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Wednesday, December 17, 2008


Music by Laurance Rosenthal
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1078 (US)
15 Tracks 40:22 mins

1979's Meteor was a starry disaster movie among many made at that time. Directed by Ronald Neame, it featured Sean Connery as a NASA engineer, charged with trying to prevent a huge meteor slamming into the Earth, Brian Keith as Connery's Soviet counterpart, Natalie Wood as the interpreter link between them, Martin Landau, Karl Malden, Trevor Howard and Henry Fonda. The music was initially assigned to John Williams, who had composed the score for Neame's The Poseidon Adventure; however a scheduling conflict forced him to bow out, but not before he had recommended Laurence Rosenthal to take his place. Rosenthal had worked on A Man Called Horse for Meteor's executive producer Sandy Howard so, although not the obvious choice for the genre, he was given his chance.
Rosenthal's main theme, first introduced in the "Main Title" after a threatening, electronics-enhanced, then mysterious opening, is a typically lush and spirited affair, instantly recognisable as the composer's work, from subsequent assignments like Clash of the Titans. The theme also appears heroically, and in more subdued form, in the following and largely mysterious "Challenger II." In addition to the electronics mixed with the orchestra, Rosenthal also used Craig Huxley's "Blaster Beam," used famously in the original Star Trek movie, which actually came out after Meteor, to represent the menace of the meteor, and "The Meteor #1, #2 and 3#" display much of this menace. Although track 4 is entitled "The Russians Arrive," the opening flourish is much more reminiscent of music from a western, but quickly takes on the appropriate feel. This is followed by the suitably bleak sounds of "Siberia," though more electronics herald the big, brassy impact of a splinter from the meteor. After three very short tracks, the next music of any great significance comes with the weighty "Realigning Peter the Great" which, as you can imagine is dominated by variations on the Russian theme, giving way to heroic variations on the main theme as it continues into "Realigning Hercules". It is, incidentally, presented here in its original form, which is longer than that which was used in the film. As a bit of light relief this is followed by a charming little accordion tune in "Alpine Innocence," but this is cut short by more of the menacing meteor music, which gives way to suitably romantic, though apprehensive, music as the Connery/Wood characters get to know one another over a meal.
"Countdown" is a largely tense affair, as you would imagine, as missiles are dispatched towards the oncoming meteor, ending with hopeful variations on both the main and Russian themes. More tension follows in "Manhattan Splinter," ending in cacophony as the splinter strikes.
It's drama all the way throughout "Hercules Rising/Malfunction/Trapped/One Rocket Lost" and "Assault and Impact," with the themes for the three principal protagonists all competing. The latter reaches another cacophonous crescendo, the track ending quietly as the success of the mission is revealed.
The final cue opens with a stirring marching band rendition of the Russian theme, transforming into the main theme and then leading into the "End Credits," which reprises the main and Russian themes to conclude the album on a satisfactorily note.
At the time of the film's release, the score was only released on LP in Japan. It wasn't until 1997 when the composer reissued it on a very limited promotional CD, so it's never been that easy to find. It's good therefore that La-La Land Records have given us another chance to add it to our collections, but again numbers are limited to just 1200 copies, so you'd best hurry if you are to have any hope of grabbing one, and it's no use going to the label's website, as it is already sold out there.
Accompanying the disc, incidentally, is the usual high quality booklet, which features plenty of colour stills from the film, full music credits, plus Randall D. Larson's informative notes on the film, including a cue-by-cue guide to the music.


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