CD Review: INDIANA JONES: THE SOUNDTRACKS COLLECTION

Film Music Institute > Film Music Magazine (Current) > CD Reviews > CD Review: INDIANA JONES: THE SOUNDTRACKS COLLECTION

Composer: John Williams
Label: Concord Records
Suggested Retail Price: $47.99
Grade: A+

From Harry Potter to Luke Skywalker, no composer has been attached to more pop-myth characters than John Williams, whose symphonic blood and thunder approach sings for cinematic legends like no composer’s business. But if Williams truly revived the swashbuckling style of Erich Wolfgang Korngold with the STAR WARS series, then his scores for the Indiana Jones films have been two fists of high adventure. Always rich with melody and adventure, Williams’ soundtracks for the four (so far) Indy movies recaptured the sound of Saturday matinee thrills for audiences worldwide. But where most of those people may have been content with getting the manly music that followed the films’ Paramount mountain transformations, Indy score fans have been searching for their personal Lost Ark- i.e. the big, missing chunks of score that have been missing from the previous CD’s for TEMPLE OF DOOM and THE LAST CRUSADE. And given the studio’s reticence at releasing their great library of film music, the “missing” Indy cues may just as well have been in some crate in the Paramount warehouse.

But leave it to ace film archeologist Laurent Bouzereau to brave the Hollywood equivalent of Hovitos Indians and two-foot millipedes to find the gold with INDIANA JONES: THE SOUNDTRACKS COLLECTION. Having proven himself worthy of Lucasfilm with his DVD documentaries for the Indy series (come on, where’s that Blu Ray collection?), Bouzereau has now capped off a stellar year of soundtrack box sets (which have already included the likes of Williams’ SUPERMAN movie music) with this long hoped-for release. It’s a COLLECTION on five CD’s that delivers over and hour of unheard Indy music, all with spectacular sound and sleek packaging. Indeed, for this John Williams fan, the chance to finally hear that minute of Indy toppling the Anubis statue in RAIDERS is like a dream come true.

Yet that’s not saying a nearly complete RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK album hasn’t been released before. Years of doing Indy moves to worn out vinyl and a truncated CD were mostly remedied with DCC Classic’s immediate out-of-print issuing of a mostly-complete RAIDERS on CD (with even more music on a double record album). And while that edition stood out for the giddy thrill of at last having that flying wing fight and Lukas Kendall’s terrific liner notes, nothing can prepare you here for the amazing audiophile quality of this spiffed-up RAIDERS, which has all the DCC material and then some. In addition to my fave cue “Indy Rides the Statue,” this package’s first 74-minute CD also offers other memorable short bits, from the ghostly “Ark” theme as Indy explains the relic to the feds in “Washington Men/ Indy’s Home” to the Arabic stylings of that evil monkey eating “Bad Dates.”

You can say that this COLLECTION’s real musical crypt is unlocked with INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM. For an overly intense film that its makers described as “Indiana Jones goes to hell,” John Williams would deliver his darkest Indy score of the bunch, complete with a horrific voodoo chanting and nerve-shredding impressionism. The newly-released tracks showcase this effective mix of thrills and chills, with highlights the humorously perilous “Nightclub Brawl,” the exotic travelogue music of “Map / Out of Fuel” and the imposingly evil brass and chorus of “Approaching the Stones.”

The greatest treasure in this TEMPLE is the scoring that comprises Indy and company’s escape from the Thugee mines, nearly all of which was omitted from the original Polydor soundtrack that hit at the dawn of CD’s. “Short Round Escapes” to a perilous, heroically growing theme that finally breaks TEMPLE’s unbearable tension. “Saving Willie” ingeniously combines Indian percussion with orchestral peril before Indy gets his thematic soul back. “Short Round Helps” reveals itself as one of the best pieces that Williams wrote for the entire series, as the composer’s new TEMPLE themes heroically combine before making a full statement of the “Raider’s March.” A cascade of bells and cliffhanging orchestra bursts out with “Water!” while Williams playfully references RAIDERS’ “basket” chase when Indy finds out he doesn’t have a gun in “Sword Trick.” For the climactic “Broken Bridge / British Relief,” Williams embodies the struggle between Indy and Mola Ram with frantic orchestrations and Indian percussion, the Sankara Stone chorus and Jones’ heroic TEMPLE theme triumphantly sending the villain to become alligator bait.

John Williams would get decidedly lighter, and more than a bit sentimental with the father-son LAST CRUSADE. Beyond its welcome emotion, the composer would come up with a religioso “Holy Grail” theme that wouldn’t have been out of place in BEN-HUR, while the bumbling Nazi’s received a humorous motif in the trumpeting key of Wagner. At an hour, CRUSADE’s first CD release on Warner Brothers may have seemed pretty good- except when given the fact that Williams wrote nearly two hours of score for the film. And the best of that additional material is here in spades, from the femme fatale jazz of “The Austrian Way” to the whimsical strum und drang action of “Alarm.” One particularly long-awaited cue is “On the Tank,” as Williams’ relentless, throttling brass accompanies Indy as he takes on “the iron beast” that contains his Dad and Marcus.

Though probably every Williams fan already has the enjoyable score to CRYSTAL SKULL that completes this box set (with no difference from its previous edition), a huge reason to buy this COLLECTION is an additional CD that contains even more unreleased music from the first three Indy scores. We get additional orchestral bug crawling in TEMPLE’s “The Secret Passage,” along with the “Return To the Village / Raiders March” that happily wrapped that film up after so much gruesomeness. But the lion’s share of new music here belongs to LAST CRUSADE, which villainous cues like “Marcus is Captured / To Berlin” and “To the Blimp.” We also get CRUSADE’s most stirring cut in “Wrong Choice, Right Choice.” Beginning with the dissonance of another bad guy meeting a biblically bad end, Indy’s pick of “a carpenter’s cup” sings with beautiful, religious power, music that makes our hero into a modern-day savior with the power to find life. Rounding out the bonus CD are Bouzereau’s interviews with Williams, Lucas and Spielberg, where the holy trinity of blockbuster cinema reveal their approach to some of the best old-school orchestral music ever written.

When you hear just how much great Indiana Jones music resides in this smartly-presented collection, it’s a chill akin to when you were a kid, seeing that shiny ark lifted above its stone sarcophagus in 1981. Now with just about every bit of Indiana Jones music on deck here, listing to some of John Williams greatest achievements for the popcorn cinema has never sounded more fun, or fresh. Raid this covenant of CD’s immediately.

Score with the Joneses here.

2 Comments

  • November 22, 2008 @ 6:27 am

    I am impressed with this review as I am with this set. However I am forced to ask how it escaped Mr Schweiger’s notice that the Raiders disc conatins material that has actually been truncated from the earlier DCC release. I am personally dismayed that “Desert Chase” (Track 16 on Disc 1) is shortened by over a minute in the same clunky way as was the case on the original album. Given that the track was restored to it’s full 8 minute glory on the ’96 release it is utterly baffling that on a CD running around 75 minutes (and one that boasts new material) that the producers would chose to revert to this vastly inferior cut. A massive pity.

  • Joseph Thibodeaux
    April 1, 2009 @ 4:06 pm

    The new Indiana Jones soundtrack collection is great but I want it all.

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