Joshua Gizelt (swashbuckler332) wrote,
Joshua Gizelt

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"We both know how careers are made. Integrity is something you sell the public."

I first heard Bullitt when I ordered a bunch of soundtrack albums from Warner Japan whilst working at Tower (others in that batch included Elmer Bernstein's The Man With the Golden Arm and the needlepoint score for The Exorcist). I had heard about Lalo Schifrin's score in Film Score Monthly back when it was still a black-and-white print magazine; Lukas had written a bit about watching the film for the first time after having been so familiar with the album. I didn't know exactly what to expect from the album, but what I got was hands-down one of the coolest records I had ever heard.

The term "cool" may have an extremely nebulous meaning, but it was the defining characteristic of the film's star and producer Steve McQueen. Schifrin's theme for the character perfectly captures his outward calm while also having a restless quality that illustrates his personal connection to his work. The album quickly became one of my favorites, and I still consider it to have been a perfect introduction to the work of its composer. To this day, I consider Bullitt to be my favorite Schifrin score.

I caught up to the film and had a similar reaction to it as Lukas, and noticed that the music was rather different from what appeared on the album while still being recognizable. Schifrin had performed the film version of the main title in concerts, and included a performance of it as part of his "Schifrin Suite" on the album Hitchcock: Master of Mayhem. When Schifrin created a new recording of the score with the WDR Big Band on his Aleph label, the selections were a blend of the original film arrangements with those made for the album recording. While the additional music was nice, both the performance (decent but cold) and sound (super-hot and horribly dynamically compressed, and lacking in the 60s-style hard-panning that characterized the original LP) kept me from ever really warming up to it.

All previous version of Bullitt have been rendered moot by the release of the score on FSM's label. The entire original album program has been included, followed by the first ever release of the original film tracks. The sound on the album tracks is much improved from my Warner Japan copy; I know the score was released on CD by another label in the interim, but I never caught up with it and can not compare that to the FSM disc, though I suspect that the FSM disc is pretty much as good as this recording is ever going to sound, which is pretty damn excellent.

But the original score tracks are the real revelation here. While there are a few moments that are straight tension and some cues that had been reworked for listening purposes on the album (e.g. the main title, "On the Way to San Mateo"), much of the music Schifrin contributed to the film was in the form of source music, interludes and montages, making it a pretty smooth listen anyway. In comparison, I would say that the album has more of a jazz flavor while the score leans more towards rock. This comes out not only in the performances themselves, but also the orchestration; for example while the album exclusively features Les Paul guitars, the score often features the unmistakable sound of the Fender Stratocaster. Familiar tracks take on a whole new and often quite dynamic spin: for example, "A Song for Cathy" now has some great jazz flute acrobatics unheard on the album, "Hotel Daniels" has a much harder edge, the end title has a pensive sound to it that the slicker album recording doesn't. There are other differences as well, and the addition of completely new material, the most prominent of which is "Quiet Morning."

I received the disc the night before last, and the film score has been pretty much on repeat since I received it (supplanting for the first time since the previous Friday Intrada's release of Back to the Future and the albums for its sequels). This CD is my favorite score from one of my favorite composers but has the advantage of being both new and familiar at the same time.
Tags: alan silvestri, elmer bernstein, film music, lalo schifrin, tower
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