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Wednesday, February 20, 2008


The Film Music of Phillip Lambro
Perseverance PRD 021 (US)
25 Tracks 43:44 mins

Perseverance Records continues to champion the work of Phillip Lambro with the enterprising label's latest release of music written for the composer's first Hollywood outing, 1964's Git!, plus three documentaries from the early '70s.
The disc opens with 1971's Mineral King, a film which addressed the environmental damage that would be done should the Walt Disney Company, in cooperation with the US Forest Service, open a ski resort in California's beautiful Mineral King Valley. With a little over 12 musicians, Lambro paints "a sonic tribute to the glory of nature," opening the score with mournful trumpet, courtesy of LA Philharmonic trumpeter Thomas Stevens. The "down-home" and "old-time" elements of the score feature Geroge Fields' harmonica and a slightly out-of-tune banjo, played by Joe Pass. A strange interlude is the Nymanesque "Vanishing Wilderness," a quirky, march-like piece, representing the folly of man's destruction of the natural landscape. "The Wilderness Death Knell" ends the score on a doom-laden note. The score won for Lambro the National Board of Review's best music for a documentary film award.
Father Pat (1970) was a Catholic Family Theater production, that recounted the life of Father Patrick Peyton, a famous Catholic priest, known for his global ministry to families and for coining the slogan "the family that prays together, stays together." Though a devout Raelian atheist himself, Lambro nevertheless rose to the occasion, utilising a 60-piece orchestra to compose a suitably reverent, strings and brass-dominated score, with meaningful woodwind passages, and a charming Irish sounding melody in "The Lean years-Arrival in Scranton."
The final documentary represented on this disc is 1971's Celebration, a propoganda film for the United States Information Agency for overseas consumption, which set out to show the widely varied forms of celebration enjoyed by US citizens. The scope of the film allowed Lambro to compose in a variety of styles, encompassing Native American music and lively Italian accordion music. However, his main theme is quite modernistic in its use of tubular bells.
So, to the final score in this collection, written for Git!, a modern western about a runaway boy, a renegade hound and a widowed dog breeder's daughter. The film is by all accounts best forgotten, but the composer took his first assignment seriously enough to produce a fine score, which features the plaintive sound of Brazilian guitarist Laurindo Almeida on the main theme, as well as some aggressive action cues, typically high, wide and handsome scene-setting and the odd pizzicato comedy moment.
Accompanying the CD is an 12-page booklet, featuring portraits of the composer and Randall D. Larson's guide to the films and their music.
On the evidence of this collection and also of his truly frightening score for 1973's Crypt of the Living dead, also released by Perseverance, I find it rather sad that Phillip Lambro didn't become an established composer for the screen and can only imagine what gems he might have gone on to write.


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