)
• 11. Hand to Hand Combat (2:32)
• 12. End Title (Theme From 'Jaws') (2:18)

 Track Listings (2000 Decca Records Album): Total Time: 51:17

• 1. Main Title and First Victim** (3:27)
• 2. The Empty Raft* (1:23)
• 3. The Pier Incident* (2:23)
• 4. The Shark Cage Fugue (1:59)
• 5. Shark Attack*+ (1:17)
• 6. Ben Gardner's Boat (3:31)
• 7. Montage (1:31)
• 8. Father and Son*+ (3:42)
• 9. Into the Estuary* (2:50)
• 10. Out to Sea (2:58)
• 11. Man Against Beast (5:33)
• 12. Quint's Tale (2:40)
• 13. Brody Panics* (1:10)
• 14. Barrel Off Starboard* (1:30)
• 15. The Great Shark Chase**+ (3:28)
• 16. Three Barrels Under*+ (2:05)
• 17. Between Attacks*+ (2:06)
• 18. The Shark Approaches*+ (2:40)
• 19. Blown to Bits (3:03)
• 20. End Titles (1:52)

* previously unreleased
** includes unreleased music
+ includes music not used in the film

 Track Listings (2000 Varèse Sarabande Re-Recording): Total Time: 51:09

• 1. Main Title (1:06)
• 2. The First Victim (1:43)
• 3. The Empty Raft (1:15)
• 4. The Pier Incident (2:19)
• 5. Father and Son (2:19)
• 6. The Alimentary Canal (2:02)
• 7. Ben Gardner's Boat (3:21)
• 8. Montage (1:31)
• 9. A Tug on the Line (2:12)
• 10. Into the Estuary (2:49)
• 11. Out to Sea (0:56)
• 12. Man Against Beast (5:15)
• 13. Quint's Tale (2:30)
• 14. Brody Panics (1:16)
• 15. Barrel Off Starboard (1:38)
• 16. The Great Chase (3:02)
• 17. Three Barrels Under (2:05)
• 18. From Bad to Worse (0:53)
• 19. Quint Thinks it Over (1:08)
• 20. The Shark Cage Fugue (2:00)
• 21. The Shark Approaches (0:42)
• 22. The Shark Hits the Cage (1:45)
• 23. Quint Meets his End (1:08)
• 24. Blown to Bits (3:11)
• 25. End Title (1:56)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The packaging of all of the albums is extensive; all are very informative about the film and score. The 2000 Re-recording contains the complete score with cues in the order in which they appeared in the film; Jown Williams rearranged the other two albums' cues to his liking. The 2000 re-recording album's liner does contain a few errors in the track title names during its commentary by Michael McDonagh and Robert Townson. The Decca album contains notes from Williams, Spielberg, and music producer Laurent Bouzereau.

  All artwork and sound clips from Jaws are Copyright © 1992, 2000, MCA Records, Decca/Universal, Varèse Sarabande. 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 3/23/03 and last updated 3/25/09. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2003-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.