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Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Greystoke - The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes
Music by John Scott
La-La Land Records LLLCD 1144 (US)
17 Tracks 38:30 mins

One of the label's briefer recordings, but a very welcome one nevertheless, is John Scott's score for Hugh Hudson's 1984 representation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' classic character Tarzan. Scott is well respected by the soundtrack collecting community, but somewhat underrated by the industry. His score for Charlton Heston's Antony & Cleopatra is among the greatest film scores ever written, and he has composed many a fine theme in his time, including the heroic Final Countdown, as well as its gorgeous love theme, and the great, sax-lead Shoot to Kill theme. He is also known of course for his work on many a Jacques Cousteau documentary, but it's fair to say that he has never really made the A-list, which is sad, as he has as much talent (and more) than many who have.
Sadly, all too few of his scores have been released commercially but, to his many admirers' delight, he has over the years released much of his work on his own JOS label.
Greystoke did receive a commercial release, on LP, but this is the premiere commercial CD release of the score. Sadly, an expanded treatment proved impossible, though, in addition to the original 15 album cues, La-La Land have managed to extract the Overture and End Credits from the original magnetic track, so that there is at least some new material, albeit totalling less than five minutes of music.
At the heart of the score is yet another memorable Scott theme, which is heard for the first time as the opening track, "The Family." The theme is brassy, noble and expansive, yet also warm and lush when strings take the fore. An innocent variation on the theme is to be found in "Child of the Apes;" a further variation in the suitably hallucinatory "D'Arnot's Vision;" with its final appearance being reserved for the closing "Return to the Jungle."
For "Greystoke," Scott adapted Elgar's First Symphony to provide an appropriate sense of nobility for scenes in which Tarzan tries to integrate into his grandfather's polite English society, but the music most represents the grandfather himself, a warm, winning performance by Sir Ralph Richardson, who sadly died just after filming was completed. Further music from Elgar's "Chanson De Matin" accompanies "Gardens of Greystoke." Continuing in the classical idiom, Scott composed a traditional polka sound for "(The Dancing Lesson) Sontag Polka."
The more dramatic cues include "Catastrophe;" "Pygmy Attack; "Tarzan, Lord of the Apes;" "Tarzan Leaves the Jungle;" "Edge of the World;" "Half of Me is Wild;" and ""Dance of Death;" the latter ending sympathetically as Tarzan's adoptive father, the ape Silverbeard, dies in his arms. Throughout, Scott pulls out some pretty menacing and cacophonous sounds to accompany the appropriate action, whilst drama of the more emotional kind to be found in "The Weight of Greystoke."
One can tell the difference in sound quality between the bonus tracks and the album programme, but they are perfectly acceptable and, in any case, provide a welcome opportunity to hear Scott's magnificent main theme a couple more times again.
Accompanying the CD is the usual colourful booklet, with Jeff Bond's notes on the film and its score, as well as the invaluable cue-by-cue guide, all illustrated with stills from the production.
Among the things Bond mentions are the filming locations, but here's where I can add to his knowledge, as he fails to mention that a sizeable sequence was shot on the Hall Barn Estate in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. I was a clerk in the Estate Office at the time, and well remember all our staff were asked to play beaters for scenes where Greystoke, still very much a fish out of water, participated in a pheasant shoot, with the King of England one of the guns. My boss, the Lord of the Manor, The Baron Burnham also got to play a gun, and it was great fun seeing everyone kitted out in period costume. Unfortunately, there were problems with the length of the finished film, resulting in the entire sequence being cut. However, on a personal note, though I have never met the composer, the location manager on the picture did kindly obtain his autograph for me.
Limited to just 3000 units, get along to to order your copy and, if you're not familiar with the score, you'' find some samples there to guide you.


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