CD: Wings (1927)

December 6, 2012 | By

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Rating: Very Good

Label: La-La Land Records/ Released: April 30, 2012

Tracks & Album Length: 32 tracks / (76:27)


Special Notes: 24-page colour booklet with liner notes by Jeannie Gayle Pool / Limited to 2000 copies.


Composer: J.S. Zamecnik




Timed for the DVD and Blu-ray editions of Paramount’s Best Picture Oscar-winner of 1927, La-La Land’s CD features the restored edition of J.S. Zamecnik’s score, performed by a mix of orchestral and MIDI elements. A prior edition of the film on home video featured an original organ score by Gaylord Carter (which has been retained for the 2012 home video edition) and Carl Davis also recorded a new score (still unreleased in full form), but LLL’s CD marks the first time Zamecnik’s music has been available in complete form.

The timing is oddly perfect, given Ludovic Bource’s Oscar-winning score for The Artist [M] (2012) rekindled some interest in silent movies, if not the music written for the films. It’s music that’s rarely heard because part of the extensive restoration process, and more importantly, sorting through music clearance issues, since many silent scores included bits of classical, folk, and popular music with a few original themes.

Zamecnik’s music is perhaps typical of the era’s epic scores – an all-encompassing work that blows through a bevy of musical emotions as characters are thrust through romantic, tragic, and combative circumstances within a specific time period. Centered during WWI, Wings mandated the incorporation of marches and source music, and original themes tied to specific characters – none of which is new to contemporary listeners, but it’s the compression and varying tempi of moods which makes Wings a unique listening experience.

The most striking quality is the frenetic pace of the action cues which blow through classical themes by Mendelssohn and Wagner, with goosed percussion that’s evocative of the era, yet quite contemporary in its bass-friendly sonics and rhythmic textures. The quick switches to romantic material or nationalistic music (like George M. Cohan’s “Over There”) is fluidly orchestrated, and certainly as a sampler of late twenties scoring style, Wings is a great intro to the energy and melodrama that was designed to affect audiences quite sharply.

The only qualms with the restored score is the use of MIDI elements which were necessitated due to Paramount’s tight restoration schedule and budget, and it’s perhaps another example where a studio may have wanted to mount a classy restoration to celebrate an important anniversary (in this case, Paramount’s centenary), but kind of skimped on the music budget – a common problem in current productions when visual elements get the lion’s share of attention + funds.

Dominik Hauser’s arrangements and orchestrations are gorgeous, as are the performances of soloists, but listeners will note a shift from mostly orchestral to a heavier MIDI usage around the 1/3 mark; it’s not radical and could be judged as evocative of vintage organ scoring, but there’s a lingering sense that the full impact of Zamecnik’s writing and arranging would’ve been more powerful had the score been performed by a full orchestra.

LLL’s CD features superb liner notes by Paramount Music Department head Jeannie Gayle Pool, who provides a breezy chronology of the film’s production, release, and score restoration – a fitting bookend to the home video release.



© 2012 Mark R. Hasan


External References:

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