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Out of Africa
1986 MCA Records

1995 Gold MCA

1997 Varèse

Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
John Barry

Orchestrated by:
Albert Woodbury

Labels and Dates:
MCA Records

MCA Masterdisc (Gold)
(August 29th, 1995)

Varèse Sarabande
(October 21st, 1997)

Also See:
Somewhere in Time
Dances With Wolves
High Road to China
Raise the Titanic

Audio Clips:
1. Main Title (I Had a Farm in Africa) (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

2. I'm Better at Hello (Karen's Theme I) (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (239K)
Real Audio (168K)

3. Have You Got a Story For Me (0:30):
WMA (200K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

5. Safari (0:31):
WMA (202K)  MP3 (254K)
Real Audio (179K)

The original pressing was an early commercial CD that has always remained in print, selling for $4 by the 2000's. The 1995 gold edition, also from MCA Records, debuted with a slightly higher retail price but eventually fetched prices of $50 or more once it fell out of print. The 1997 Varèse Sarabande re-recording is a regular commercial release with good availability.

  Winner of an Academy Award and Golden Globe. Nominated for a BAFTA Award.

Out of Africa

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Buy it... if broad John Barry romanticism of consistently dramatic tonality melts your heart, in which case Out of Africa is among three or four scores of absolute certainty for your collection.

Avoid it... if you expect this score to sound anywhere near as decent in its recording quality as some of Barry's equivalent works, or if you desire a plentitude of thunderously melodramatic performances in the ranks of Dances With Wolves.

Out of Africa: (John Barry) The dominant dramatic powerhouse of 1985, Sydney Pollack's Out of Africa was a force to be reckoned with from both the arthouse and technical perspectives. Featuring the story of real life Danish baroness Karen Blixen, the film conveys a sweeping but ultimately sorrowful personal tale while glorifying the setting of Kenya at the time of the first World War. Its epic visuals were well mated to the intimate character interactions and compelling commentary on lifestyles of the era, especially involving the disillusionment that many Europeans felt about the "civilized" culture of the continent when searching out new lives in Africa. When the baroness and her husband (through convenient arrangement) purchase and operate a farm in Kenya, she finds herself perpetually alone. When an English adventurer (a pilot and hunter) enters her life, so begins the charm between Meryl Streep and Robert Redford. While the ultimate fate of the characters is understandably heavy with sadness, the broad journey of their lives is, along with the atmosphere of Africa, the overwhelming attraction of Out of Africa. Between this film and Back to the Future, Universal Pictures enjoyed a stunning year. Out of Africa was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, winning seven of them across the spectrum of categories (from sound to overall picture). Among the most memorable aspects of the film that led to a predictable Oscar (and Golden Globe) was the score by John Barry, who was experiencing the height of the romantic renaissance in his career at the time. The grandiose melodies on strings that were pervasive in the composer's career then carried him as a mainstream favorite from Somewhere in Time to Dances With Wolves, the latter gaining him his final Academy Award. Although Dances With Wolves remains the best known of the three, Out of Africa is just as reflective of Barry's stereotypical romantic flavor, albeit in a shorter and less burdensome dosage. The underlying structures and instrumental techniques in these works are all pretty much the same (from the almost obnoxious repetition of phrases to the use strings to carry a primary melody while conservative brass tones offer buffer and occasional counterpoint). The use of descending cello and bass string figures will connect this score to Somewhere in Time more often for Barry collectors. Ultimately, the closest practice run for Out of Africa was High Road to China, which features many of the same plot elements that obviously inspired Barry in consistent ways.

There are two primary and two secondary themes in Out of Africa (not including the use of a Mozart piece as another), though most casual listeners will only recall the grand title theme accompanying the massive vistas of Kenya. It is this extremely tonal idea that slowly unfolds in flowing string tones and concludes its statements with bold French horn counterpoint. It is as lovely as it is sleep-inducing, providing the landscape with the kind of romantic appeal that the story's protagonist obviously recalls upon writing about her years in Africa. It also glamorizes the scenery in ways that true Hollywood epics love to do. This theme opens and closes the album presentations for Out of Africa with convincing authority. The secondary theme of importance is one of personal plight for the baroness. A tender woodwind theme for Karen is integrated more thoroughly into the score, occupying three or four cues in full. Its flute performances with soft string backing are reminiscent of Barry's instrumental song adaptations of the song melody in the nearly concurrent A View to a Kill. The primary theme for Redford's adventurer is that which actually opens the film; Mozart's 1791 adagio "Clarinet Concerto in A Major" accompanies the character throughout the film in Karen's recollections. As in Somewhere in Time, the reliance upon a classical piece for a major story concept instead of Barry's score is odd, especially when considering the fact that Barry's material is so similar in tone and could likely have sufficed for the occasion. Barry does actually provide Redford's character with a beautiful theme, though it is unfortunately limited to just one cue. Heard on piano in "Have You Got a Story For Me?," this melancholy minor-key theme uses elegant progressions that would sound familiar to enthusiasts of James Horner's Casper ten years later. For listeners tired of hearing the primary themes from Out of Africa throughout the decades, this one cue and its unique theme could very well serve as the highlight of the album. A second musical identity associated with the two main characters is their own distinct adventure theme, hinted at during their initial on screen meeting and bursting with symphonic force in "Safari." In this cue, the horns are allowed to carry the theme with bold resolve, producing another hidden highlight of the overall work. Film score collectors will find interesting parallels in structure between this melody and the seldom referenced love theme in David Arnold's The World is Not Enough (especially in that score's unreleased "Snow Business" cue).

