Film Music Review
The Sammy awards







Editor's Choice

Best of the Month
for August 2009




Music composed and conducted
by Elmer Bernstein

16 Tracks (Playing Time = 41:02)

Produced for CD Release by Bruce Kimmel. Mastered by James Nelson. Digital transfers: John Davis. CD Art Direction and Package Design: Doug Haverty.

Kritzerland KR 20012-8

Rating: ****

Limited edition of 1000 copies.


As a young teenager I was quite excited by the racy story of GOD'S LITTLE ACRE when it was released in 1958. It would be tame by today's standards but back in the '50s this was really hot stuff! The film had quite an interesting cast, including film noir master Robert Ryan, comedian Buddy Hackett, Jack Lord, Vic Morrow, Fay Spain, the hunky Aldo Ray and the luscious Tina Louise in her film debut (both of them shown on the seductive CD cover illustration above). But in addition to this great cast and story based on the huge best-selling book by Erskine Caldwell, there was the terrific film score by Elmer Bernstein.

The film and this soundtrack opens with the rousing Gospel-inspired title song (with lyrics by Erskine Caldwell). It begins with these lyrics: "I'm gonna tell you 'bout God's little acre, Fare ye well, Fare ye well...Diggin' in the moonlight, diggini' in the sun, diggin' in the ground, till the diggin' is done." This song sets the stage for the story of digging in the front yard of a poor Georgia family obsessed with finding a buried treasure of gold.

Listening to this soundtrack gives you a keen sense of how much Elmer Bernstein had matured since his first scores early in the 1950s. You can hear elements from his early scores, especially the jazz stylings from THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN ARM.

In GOD'S LITTLE ACRE is a score full of contrasts and conflicts, between the religious flavored music in the title song and track 3 ("A Prayer") and the sultry tracks featuring some of the West Coast's finest jazz musicians, such as in track 6 ("Will's Blues") and track 10 ("Poor Old Ty Ty").

Then there's the Bernstein trademark rapid syncopated music, used to great effect in his later western scores like THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, on such tracks as "Going To Town" and "Gold Hunt." Also featured is more dramatic underscoring in "The Fight" with high strings and low percussive piano and brass. There is also the lovely and tender "Griselda's Theme" with more contrasting melodic and harmonic development than in other tracks.

If you're in search of finding your own hidden treasure, then give this wonderful soundtrack a listen and maybe you discover what a great film composer is found there.

This album was first issued on an LP from United Artists with 15 tracks when the film was released. For this Kritzerland release a bonus track has been added with a lengthy Suite (10:00) from the film score and it adds a great deal ot enjoyment for this fine score, though it does end rather abruptly.

The CD notes by Bruce Kimmel are informative, direct and to the point. He summarizes this score as follows:

His music is perfection, capturing every mood, every emotion, and all the steam heat, right from the terrific main title the classic deliriously delirious passion-filled Bernstein swirling strings, to the whole Americana feel of the score -- no one has every done it better than Bernstein.

There is also a reproduction of the interesting original notes by Erksine Caldwell who gives this score high praise when he writes:

I found the contasting colors of the Georgia countryside, the mill towns, the bawdy streets, the mad divining rod hunt, the soughing sighs of the wind and the hapless factory people all captured by an extraordinary musical imagination.

Praise should also be given to the new label Krtizerland for releasing this great Elmer Bernstein soundtrack and making it available in on very clean sounding CD.

After waiting for many years for a CD release, GOD'S LITTLE ACRE is finally here and well worth the wait too.

For the many Elmer Bernstein fans and others, this is well worth adding to their collection and is an essential soundtrack release.

So make sure to"come back home" before this limited edition CD become another buried treasure.

I give it my Highest Recommendation and I'm pleased to name it Best of the Month for August.

--Roger Hall, 27 August 2009




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