Goldsmith: The Sand Pebbles: film score [SOUNDTRACK] Soundtrack
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Not many Goldsmith tunes can claim to have gone on to be popular songs of their day. "And We Were Lovers" (lyrics by Johnny Mercer) from The Sand Pebbles ranks among the few and is a curiosity in as much as the film it was derived from hardly qualifies as romantic fluff. The Yangtze River of the 1920s is a background of turbulent waters to the political and racial intolerance characterised by Steve McQueen. After struggling for that theme, Goldsmith's lengthy score is better represented by a condensed presentation on disc. Even the few additional cues recorded here ("Jake and Shirley", "The Wedding" and "Frenchy's Death") only add 13 minutes to the original release. But the score is an intelligent piece of work that falls back on Oriental colours only very rarely. The "Overture" has remained in the composer's concert repertoire ever since and it's a treat to have him explore beyond its familiar confines, especially because he didn't conduct the original soundtrack back in 1966. --Paul Tonks
Top Customer Reviews
Jerry Goldsmith created some of his finest works in his early years and this score comes into the top bracket easily. Beginning with the opening barbaric fanfare of trumpets and leading into an edgy oriental\occidental cue, the overture gives us the haunting love theme for Maily and Tex, before returning to the fanfare.
Main Title gives us a slow, sombre, almost dirge like tune which grows slowly in pace and volume, until, like the awakening China, it bursts forth with the full power of the orchestra to the relentless beat of a wooden drum.
Following this is the more upbeat "and we were lovers" to underscore the gentle flirtation between the sailor and the missionary (Steve McQueen and Candice Bergman). This is a brief interlude before the music returns to the growing tragedy looming over all the characters and the savage action totally realised by some blazing action cues.
The only complaint about this superb score is the shortness of the music presented, but this is far outweighed by the sheer quality of composers work.
A must for any serious lover of Jerry Goldsmiths music, or the film fan in general.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Here are the tracks found on the 2002 release:
1. Overture (2:16)
2. Main Title (2:57)
3. Getting Acquainted (3:53)
4. Hello, Engine (1:24)
5. Death Of A Coolie (:57)
6. Maily Appears (1:07)
7. Training A New Coolie (:40)
8. Repel Boarders (Mono) (2:40)
9. The Mission at China Light (2:05)
10. Death of A Thousand Cuts (4:46)
11. Act One Finale (:59)
12. Entr'acte (1:02)
13. Back To Port (:53)
14. My Secret (4:00)
15. Jake and Shirley (4:24)
16. A Conversation (2:02)
17. The Wedding (6:11)
18. Coolies Jump Ship (1:50)
19. State Of Siege (5:53)
20. Frenchy's Death (2:19)
21. Maily's Abduction (2:49)
22. Final Mission (5:46)
23. Battle Continues (2:12)
24. Death of the Assassin (1:46)
25. Sniper (:58)
26. Almost Home (Finale) (1:00)
27. End Title (:38)
28. Exit Music (2:39)
29. Overture (alternate) (2:54)
30. Chinese Love Theme (2:26)
Total running time: 76:28
opus, THE SAND PEBBLES. Originally intended as an assignment for composer Alex North but he had passed on it and suggested Goldsmith for it.
And a great idea he had because the younger composer would be inspired to create his first truly powerful epic score for director Robert Wise (and the two would work together again for the last time on STAR TREK: THE MOTION PICTURE, his third opus). Even though Goldsmith had written another landmark score that same year for THE BLUE MAX
this would be the score that would forever put Goldsmith on the top for the remainder of his career. what we have on
this album is a great amount of music from the score never before released (and there are still a few cues missing
which prevents this from being a truly complete representation of this Goldsmith masterwork) and is still miles superior over the 1997 re-recording the composer conducted with the Royal Scottish national Orchestra.
THE SAND PEBBLES music is the score that first made me aware of the composer and film music in general so I have
a great feeling of sentimentality for it and was also my mother's favorite Goldsmith score and is also the favorite
of the late composer's father. Some may say that THE SPIRAL ROAD gave us the first hint of his ethnic scoring sound
for movies but he truly developed those skills with this score and others that came after. As a matter of fact, the
origins of the Frenchy/Maily love theme (and the thematic basis for the overture Goldsmith originally envisioned and recorded which started out the original Fox album from '66) came from a motif the composer had written for an episode of PERRY MASON back in 1959 called "Case of the Blushing Pearls".
The original soundtrack sessions were actually conducted by Lionel Newman who would conduct some later Goldsmith
scores after this and the Fox orchestra superbly performs this multifaceted score that features perhaps the composer's best love theme later called "And We Were Lovers" with lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and not Johnny Mercer as it has been mistakenly known for all these years. Goldsmith was taken off scoring duties from GRAND PRIX in order to score this film and he was tailor made for it.
There are differences on this album from the original. For instance, the opening overture is the alternate one heard in the original theatrical release featuring the main love theme in the grand old style and the "Main Title"
opens deceptively quiet with mid-range strings playing a two note fragment which is followed by a dotted rhythm from ethnic percussion that steadily grows into a crescendo of anguish which may or may not---depending on the listener---set the tone for the tragic events that would soon unfold.
The main highlights here are, of course, the previously unreleased music and there is a lot of it that gives depth
that the original album couldn't give us due to its brevity of time. There are 30 tracks on this deluxe edition as opposed to the 11 from the original Fox album. Here his score is given breathing room and gives the listener a virtual symphony. "Hello Engine" is the first new track and a beautiful one it is as Holman introduces himself warmly to the ship's engine and "Training a new Coolie" is a delightful piece just under a minute that starts out with lovely colorings from the woodwinds taken over by warm strings as Holman's training of Po-Han progresses and a friendship begins to develop between the two men.
But "Death of a Thousand Cuts" has got to be the most heartbreaking music in the whole score. It is one of the best musical depictions of human anguish one can hear in a film score or any other piece of music for that matter.
"State of Siege" is a tense, dramatic cue and the real payoff comes near the end with the complete music of "Final Mission" which goes from a suspenseful mood to full out action midway through and one can also discover that the first four notes of the main love theme originated---or grew out of----the theme for the gunboat San Pablo which is fighting for its life during this cue which is then followed by "The Battle Continues" an unheard cue as it was never used in the film or included on the original album.
There are plenty of other unreleased tracks included but I think I gushed enough about this score to say that this
is a definite classic in the Goldsmith repertoire as well as film music in general. They just don't write them like
this anymore and that is truly a tragedy. But hopefully a label like Intrada will someday release the complete score as a regular release as they had done with a few other Goldsmith classics.
Needless to say that if I were to compile a list of the 10 best scores by this composer this music would be at the top of the list. Great music never gets dated and THE SAND PEBBLES is nothing but great music. It is superbly crafted and performed, a marvel of a score and a very moving one. Definitely a must have!
Goldsmith tackled the job like a veteran, giving us one of the most beautiful and haunting scores--and one of the lengthiest for a non-musical, not only of the 60s, but of all time. The melancholy strings will remain with you long after you remove the disc or the film's final fade out. Perhaps the only criticism that can possibly be leveled at Goldsmith is that he should have made more and better use of traditional Chinese music, which I understand, is written radically different than Western music.
The present edition includes previously unreleased tracks plus some period or "source" music which is heard in the film. The liner notes are very informative.