Wednesday, April 23, 2014
John Williams -- Jurassic Park (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
John Williams' early 90's output is pretty underrated. I didn't review the soundtracks for Home Alone, Hook, JFK, or Schindler's List (four very different films) because I do not own them, but from simply watching those films, I know Williams did great work for them. Maybe I'm the one who underrates that period of his career. That really has nothing to do with this review, I just thought I should mention those scores...
anyway, Jurassic Park features one of the most beloved film scores of all time, and the only Williams soundtrack from that era that I do own. As a burgeoning musician in middle school, the Jurassic Park theme was the first music I ever figured out how to play by ear. This music means a lot to me as it does most people who spent any of their teenage years in the 90's. The soundtrack was one of the first CD's I purchased, and, as I had only a Walkman (portable cassette player) and no fancy Discman (portable CD player), I recorded the CD to cassette and listened to it on my bus rides to and from school. When I'd get home, I'd throw the CD onto my amazing 30-watts per channel CD player. I listened to this music a lot, but re-listening for this review series, I am reminded of something: redundancy.
Despite the fact that he is the greatest film composer to ever live, John Williams as an album producer sometimes leaves something wanting. Most film soundtrack fans, myself included, prefer a high quality, complete, chronological soundtrack album. If you'll notice, throughout this series of John Williams reviews, I've written about later special edition re-releases much more so than originals. These re-releases feature more of the music, at a higher quality, and in the logical emotional order the music progressed in the film it backed. As I've just said, this is what most soundtrack fans prefer, or at least, it's what I prefer.
This is not what one gets from a new John Williams release, though. John Williams likes to attempt to create a new listening experience with his soundtracks, altering the track order to achieve a new emotional flow, including music and takes that were not included in the respective film they were recorded for instead of what appeared (actually, in the past, Williams had a good reason to do this, but I'll get into that in the Episode I review. Yep, I'm gonna review the prequel soundtracks). Generally, after a few decades, the soundtracks get re-released as I and other fans want them to be. Twenty-one years after its original release, this has still not happened for Jurassic Park.
What we get here are FOUR nearly identical representations of the Jurassic Park theme, covering twenty-four minutes of the CD's run time. The final track, "End Credits," isn't even the music from the film's end credits. That music can actually be found on track seven, "Welcome to Jurassic Park," which abruptly breaks the flow of the album. It gives closure when nine tracks remain, and track four, "Journey to the Island," has already covered nearly every idea found on it...only three tracks before. These same themes are also heard three tracks before that, on "Theme from Jurassic Park." So much is repeated, so much is left off of the soundtrack, and so much momentum is killed, all of which could have been easily remedied by cutting tracks two and sixteen, and moving track seven to the end. I get that I am nerding out here, but for a fan of this film's music, this soundtrack is quite frustrating. Still...
The Jurassic Park theme is one of the most joyous and rapturous that Williams ever composed. It's dual nature--the adventurous arrival section, and then the beauty of the "seeing the dinosaurs for the first time" section--is so flawless, only Williams' impeccable work THE SAME YEAR on Schlinder's List could beat it out for on Oscar. Williams' string and synthesizer "horror theme" for the terrifying Velociraptors breaks new ground in the art of soundtracking, while giving a healthy nod to Bernard Herrmann, the master of the past. Williams' whimsical, comforting Brachiosaurus theme puts the 85-foot long reptile in one's living room.
So, while the music found in the film creates an identity sorely lacking on this album, the album still features some absolutely incredible music. I just hope one day we get the real deal.
Also, since I've been a snob this whole review, the book was better.
It was an early 90's pre-teen's dream.
1. Opening Titles 0:33
2. Theme from Jurassic Park 3:27
3. Incident at Isla Nublar 5:20
4. Journey to the Island 8:52
5. The Raptor Attack 2:49
6. Hatching Baby Raptor 3:20
7. Welcome to Jurassic Park 7:54
8. My Friend, the Brachiosaurus 4:16
9. Dennis Steals the Embryo 4:55
10. A Tree for My Bed 2:12
11. High-Wire Stunts 4:08
12. Remembering Petticoat Lane 2:48
13. Jurassic Park Gate 2:03
14. Eye to Eye 6:32
15. T-Rex Rescue and Finale 7:39
16. End Credits 3:26