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Mining Early Gold

Dragon’s Domain Records has kicked off the year with a new compilation of music by a neglected film music master, Ernest Gold. Like many of the artists fleeing the Anschluss, Gold was a concert composer and musician. He landed in New York City where he worked as an accompanist and wrote a variety of songs. His first symphony was performed by the NBC Orchestra in 1939, the year after he had arrived in the US. A second symphony would find its way to Carnegie Hall in 1945, but this was also the year he headed off to Hollywood to work for Columbia. He scored a numbed of westerns and a host of B-movies. Today he is perhaps best known for his Oscar-winning score to Exodus (1960) and his minimal score in It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963). For this release, film music buffs can stroll through some of his early genre writing as well as re-discovering one of his last scores.

The first part of this collection focuses on Gold’s first film work for crime noir. After a “Main Title” for Exposed (1947), we are treated to some source music in a jazzier vein from his first score, 1946’s Smooth As Silk. These are both relatively basic source music cues employing jazz styles. We jump ahead a decade to explore some fine jazz noir for The Naked Street (1955). The four tracks here give us a glimpse at Gold’s thematic skills as well as some rather fine orchestral shifts. “Brother and Sister” is a particularly moving lyrical moment.

A brief break from the noir-ish scoring brings us to a rather strange semi-documentary rooted in sci-fi B pictures: Unidentified Flying Objects: The True Story of Flying Saucers (1956). While the film is quite the curiosity, the four selections sample newsreel underscoring, a semi-patriotic sounding march along with fine dramatic material. You can hear some of that verve and harmonic shifts Gold favors in “Washington” with some fascinating key changes in a scurrying little track. The “Saucer Concerto” is quite creepy with interesting swells and dissonance. We are back to firm noir for Man on The Prowl (1957). The tracks here show Gold trying his hand with some theremin writing and there are source selections and some jazz as well. “The End of Doug and Finale” is equally impressive. As a palette cleanser, the first part of the release concludes with a delightfully light-jazzy “Main Title” and a second sparkly track, “All is Well”, for the comedy/mystery Wink of An Eye (1958). The latter gives us a taste of Gold’s beautiful romantic theme as well.

While all those may seem like plenty to revel in, these are but appetizers to the main event: the nearly complete score to Gold’s last feature film Safari 3000/Two in the Bush (1982). Her we are treated to a score reminiscent of his Mad World comedic adventure writing. The material is also populated with some fun source music that finds Gold getting his inner groove on with some pop stylings. A beautiful romantic lyric theme along with fine adventure music to accompany the race set in Africa make this a delightful listen. Some Baroque-like styling also appears in places like “Behind You: Story Time”. The score features a variety of scoring styles that seem to be a bit of a final compilation of approaches Gold used throughout his career and is already sounding a bit dated for the time, though no less enjoyable.

While the music here comes from many of Gold’s lesser film endeavors, this compilation really allows listeners to appreciate the diversity he brought even to these B pictures early in his career.The sequencing moves us through dramatic noir underscoring to light source music pieces.Some tracks are potted out at the end.His approach throughout those early scores already shows that he was carving out his own unique approaches while referencing all the noir and sci-fi tropes at his disposal.Dragon’s Domain releases a great many of these peripheral film scores and perhaps with this one film music fans can begin to realize just how significant these all are even for fans of genre scoring.In this instance, we have what may be one of their finest releases to date and should not be missed!You can hear some clips at the Buy Soundtrax website:


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