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A Retrospective Review

In Honor of the

John Wayne Centennial

and

Jimmy Stewart Centennial

 

 

THE ALAMO:
THE ESSENTIAL DIMITRI TIOMKIN
FILM MUSIC COLLECTION (4 CD Set)

 

 

Disc One: THE WESTERNS [Total Time = 61:44]

1. NIGHT PASSAGE (2:09)
2. TENSION AT TABLE ROCK (4:44)
3. HIGH NOON (2:34)
4. THE WAR WAGON (5:05)
5/6. THE WILD WILD WEST (2:09/ 2:12 )
7. GUNFIGHT AT O.K. CORRAL (8:47)
8. RIO BRAVO (track 8, 5:05)
9. RAWHIDE (2:15)
10. RED RIVER (3:29)
11/12/13. THE UNFORGIVEN (2:28/ 3:08/ 2:13)
14. THE YOUNG LAND (2:38)
15. DUEL IN THE SUN (12:54)

Disc Two: THE EPICS [Total Time = 59:09]

1/2/3. THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (3:57/ 3:09/ 5:31)
4. 55 DAYS AT PEKING (4:06)
5. LAND OF THE PHARAOHS (3:04)
6. CIRCUS WORLD (2:20)
7. DIAL M FOR MURDER ( 7:08)
8. STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (7:47)
9/10/11. GIANT (2:09/ 2:45/ 2:53)
12. THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY (1:58)
13. WILD IS THE WIND (2:40)
14. THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (9:37)

Disc Three: DRAMA AND HIGH ADVENTURE [54:10]

1. CYRANO DE BERGERAC (2:41)
2. THE WELL (4:19)
3. FRIENDLY PERSUASION (3:43)
4. TOWN WITHOUT PITY (4:06)
5. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (2:33)
6. TARZAN AND THE MERMAIDS (5:47)
7. THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (7:35)

8-13. THE ALAMO:
Overture/Prologue (track 8, 5:07)/ Davy Crockett (track 9, 2:32)/ Tennessee Babe (track 10, 2:14)/ The Battle of the Alamo (track 11, 8:42)/ The Green Leaves of Summer (track 12, 3:29)/ Finale (track 13, 1:22)

(Bonus) Disc Four: THE TIOMKIN VOCAL SONGBOOK [34:49]
1. GIANT: "This Then is Texas" (2:10)
2. RAWHIDE: "Rawhide" (2:18)
3. HIGH NOON: "Do Not Forsake Me"(2:33)
4. NIGHT PASSAGE: "Follow the River" (2:08)
5. GIANT: "The Ballad of Jett Rink"(2:52)
6. FRIENDLY PERSUASION: "Thee I Love"(3:44)
7. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (2:35)
8. WILD IS THE WIND (2:34)
9. THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY (track 9, 1:47)
10. THE WAR WAGON: "The Ballad of the War Wagon"(2:36)
11. RIO BRAVO (1:46)
12. THE YOUNG LAND: "Strange are the Ways of Love"(2:39)
13. THE WILD WILD WEST: "The Ballad of Jim West"(2:13)
14. THE WILD WILD WEST (2:54)

The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, condcuted by Nic Raine, Paul Bateman and Mario Klemens. Crouch End Festival Chorus (Chorus Master: David Temple).  Vocal soloists: Jason Howard and Keith Ferrara. Organist: Vladimir J. Roubal.   CD Producer: James Fitzpatrick. Executive Producers: Reynold da Silva and Janet Fitzpatrick. Associate Producers: Olivia Tiomkin Douglas, John Waxman, Rick Clark, Gareth Williams.  Release Co-ordinator: David Stoner.  Sleeve notes: David Wishart. Art Direction and Design: Sean Mowle.

Chief Orchestral Recording Engineers: John Luard Timperley and Jan Holzner. Orchestra recorded at Barrandov "Smecky" Studios, Prague.  Choir recorded at Sony Whitfield Street Studios, London.  Recording Engineer: Mike Ross-Trevor.  Additional Guitars and Mandolins recorded at Rectory Studios, Cambridge by Gareth Williams. Engineering and Mastering by Gareth Williams.  Manuscript co-ordination by John W. Waxman.

Silva Screen PRIMETIME TVPMCD 811 (HDCD - Dolby Surround Sound)

Rating: ****

Silva Screen has already produced many worthy compilations of music by such Golden Age film composers as Bernard Herrmann, Jerome Moross, Alfred Newman, and Miklos Rozsa.  Also current film composers, such as John Barry, Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams.  These were two CD collections.  But for Dimitri Tiomkin we get 4 CDs and it's a welcome collection indeed.  Dimitri Tiomkin is one of my favorite film composers from the past and there are many other fans as well, some lovingly call him the "Big T."

