Film Music Review
The Sammy awards












Music composed, conducted and produced by John Barry.

21 Tracks (Playing Time = 66:56)



Executive Album Producer: Mark Banning. Album Produced by Ford A. Thaxton. Orchestrations by Albert Woodbury. Scoring Mixer: Dan Wallin. Digitally Edited and Mastered by James Nelson. CD Art Direction: Mark Banning.

BSXCD 8864

Rating: ***1/2

Limited edition of 1,500 copies


This John Barry soundtrack is one of his most memorable early soundtracks after the many James Bond scores he composed.

High Road To China (1983 Film)

HIGH ROAD TO CHINA was previously released in 1999 on a questionable import CD [was it a bootleg?].

On that CD there were only 12 tracks and the reviews by listeners were all highly favorable. One of them even wrote: "This one is just beautiful and would easily make any score fans 'top 10'".

The new release on BSX Records is a far superior CD. Not only is there more music with improved sound quality, but also there are 11 bonus tracks of source music plus a lengthy Suite from the film.

The opening Main Title features a slow soaring theme, one of Barry's more memorable ones, and is used extensively throughout the soundtrack. That is combined with another cue ("A Nasty Headache") on the first track (2:10). Another major theme, this one with a more upbeat tempo, is heard on the next track for "The Flying Lesson" (1:19).

The complete score is rather short at about 30 minutes (tracks 1-9), but it doesn't wear out its welcome at any time. Even the repetition of the main themes don't detract from the enjoyment.
When Barry writes such appealing melodic themes, they are worth repeated hearings.

The long list of source music cues are mainly arranged by orchestrator, Albert Woodbury. They include jazz band renderings of such familiar old songs as the 1920s dance craze, "Charleston" (track 13-1:27); the popular Dixieland piece, "When The Saints Go Marching In" (track 15 -2:13); and Stephen Foster's "Jeanie With The Light Brown Hair" (track 16 - 2:22); also a very appealing arrangement of Ken Darby's "Love Me Tender" as sung by Elvis Presley in the 1956 film -- I doubt that song is now "Public Domain" as indicated on the CD case. There are also a few ethnic cues by Barry: "Mohamet's Dance" (track 10 - 1:42) and "Waziri Source" (track 11 - 2:56). On track 20 is a recording of Bach's "Allemande from his French Suite No. 5 in G Major," performed by an unidentifed harpsichordist. The nine minute Suite for HIGH ROAD is really unnecessary but is yet another chance to hear the memorable themes employed so effortlessly by Barry.

The CD notes are provided by Mike Joffe and provide enough basic information about the film but not enough about the score and he doesn't mention that Barry received a fifth Academy Award for his song to "Born Free." There is also a brief note from the film's star, Tom Selleck, who writes:

"John Barry has composed a musical score which combines the excitement and romance of the film with the nostalgic mood of the music of the Twenties...which enhances the spirit of the picture."

This is a very appealing CD soundtrack which should give much enjoyment to John Barry's many fans.


-- reviewed by Roger Hall, 8 April 2010

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