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Medicine Man
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
Jerry Goldsmith

Orchestrated by:
Arthur Morton

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
February 4th, 1992

Also See:
Under Fire
The Ghost and the Darkness

Audio Clips:
1. Rae's Arrival (0:33):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (265K)
Real Audio (165K)

4. The Trees (0:34):
WMA (220K)  MP3 (274K)
Real Audio (171K)

7. Mountain High (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (248K)
Real Audio (154K)

10. What's Wrong (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

Regular U.S. release.


Medicine Man
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Our Price: $18.80
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Sales Rank: 25218

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Buy it... if you appreciate both Jerry Goldsmith's unique library of synthetic sounds and his ability to counter them with stunningly gorgeous romance themes on high strings.

Avoid it... only if you have no interest in hearing the composer venture into ultra-positive calypso territory for his infectious, acoustic-guitar and pan pipe theme for the location of the story.

Medicine Man: (Jerry Goldsmith) Films with political messages about the destruction of the Amazon rain forests were plentiful in the 1990's (even in the animated genre), and John McTiernan's Medicine Man is one of the more tedious and transparent entries. Blasted by critics, the early 1992 film proposed that Sean Connery, an ornery Scottish scientist, has found the cure for cancer in the forest, but the ingredients are quickly being destroyed by the fires and bulldozers of encroaching agriculture. When Lorraine Bracco shows up from the company that is financing him to examine his progress, the two inevitably join forces to develop the cure in time and, while they lose the larger battle for humanity, they at least can take solace in each other. For yet another film that didn't live up to the quality of his contribution, Jerry Goldsmith produced a forgotten gem of a score for Medicine Man that managed to survive the horrific box office failure of the film. Goldsmith's large-scale and popular score for the film continues to sell well and be played at public events. Its generous performances of ethnic and orchestral creativity show the obvious labor with which Goldsmith toiled to write this score, a considerable show of dedication to detail that would be lacking in his scores a decade later. In 1992, Goldsmith was still at the height of his true mastery of electronic and orchestral melding, and Medicine Man takes both of these elements and combines them with a diverse percussion section (partially synthetic, of course) to recreate the exotic, foreign, and romantic atmosphere of the rain forests. The only redeeming part of McTiernan's film is indeed the Goldsmith score, which simply dominates several scenes during its running time. The greatest asset of his music for Medicine Man is that it never ceases in its creativity. It therefore maintains a strong sense of character and personality that is largely unique in his career. It's silly and playful without resorting to dumb cliches, and it's menacing in its action without completely losing the style of the work's lightest moments. And, most importantly, it uses Goldsmith's library of sound effects to imitate the sounds of the forest, a prerequisite for a score such as this.

The score rotates evenly between its three main themes, including those that represent the forest, the romance, and the impending doom. Medicine Man opens with a Southern Caribbean-flavored calypso piece as the lead female character journeys into the heart of the forest. It is perhaps the best scene of the film, if only for the perfect match of scenery with Goldsmith's bubbly forest theme. This title track conveys all the high adventure that the film suggests at its outset, and although "Rae's Arrival" ends on a substantially lower emotional note, Goldsmith never loses the child-like enthusiasm in his rhythms. The first half of the score maintains three or four lengthy cues of this dancing, percussive material, light with the orchestra and electronically cute. With flighty spirit, easy acoustic guitar performances, and the mass plucking of the string section of the orchestra, the fast-paced native rhythms often yield to the more tender cues of the romance theme. The use of a pan pipe effect to puff away at the theme and provide colorful accents in the background will raise memories of Under Fire. Goldsmith perfects a light electronic accompaniment that mimics the droplets of rain as heard in a natural setting, and his ability to set the pitch of these effects to match the other performers is among the score's most notable attractions. The second theme of importance is the horrific, harshly electronic beating of the synthetic piano and drum pads that signify the inevitable firey end of the rain forest (a creative, dark mutation of the "Mountain High" cue). It's equally effective in the film, though less listenable on album due to the resounding power of bass thumps that sound like the basketball-dribbling effect from Hoosiers in its deepest and most powerful incarnation. In "Mocara" and "The Fire," the brass theme over this ominous rhythm is provided with outstanding counterpoint (especially in the latter, penultimate cue). The conflicts between the two primary characters, out of their element and among the natives, is often puntcuated by these reverberating electronic thumps and a faint and dissonant electronic rhythm. When performed by the same instruments as the cues focused on the natives and forest, Goldsmith succeeds in juxtaposing a more identifiable city life with the sounds of the unknown. A distinctly synthetic edge is provided to both the start of the performances of the doom theme and moments like "Without a Net," which extends the sound into a more general purpose of panic.

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For many film score collectors, however, the highlight of Medicine Man is the National Philharmonic Orchestra's performance of the sweeping romance theme of the film. Heard first in "Campbell and the Children" and swelling to remarkable heights in "The Trees," this theme covers both the love interest between the two leads and the romanticism inherent in the forest. Although the orchestra is typically secondary to the tropical electronics, the dominant string performances of this elegant "theme of awe" are those which appear in re-recordings and most re-use situations involving this score. With one of Goldsmith's finest fully orchestral themes of majesty (again recalling the high string theme of Under Fire), "The Trees" conveys the overwhelming beauty of the forest from great heights. There are distinct similarities in structure between the rendering of the idea here and John Barry's dominant style of scoring vistas in the 1980's, though Goldsmith's take on the same general idea is far more refreshing. Overall, the score for Medicine Man offers the best of two worlds, with extended performances of that sweeping theme and nearly fifteen minutes of Goldsmith's bubbly guitars and synthesizers at their most inspired. There are parts of this score that will instantly cheer you up, or maybe even get you out of your seat to shake your fanny. So happy-go-lucky are the calypso parts of this score that edits of Medicine Man have been used on the decks of cruise ships in the Caribbean Sea when their live players are off duty. The only detractions from the album are the often overbearing sequences of electronic pounding during the moments of suggested or actual destruction. But even these cues offer a bold Goldsmith brass motif that remains superior to much of what the composer provided to generic action films later in the decade. The texture of the instrumentation, both synthetic and organic, keep filler cues like "What's Wrong" and "The Injection" from becoming tedious, begging for appreciation at high volume. For the most part, the recording presents these elements in an understandably wet sound, with the exception of the acoustic guitar, which is mixed up front. Medicine Man is a score that should occupy a spot in your collection, and if you consider yourself a fan of Goldsmith's creative 80's and early-90's works, then it is an absolute must. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

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 138,584 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.74 Stars
Smart Average: 3.56 Stars*
***** 460 
**** 478 
*** 313 
** 128 
* 91 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
  Colin -- 7/5/07 (1:16 p.m.)
   Excellent Goldsmith Score
  M.Sender -- 6/23/06 (11:22 a.m.)
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 Track Listings: Total Time: 50:09

• 1. Rae's Arrival (5:06)
• 2. First Morning (3:46)
• 3. Campbell and the Children (1:57)
• 4. The Trees (6:01)
• 5. The Harvest (3:11)
• 6. Mocara (3:36)
• 7. Mountain High (2:41)
• 8. Without a Net (4:19)
• 9. Finger Painting (2:30)
• 10. What's Wrong (1:52)
• 11. The Injection (2:09)
• 12. The Sugar (2:08)
• 13. The Fire (2:10)
• 14. A Meal and a Bath (8:03)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes no extra information about the score or film.

  All artwork and sound clips from Medicine Man are Copyright © 1996, 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 12/13/96 and last updated 9/7/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1996-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.