Thursday, May 05, 2022

Bob 'n' Barry

Bob Stanley has a new book just out (Let's Do It - about the prehistory of pop, it looks really interesting). But he also has a new compilation out - or perhaps I should say collection, as it's focused on a single artist: John Barry. The More Things Change: Film, TV & Studio Work 1968-1972 is a great-sounding slab of peak JB. 

Reading Bob's liner note, I was fascinated to learn that the teenage Barry's love of soundtracks was ignited through his dad's being the owner of a chain of cinemas. He'd sit in the projection room of the York Rialto, assimilating the emotional grammar of film music through exposure to scores and scores of scores. 

Another thing that caught my eye was Bob's reference to Walkabout as "possibly the most beautiful John Barry score of all."   Now this happens to be my fervent belief, but it's a conviction based mostly on pure faith, since I've not done the exhaustive study of  the JB uuurv that Bob's done. So that was reassuring! 

The More Things Change includes two selections from the Walkabout OST (mystifyingly never released at the time, it existed briefly as a bootleg some years after the event, then came out as proper reissue in 2016) and they are "Theme from Walkabout," a shatteringly poignant piece that can reduce me to a blubbering mess, and "The Children", stirring and pure-hearted.   Here's what I wrote about Walkabout for Pitchfork's best soundtracks / best scores lists of a few years ago: 

In Nicolas Roeg’s 1971 film, two British children stranded in the outback are rescued and guided back to “civilization”  by an indigenous Australian boy. Scare quotes around the C-word, for Walkabout is a rhapsodic elegy for Nature and our lost innocence.  Because there’s only sporadic dialogue (Roeg described the script as “a fourteen-page prose poem”) and the 6-year-old brother and his teenage sister have been brought up in typically post-Empire stiff-upper-lip fashion, nearly all the emotional eloquence in the movie is supplied by the score.  Waltjinju Bandilil’s eerie didgeridoo and Stockhausen’s disorienting tape-piece Hymnen conjure the unknowable majesty of the arid landscape and its scorching extremes of weather. But it’s veteran film composer John Barry who establishes the prevailing mood with his piercingly poignant orchestrations.   A stirring choral theme redolent of a school song, “The Children” evokes the simple-hearted hope and accepting obedience with which kids face the world. The horn fanfares of  “The Journey”  conjure a storybook adventure air, mirroring the way that the youngest child in particular processes their predicament.  Above all, there’s the recurring main theme, a patient pulse of plinky harpsichord over which wistful woodwinds pipe and tender violins soar and swoop, like a kite whose strings are tugging at your heart not your hands.

Here are the other blurbs - in their original director's cut form - that I did for the movies Performance, Solaris, Blade Runner, and McCabe & Mrs. Miller.