I think it's best to first quote from the CD introduction by Tiomkin's widow, Olivia.  She writes: "With dozens of films represented by scores and songs, this recording contains a wonderful breadth of material from Westerns, Epics, Hitchcock Thrillers, Drama and High Adventure, and more.  Tarzan and the Mermaids, Tension at Table Rock, The War Wagon, The Well, and others are premiere recordings."

I must say this collection contains many familiar Tiomkin themes, but that's not a bad thing when there's so much great music to enjoy. There are also some unfortunate omissions,  like LOST HORIZON and THE BIG SKY.  But those scores are available in complete soundtracks on the BYU CDs.

 Overall, THE ALAMO does cover a lot of Tiomkin territory, from the late 1940s to late 1960s.  And the HDCD Dolby Surround sound is terrifically bright and clear.

With 56 film themes and songs and over three hours of music, this is probably the largest compilation of Tiomkin's music ever released.  But do these CDs equal the recordings made by Tiomkin himself?  No.  It's doubtful that any orchestra or conductor could accomplish the incredible energy exhibitied by Dimitri Tiomkin, as both film composer and conductor.  I wrote about that energy in an article in the Soundtrack magazine -- now reprinted at Runmovies/ Soundtrack.  In that article, I wrote about Tiomkin's "golden decade" between 1948 and 1958. Some of the themes and songs on this 4 CD set are from that decade.

There are several selections from HIGH NOON  and THE HIGH AND THE MIGHTY, but nothing from Tiomkin's other Oscar winning score, OLD MAN AND THE SEA.  Why not include more than the Main Theme from HIGH NOON? One such theme from that score is "The Clock"-- a masterpiece of film music buildup.  HIGH NOON is one of Tiomkin's greatest scores for which he richly deserved his two Oscars. It's too bad all we get on this CD set are two versions of the "Do Not Forsake Me" song.

There are also examples from the 1960s, especially generous samples from THE UNFORGIVEN and THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE (one of Tiomkin's own favorite scores and one of mine as well). Perhaps the most unusual Tiomkin western score was THE UNFORGIVEN, which is given more excerpts (Disc One, tracks 11-13)  than the other better known western scores.  I'm pleased to have them.

What should be of particular interest to Tiomkin fans are the rare items on Disc One: TENSION AT TABLE ROCK (1956) and THE WAR WAGON (1967 - a wonderful suite!).  

Also on Disc Three: CYRANO (1950), THE WELL (1951) and TARZAN AND THE MERMAIDS (1948). Some of the other tracks, like THE GUNS OF NAVARONE (one of the most intensely action-packed scores of the 1960s) and THE THING FROM ANOTHER WORLD (one of the great sci-fi scores of the 1950s) are better reprented on other CDs. But THE THING is probably one of the most difficult scores to record.    

The film that receives the most tracks is the CD title, THE ALAMO (Disc 3, tracks 8-13) and that's appropriate.  I've loved this score ever since I first saw the film.  It's a very good suite, with the Crouch End Festival Chorus doing a fine job with the sung portions.  But this suite can't really compete with the original soundtrack album on Colmbia Legacy which is still available.  

Disc 4 is a bit problematic, even though included as a bonus.  It's a treat to have songs from thirteen films, especially the title song for IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE! Yet, it shouldn't be a surprise that such familiar songs as "Rawhide" (Keith Ferrara) and "Do Not Forsake Me" (Jason Howard) are not up to same level as the original recordings by Frankie Laine and Tex Ritter.  Nevertheless, both Ferrara and Howard do a fine job with these western song classics and their diction is very good.  The Crouch End Festival Chorus performances are mostly good but their diction occasionally gets lost in the mix with the orchestra. A favorite Tiomkin song of mine is "Follow the River" from NIGHT PASSAGE and it's sung in grand fashion by the Crouch End Chorus.  This same song theme is used for the opening first track on Disc One.  

Now we come to the weakest part of this CD set -- the booklet design by Sean Mowle.  What was he thinking? Using a yellow stonelike background (representing the Alamo building?) makes the text extremely hard to read.  So David Wishart's very informative notes will probably be ignored by most listeners.  That's a shame because they are well written.  I wish Silva Screen would rethink their CD booklet designs.  Providing the song texts would have been a nice addition as well.  But there's a good sampling of Tiomkin photos in the CD booklet, including one with Elmer Bernstein from his long hair years.

Even with these reservations about the booklet design and some of the selections, this 4 CD set is treasure of memorable themes and songs.

It doesn't matter if you'd like to hear THE FALL OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE or the fall of THE ALAMO, these Tiomkin themes should quicken your pulse and warm your heart.

Congratulations to James Fitzpatrick and all the others who worked to get this music recorded and released.

Highest recommended, especially for Tiomkin fans.

--Roger L. Hall, 8 July 2004

See more about about Dimitri Tiomkin at

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