CD: Film Noir’s Finest (2012)

February 15, 2013 | By

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Rating: Good

Label: BSX Records / Released: January, 2013

Tracks & Album Length: 20 tracks / (70:34)


Special Notes: n/a.


Composer: various




BSX Record’s latest compilation album features an eclectic collection of main themes from mostly modernist noirs – clear-cut homages by directors either evoking the period of the genre’s birth – the forties – or transposed to contemporary and futuristic time periods.

Whereas older noir compilations tended to focus on more vintage films, enough time has passed to make it easy for producers to fill up more than an hour’s running time of material starting from the seventies, when a streak of filmmakers were transposing nostalgic elements instead of spoofing them (as done in the sixties and early seventies).

The music selections are perfectly fine – part of the modernist streak is to incorporate / evoke jazz elements (which weren’t as standard during the forties) – and the album’s tone is mostly light, if not slightly lounge. The renditions of Body Heat, Chinatown, Blade Runner, and Basic Instinct represent the recognizable and populist films, and there’s also Laura’s theme – the only vintage film in the collection.

The solo performances vary – John Barry’s Body Heat theme has elongated chords which don’t give saxophonist Tim Messina much room to create a strong impression – and the strings are clearly synth-based, and they don’t capture the lushness of the original versions. The other problem is by picking recognizable themes there’s the inevitable comparison to the originals, and none of the aforementioned film themes are given new spins, making their inclusion a little perfunctory.

The CD’s best material comes from the lesser-known themes – Jerry Goldsmith’s Shamus, Don Davis’ The Unsaid – and more striking arrangements, especially the piano and violin duets in Pino Donaggio’s Blow Out and Howard Shore’s Eastern Promises. The often overlooked closing music for Lalo Schifrin’s Dirty Harry is given a lengthy performance on keyboards, and Mark Northam creates a nice balance between melancholy and nostalgia in David Shire’s Farewell My Lovely.

Henry Mancini gets two nods in this collection – the sappy Physical Evidence, the breezy Remington Steele – and Dennis McCarthy closes the collection with his own salute to the genre (“Film Noir Suite”) with the composer on piano, supporting the solo trumpet and string bass.

Like Mancini, Jerry Goldsmith is given a sizeable representation, and collectors should note the recordings of Shamus, The Detective, and the main theme from his rejected Two Days in the Valley score were previously released on the BSX compilation The Jerry Goldsmith Collection Volume One: The Rarities, although that album features a separate recording of Chinatown‘s “End Credits.”

Some of the other score choices – Jennifer 8 and The Bodyguard – are a bit blurry as full noir films, and there’s the peculiar oversight of Mark Isham, whose work in noir includes Mortal Thoughts, The Private Eye and Romeo is Bleeding. If a volume 2 is in the works, perhaps the producers can shine some attention on marginalized works, if not a few indie films, such as Barry Adamson’s Delusion.



© 2013 Mark R. Hasan


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Select Merchants: — BSX — Intrada — SAE


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