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Thursday, April 22, 2010


Wind/A Whale for the Killing
Music by Basil Poledouris
BSX Records BSXCD 8862 (US)
29 Tracks 76:19 mins

This recent release from BSX pairs two scores by the much missed Basil Poledouris, both of which have a nautical connection, and of course the composer had an affinity for such tales, having owned his own boat for many years.
Although Wind is first up on the album, this score has been released before and so it's the previously unreleased A Whale for the Killing that is the most desirable music on this release; besides, this is the earlier score, dating from 1981, as opposed to Wind's 1993 release. I therefore address this one first.
A Whale for the Killing is a TV movie based on Farley Mowat's book and starring Peter Strauss, Dee Wallace and Richard Widmark. The story deals with Strauss' attempts to save a stranded humpback whale from the local Newfoundland villagers who have less noble designs on the creature.
"Prologue" opens the score in slightly ominous fashion, flowing into the somewhat anguished "The Storm Clears," which again ends in ominous fashion. "Barris Way" develops a folk-like quality, with a pretty tune somewhat reminiscent of the "Search" music from Conan the Barbarian. Even more so is the joyous theme at the centre of the title track that follows.
"Meet the Whale" is a sorrowful affair; with "Whale Call," starting off low-key, but again developing a more optimistic folksy quality, with fiddle carrying a variation on the main theme.
The sympathetic, harp-driven "Whale Macabre" follows, contrasting with the grim action of "Save the Whale." This is followed by "Go to Sleep Whale," an initially gentle nocturne that again transforms into the folksy main theme.
The penultimate track, "Choices," is a brief, doom-laden affair; but "A Whale of a Tale" brings a more uplifting close with a reprise of the main theme in all its joyous glory.
Poledouris was an obvious choice to score Wind, the story of how the Americans lost and then regained the America's Cup but, although he had excelled himself in previous nautical-themed outings like The Blue Lagoon, Big Wednesday and of course A Whale for the Killing, his music for Wind was unfortunately a victim of the times. Not that it doesn't do the job; it's just that the '80s and early '90s was a time when even the very best composers were experimenting with what seem today like primitive electronic sounds, and therefore, although Poledouris did incorporate orchestral elements within his score, the music is largely carried electronically and suffers as a result. What the electronics do however bring to the score is appropriately the sound of the wind, and this effect can be heard from the start in the opening "Prologue," a tranquil piece that would have sounded great on live instruments. This tranquility is continued in "Love in the Sewers." Other tracks of this nature include "The Glider;" "Sail Locker;" "Windshadow," a brief, but lovely piece for harp and strings; "The Bike Ride;" and closing track "Irolita."
These peaceful offerings are of course contrasted by the action cues, the first of which is "The Dinghy Race," a free-flowing, optimistic piece. "Windward Work" is more successful, in that it incorporates orchestra alongside the repeating electronic figure, to provide a suitably exhilarating feel; with "Downwind" continuing in the same mode. " A grimmer, electronic affair is "Contest," whilst "To Australia" carries a bongo riff. "Dead Air" starts off tranquil, but becomes inspirational, helped no end by the composer's powerful brass writing; whilst "Winning" ends matters triumphantly.
Of course the score has its downbeat moments, like "The Break-up" and "Defeat," and these sound more dated than anything, being predominantly electronic.
In conclusion, Wind is a good score that could have been great, had it been written solely for orchestra. It's times like this I wish I could wave my magic wand and put things right.
Randall D. Larson's accompanying notes are illustrated with colour and black and white stills from the films.
You'd best hurry along to if you want to grab a copy of this limited edition of just 1000 units.


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