Film Music Review
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Film Music Review (Volumes 1-7)






Music composed, orchestrated and conducted by David Shire.

11 Tracks (Playing Time = 36:02)

Album produced by David Shire. “Newsreel Prologue” orchestrated by Jack Hayes.

Music recorded by Neil Jack, Jr. Recording engineered by Mel Metcalf, Jr. Remixed for records by Danny Wallin. Music recorded at Universal Studios. Originally released in 1975 as MCA Records MCA-2090. Booklet essay by Jeff Bond. Album art direction by Joe Sikoryak at designWELL, Berkeley, CA.

Intrada Special Collection 40

Limited edition of 3000 copies.

Rating: ***


Intrada surprised many when it announced the re-issue of this David Shire score from Universal. Fans of other older Universal scores can keep their fingers crossed that they may be coming in the future. For now, we have this score for one of the more interesting disaster dramas of the mid-1970s.

I can recall actually going to see this film in the theater. It was not quite the action-a-minute experience my young mind might have wanted, but the historical connection, the mystery surrounding the conspiracy, and the final moments of the disaster were worth waiting for in the long run. I know it was a long time before I could get the image of a burning man running from the crashed zeppelin out of my mind. The opening “Newsreel Prologue” written to match period music sets the tone well and the final “Retrospective and End Title” includes Herb Morrison’s eyewitness report.

For a long time it was hard to hear any of this music apart from the film. Only the “Main Title” appeared in a Silva compilation. The solo trumpet melody (performed by Thomas Stevens) sounds a lot like another favorite 70s score, MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS. Shire’s theme provides both a sense of adventure and hope with just a touch of poignancy as winds down. “The Letter” has a lot of classic action-styled rhythms playing underneath with amazing variations in a canon. It is in the interesting orchestration within a mostly romantic orchestral sound that Shire’s score really sparkles. The composer’s music surges forward with dramatic force stopping to take in a little Viennese waltz, or a quartet. Yes, even the humorous song, “There’s A Lot to Be Said for the Fuhrer” is included. Shire uses repetition of motivic ideas to increase tension but keeps these moments from being to uninteresting by the variety of other orchestral colors that he tosses in and around the ideas. By the time we get to “Prelude to the Holocaust” we are moving into the more terrifying modern moments of the score. The theme seems to deconstruct and fall apart along with the destruction of the airship itself.

The booklet here is also interesting. Track information is not set off individually but each track is discussed in an ongoing paragraph of text. There the tracks are bolded for ease of following the music with the commentary. The cover of the release is also striking with the Hindenburg in flames on the front, and a set of photos of the cast over a warm blue background.


--Steven A. Kennedy , 8 February 2007

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