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Tuesday, June 27, 2006

CD REVIEW - Rookie of the Year

Rookie of the Year/A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon/Bushwhacked
Music by Bill Conti
Varese Sarabande CD Club VCL 036 1047
31 Tracks 75:14 mins

Bill Conti has it seems become flavour of the month as far as the record labels are concerned, and not before time. What with first time releases for Escape to Victory and Broadcast News, as well as welcome reissues for F.I.S.T. and Slow dancing in the Big City, and just yesterday, in Varese's latest batch of CD Club releases, his much admired score for Gloria.
This compilation of the best of three more of his scores appeared in the last batch of Club releases and commences with 8 tracks from the family baseball fantasy from 1993, Rookie of the Year, which sports (if you pardon the pun) a splendid march as its main theme, heard in all its glory over the 6-minute opening track, but reprised, often triumphantly throughout the remainder of the featured tracks, but also in a tender, piano-lead variation in "Jack's Big Mistake." "The River" is a nice track, featuring a free, easy-going, piano-lead tune, with guitars. "Henry's Got a Plan" is quite balletic at the start, turning raucous, before ending in a determined march. The final cue, "Float It!" starts quite ethereally, before turning inspirational and ending satisfyingly in the march theme.
The version I saw of 1988's A Night in the Life of Jimmy Reardon, sported a fine score by the late, great Elmer Bernstein, but the U.S. print featured Bill Conti's music, which is presented here, and so is a first for me. It's a completely different score from Rookie, very modern, often quite poppy, but with ethnic touches and even some classical sounding, period-styled music. The main theme is an easygoing affair, but also versatile enough to accompany Jimmy's romantic liaisons. The closing track, "Heredity," goes through a wide range of emotions, before ending in a triumphant version of the main theme.
The final score on the album is for 1995's Bushwhacked, a crazy comedic vehicle for Daniel Stern, who, on the run from cops and crooks, is mistaken for a scout leader. The score doesn't get off to a very promising start with "Whacked!" a poppy mover with wailing electric guitar, but "The New Girl," introduces a martial feel, amongst the comic capers, which pervades much of the remaining material, including "Max Meets Kids," which veers off into wide open spaces territory in the middle. The purposeful "The Swat Team" follows, then the dramatic action of "Danger!" "The Hike" sports a big and brassy opening, before developing the martial theme, with "Our Leader" possibly the most enjoyable track, with its rip-roaring western-styled opening and exciting action. "Big Finish" provides just that, with some tense action, before a fanfare leads into celebratory variations on the martial theme.
The accompanying booklet features colour stills from the films, plus Julie Kirgo's notes, supplemented by comments from the composer himself.
I can't tell you how pleased I am that Bill Conti is now finally receiving much overdue recognition for his fine cinematic work over the years, but it's really early days yet, with plenty more excellent scores just begging to be released. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that he stays flavour of the month for a good while yet.


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