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Saturday, December 12, 2009


That Championship Season
Music by Bill Conti
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1110 (US)
13 Tracks 36:11 mins

It's been a Bill Conti bonanza in recent times, after years of waiting for so many of his fine scores to come to CD. But, whilst it's his biggies for the likes of The Right Stuff and the Karate Kid movies that readily spring to mind, he also scored a good many lower-key movies around that time, one of which, though I haven't seen it for many years, still retains an impression somewhere in the back of my memory as being a classy drama, populated by a fine cast, including Robert Mitchum, Bruce Dern, Stacy Keach, Martin Sheen and Paul Sorvino.
The film I'm talking about is Jason Miller's 1982 film That Championship Season, about a reunion between members of a successful high school basketball team some 24 years later.
As for the music, although it didn't easily spring to mind, I did recall that the close of the film sported a particularly fine theme, which was worth preserving alone. Well, La-La Land records has now done us a big service in resurrecting that theme, along with the rest of the score, and bonus tracks, in a limited edition of just 1200 units.
In fact, my memory obviously played tricks on me, because the main theme actually first appears, rightly, albeit it briefly (which is probably why I don't remember it), over the "Main Title," that of course opens the disc, all dramatic with drum roll and solo trumpet; strings quickly joining in, before the music heads off in a busy Americana-styled passage. Solo piano dominates the nostalgic "Tom's Home/Lonely Stroll," with the trumpeted main theme returning in variations for "Old School/Coach Bears the Pain," as the score continues down its nostalgic path. The next two cues, "Play The Ball/With My Wife?" and "Look at the Past/She Did it for You/I'm Only Forty Three," flow easily together, with oboe and cello solos dominating, but trumpet, horn and piano also have their moments in this melancholy fare. "Responsibility/Brothers Together" continues in the same vein, again with fine, clear solo performances (a feature of this score), but warms as it reaches its conclusion.
"Here Comes Phillip/An Elegant Man" quickly develops a lighter touch, reminiscent of the opening Americana, though oboe and cello still inject a note of melancholy, and the main theme enters in its fullest development yet. The darkest cue is the penultimate "Coach Keeps the Peace," which is quite disturbing, with its discordant piano, before giving way to the closing title track, in which the main theme slowly emerges and blossoms proudly and gloriously to end the film and score on quite a majestic note, which is how I remember it.
Four bonus tracks conclude the disc; a synth version of the main theme; a couple of variations for trailers; and an alternate take on "Here Comes Phillip," with the emphasis more on piano and violin.
Thank you, La-La Land Records for rescuing another gem of a Bill Conti score. It may not be as instantly likeable and dynamic as some of his larger-scale efforts, but it's still quality and the composer really highlights his soloists - something not often heard in today's "bigger is more" film scores.
Accompanying the disc is the label's usual high-quality booklet, with stills from the film, together with Randall D. Larson's detailed notes on the film and its score, including a cue-by-cue guide.
If you want a copy, you'd best hurry along to, where you can hear some samples before you buy.


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