CD: Walk in the Clouds, A (1995)

June 2, 2012 | By

Return toHome Soundtrack  Reviews / V to Z


Rating: Excellent

Label: La-La Land Records/ Released: February 15, 2012

Tracks & Album Length: 26 tracks / (72:09)


Special Notes: 16-page colour booklet with liner notes by Julie Kirgo / Limited to 2,000 copies..


Composer: Maurice Jarre




One of Maurice Jarre’s final scores (he would step away from film scoring in 2001), A Walk in the Clouds is surprisingly one of his best symphonic works. Jarre had spent the last 15 years or so composing for mixed orchestra and electronics or full electronics, and rarely enjoyed an opportunity to return to the rich orchestral sound upon which he built his career during the sixties with Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965).

To both fans and his critics, Jarre’s sense of melody is extremely odd, and it’s no less different in Clouds where his central, highly romantic theme quickly sidesteps conventional development: instead of flowing towards natural, familiar high and chord changes, Jarre seems to drift towards the wrong note, then steps back, returns again, and noodles in a peculiar harmonic plain while surrounding his theme with surging strings, cymbal hits, and orchestral swells standard to classical film scoring.

It’s a really odd style that tended to work better when Jarre was writing music for tales set in exotic locations and time periods, or war films mandating gnashing dissonance (such as The Train). The key to Jarre’s success in scoring foreign-set films is how outside of North American and British locations, his melodic oddness becomes an ambiguous thing around which the addition of ethnic instruments, folk traditions, and whatever else Jarre absorbed during his creation process click.

Case in point: Clouds’ main theme reduced to solo guitar with slight symphonic accompaniment in “Morning Walk / I’ll Stay.” The cascade of notes and performance style evokes the story’s Mexican flavour, yet the melody’s peculiar flow is easily identifiable as Jarre. As a composer, he was respected for his most iconic achievements and experimentation with synthesizers – many of his electronic scores still hold up very well, often exuding a kind of rich organic style that’s rather hypnotic – but he was given short shrift by critics for being melodically too idiosyncratic, causing them to ignore his inherent gifts for writing for big percussion ensembles, and fluidly applying rhythms and ambient-styled sounds in electronic & orchestral realms.

In its expanded form, you do hear the Clouds theme a heck of a lot – by the last third, it tends to spiral in & out of cues with spinoff variations by smaller instrumental ensembles – but Clouds is a marginalized film score classic because it contains the romance, conflict, and tension typical of Jarre’s lush dramas.

Milan followed their original 1995 CD with a 2005 digital remaster (and added a bonus 13 min. composer interview that remains exclusive to that release). La-La Land’s mastering probably benefitted from the augmentation, but their 2012 CD is frankly awesome: this may be the label’s best-sounding CD, because there is no nuance missed, no softly rendered brass fanfare, and no hushed bass rumble. The score’s engineering is remarkable, and one suspects the first time the CD’s producers played by the master tapes, they were shocked by its power.

Clouds is a classic romantic drama with wonderful theme variations, and features some of the composer’s best writing for large-scale orchestra. LLL’s CD features unreleased and expanded cues, plus alternates and source cues in a separate bonus gallery. Even though the expanded score clocks out at 47 mins., it’s a perfect length where Jarre hits all of the film’s dramatic marks without bombast, overstatement, or cliché.



© 2012 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

IMDB Soundtrack AlbumComposer Filmography


Return toHome Soundtrack Reviews V to Z


Category: Soundtrack Reviews

Comments are closed.