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Thursday, December 02, 2010


Francis Lai: The Essential Film Music Collection
Music by Francis Lai
Silva Screen Records SILCD 1338
20 Tracks 68:54 mins

Although not released in the UK until February, Silva Screen kindly sent me a link to the latest in their "Essential Film Music Collection" series, this one a single disc offering, featuring many of the best themes written by the great French melodist Francis Lai, here featuring the composer conducting orchestral arrangements, recorded in Paris a couple of years ago. Some of the themes were originally conceived electronically, so it is interesting to have the opportunity to hear what they would have sounded like had they been orchestrated originally.
Of course this collection barely scratches the surface of the great man's cinematic output, which numbers more than 100 films, but generally most of his best remembered themes are included.
I first fell in love with Lai's music when, as many lusty youngsters did at the time, I ventured to the cinema to catch up with the exploits of sex bomb Sylvia Kristel in Emmanuelle II, but it wasn't the near groundbreaking (at the time) sexual antics on display that I took away with me, but rather Lai's beautiful music. It started me on a quest and, as well as the soundtrack album to that film, I soon added Love Story, A Man & A Woman, Love is a Funny Thing and Hannibal Brooks, with Bilitis and International Velvet following as the films were released.
This collection has many of my favourites, including main themes to Bilitis, Emmanuelle II, Love Story, A Man & A Woman, Rider on the Rain, Mayerling and Vivre Pour Vivre; the beautiful "Concerto Pour La Fin d'Un Amour" from Love is a Funny Thing;" to a couple of selections from Les Uns et Les Autres, the film on which he collaborated with fellow Frenchman Michel Legrand. It's a shame International Velvet and Hannibal Brooks are not presented, but at least there's the opportunity for me to catch up with less familiar pieces from the likes of 13 Jours en France, Itineraire d'Un Enfant Gate, La Belle Histoire, La Course du Lievre a Travers Les Champs, Le Lecon Particuliere, Le Genre Humain, Les Etoiles du Cinema, Les Miserables, Les Ripoux and Pour L'Amour de Tes Yeux Noirs.
Nearly 70 minutes of largely highly melodic and varied music, some of it pop-styled, some more conventional, this is a fine introduction to the music of Francis Lai for anyone not familiar with it, and something of a concert-styled overview for those who are.
You'll have to keep an eye on if you want to snap up a copy in February.


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