Personnel includes: John Barry; Milan Zilenka (guitar); Jindrich Nemecek, Jan Smolik (alto saxophone); Jan Burian, Noel Langley (trumpet); Jaraslava Eliasova (piano); Gareth Williams, Mark Ayres (keyboards).
Compilation producer: James Fitzpatrick.
Recorded at Smecky Studios, Prague, Czech Republic & Whitfield Street Studios, London, England.
This is a lot of soundtrack music -- 258 minutes' worth, actually -- which is understandable, as it covers approximately 40 years in the career of John Barry. The 40 years isn't quite comprehensive, skipping past Barry's earliest screen compositions for the films Beat Girl, Never Let Go, and The Amorous Prawn, as well as his music for The L-Shaped Room, Dutchman, Seance on a Wet Afternoon, and King Rat, in favor of the bigger films that the composer worked on during the '60s and beyond. Beginning with his thunderous score for Zulu, represented by a seven-minute track here, the collection concentrates primarily on the international side of Barry's career, while also offering little oddities out of his history, such as his 1968 theme "The Girl With the Sun in Her Hair," from a commercial for Sunsilk. The collection runs right up through Barry's music for Cry the Beloved Country and Mercury Rising, and ends with the disputed "James Bond Theme" (in what is one of the few relatively flat, unexciting performances in this set). All of this material is presented in new recordings by Nic Raine and the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, accompanied on a half-dozen cuts by the Crouch End Festival Chorus. They're spirited enough, as is Raine's conducting, and the producers have given most of this collection (apart from obvious small-scale pieces such as "A Man Alone" from The Ipcress File) a big, lush orchestral sound that makes much of the material seem larger than life and even larger than it looms in the memory (the main title from Born Free, for example, gets a treatment akin to Mahler's "Third Symphony"); a lot of it works brilliantly, though one isn't too thrilled with his reworking and toning down of the music from Goldfinger. Still, the essentials are here, including perennial favorites such as Somewhere in Time (though one wishes its distant cousin, Barry's score for They Might Be Giants, was represented here as well) and Dances With Wolves. What makes this set unusual and exceptionally edifying, however, is the fact that lesser-known Barry scores, such as his superb, lush music for Mister Moses and later productions such as Robin & Marian, Monte Walsh, and Walkabout (all films that relatively few people saw, though they were [and are] heavily written about) get more generous treatment than familiar fare such as Goldfinger and Thunderball. There's also a decent balance between the thrillers, for which Barry -- identified as he was with the Bond films for many years -- is best-known, and gentle, lyrical pieces such as his waltz-like main theme for The Wrong Box. The result is a collection that opens up the less well-known aspects of Barry's international career and thus can be appreciated even by longtime buffs. The annotation is more biographical than analytical in nature, and the sound is state-of-the-art and a delight to the ear. ~ Bruce Eder