1997 Varèse Album:
Only $9.99
Altogether, these themes usually run back to back in Barry's Out of Africa, ensuring its position as a easy, harmonic listening experience from start to end. Their common style of rendering helps to soften their mingling, though the secondary themes in the score are disappointingly short-changed in terms of development. The only significant break in the listening experience is the dissonant and percussive "Karen's Journey" material (which was closer to the traditional music of the region that Pollack had to be talked out of using for the entire score by Barry). The composer's large-scale recordings were typically beyond their era when he was at his composing prime, but Out of Africa is sadly a major exception. Compared to his similar romance scores of the 80's, this one sounds badly muted on its album releases. MCA Records has released the identical presentation in several issues over the years, most with very similar cover art (even in international pressings), and, despite an overpriced Gold Edition follow-up, all of them are unsatisfactory in sound. Some Barry enthusiasts may also object to the insertion of the Mozart piece and some other source and traditional music in the middle of the score's presentation. Both of these problems were solved when Varèse Sarabande commissioned Joel McNeely to conduct the Royal Scottish National Orchestra for an expanded selection of Barry's music for album release in 1997. While the full Mozart piece was recorded, the other incidental music was removed in favor of additional material written by Barry for the film (but not always edited into the final cut due to Pollack's late rearrangements). The sound quality here is outstanding, the order of cues satisfactory, and the interpretation of Barry's style quite competent. Barry's romantic music, because of its inherent simplicity in constructs, is typically a safe bet when it comes to such re-recordings, and more than perhaps any other composer, his works are often improved upon in subsequent, digitally recorded performances. Because of the vast improvement in dynamic soundscape for such an epic score, this re-recording of Out of Africa is more necessary for your collection than Varèse Sarabande and the RSNO's later (and less available) recording of Somewhere in Time. For purists, nothing but the original score's recording may suffice; otherwise, don't hesitate to seek out the 1997 re-recording. Convention would dictate that Out of Africa should receive a five-star rating, but due to its brevity, questionable production aspects, and failure to really adapt some of the score's best sub-themes into fuller roles, it stands a full step behind Dances With Wolves and thus earns a very solid four stars. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For John Barry reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.85 (in 27 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.48 (in 25,320 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.66 Stars
Smart Average: 3.52 Stars*
***** 76 
**** 48 
*** 32 
** 16 
* 26 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
  MOWO -- 8/25/14 (1:17 p.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings (1986 and 1995 Albums): Total Time: 33:27

• 1. Main Title (I Had a Farm in Africa) (3:14)
• 2. I'm Better at Hello (Karen's Theme I) (1:18)
• 3. Have You Got a Story For Me (1:14)
• 4. Concerto For Clarinet and Orchestra in A (K. 622)* (2:49)
• 5. Safari (2:44)
• 6. Karen's Journey/Siyawe** (4:50)
• 7. Flying Over Africa (3:25)
• 8. I Had a Compass From Denys (Karen's Theme II) (2:31)
• 9. Alone in the Farm (1:56)
• 10. Let the Rest of the World Go By*** (3:17)
• 11. If I Know a Song For Africa (Karen's Theme III) (2:12)
• 12. End Title (You Are Karen) (4:01)

* Mozart excerpt performed by The Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields
** African traditional
*** composed by Ernest R.Ball and J. Keirn Brennan

 Track Listings (1997 Varèse Sarabande Re-Recording): Total Time: 38:42

• 1. I Had a Farm (Main Title) (3:12)
• 2. Alone on the Farm (1:00)
• 3. Karen and Denys (0:48)
• 4. Have You Got a Story For Me (1:21)
• 5. I'm Better at Hello (1:24)
• 6. Mozart: clarinet concerto in A Major: K622 (Adagio) (7:39)
• 7. Karen's Journey Starts (3:41)
• 8. Karen's Journey Ends (1:00)
• 9. Karen's Return From Border (1:33)
• 10. Karen Builds a School (1:19)
• 11. Harvest (2:02)
• 12. Safari (2:35)
• 13. Flight Over Africa (2:41)
• 14. Beach at Night (0:58)
• 15. You'll Keep Me Then (0:58)
• 16. If I Knew a Song of Africa (2:23)
• 17. You Are Karen M'Sabu (1:17)
• 18. Out of Africa (End Credits) (2:49)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert of the MCA Records albums from 1986 and 1995 include no extra information about the score or film. The 1997 Varèse Sarabande album contains notes about both, as well as information about McNeely and the RSNO.

  All artwork and sound clips from Out of Africa are Copyright © 1986, 1995, 1997, MCA Records, MCA Masterdisc (Gold), 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 1/7/10 (and not updated significantly since). Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 2010-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.