Jerry Goldsmith was already a film composer of some note in 1965, but In Harm's Way took him to another level entirely. By far the biggest film he had scored up to that point, this Otto Preminger movie had a stellar cast (headlined by John Wayne, Kirk Douglas and Henry Fonda) and focuses on Pearl Harbour and its aftermath. The film is generally very well-considered - and was a pivotal moment in Goldsmith's career, bringing him to the attention of a far wider audience.
This brief album opens with the old-fashioned "Love Theme", heavy on the high strings in the way that Hollywood always used to be. Then, after the first of several pieces of source music ("Liz in Harm's Way") comes something staggering, the incredible "The Rock". It may be barely 90 seconds long, but that gives Goldsmith more than enough time to demonstrate why many consider him to be the finest film composer there's ever been - aggressive, energetic, technically-advanced - it's a stunning early highlight of the composer's career.
"Goodbye" presents a different love theme, and arguably a more attractive one than that which opened the album. In particular, a passage for solo piano is particularly tender and appealing. "Positive Identification" is a tortured musical portrait as one of the main characters (Douglas's) has to identify his wife's body; and on the album, this is immediately followed by the up-front, militaristic "Battle Theme", building on the theme introduced in "The Rock" for a terrific, stirring set-piece.
The action continues in "Attack", another full-blooded piece, with the composer's trademark layered action style in evidence even at this early stage of his career. "The Rock and his Lady" offers a nice version of the love theme, with a lovely passage in which harp accompanies a clarinet solo before more playful wind solos are joined by an impressive brass chorale. "Change of Command" is another powerful dramatic cue awash with emotion, featuring some particularly expressive writing for the brass section. The low-end piano of "One-Way Ticket" is an interesting precursor to so many later action cues by Goldsmith, and is another frenetic and exciting piece of action music to go with the others on the album. "First Victory" is a piercingly dramatic cue to end the album (and film) with, and has long been a favourite with many Goldsmith fans.
In Harm's Way is a very fine early score from Goldsmith - his confidence and mastery both of the orchestra and the film's dramatic requirements make this essential listening for Goldsmith fans. While almost ten minutes of the rather short album are taken up by source music which won't be to everyone's taste, the remainder is vintage Goldsmith. This Intrada release features the same music as the old LP (and very rare 1995 Japanese CD), but with much-improved sonics and, of course, new liner notes.
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