Here is more evidence that fado is one of the great urban sounds, and Amalia herself, at her best, one of the finest singers this century has produced. No frills here, just enchantment backed by the equally classic duo of guitars, Portuguese (Jaime Santos) and six-stringed (Domingos Camarinha or Santos Moreira). Three cuts are in Spanish. The rest are pure Lisbon saudade.
Sony Classical, down to a select number of highly marketable releases each year, has rarely been in the reissue business, and it's unclear how the label came to reissue this album, originally released in 1974 as an LP on RCA's venerable Red Seal label. Perhaps it was because film scores are one of classical music's growth segments, and Sony wanted to test the waters for future releases in the genre. The reissue is a successful one in any event. The sound and the performances, with Charles Gerhard conducting the National Philharmonic Orchestra, have held up well. The program includes not only music from Captain Blood (1935), but also suites from seven other Errol Flynn films, including a short selection from Hugo Friedhofer's score for The Sun Also Rises, made just two years before Flynn's death in 1959. As such, the album traverses several eras in film music history.
But most of the music comes from the pens of the German immigrant composers who came to Hollywood in the 1930s and set the tone for an entire cultural system: in this case Erich Korngold and Max Steiner, with one short contribution from Franz Waxman as well. The focus on Flynn makes sense, for, as Tony Thomas, Rudy Behlmer, and Clifford McCarty write in the original liner notes, "The great swashbuckler and the era of great romantic movie music set sail on the same tide." The splendid cuts from The Sea Hawk and Captain Blood will sound familiar to anyone who has watched late-night movies on television for any length of time, and they virtually define the sword-and-sea atmosphere of these films. But what's even more interesting is to watch these composers adapt their styles to later developments in Flynn's career. He moved, oddly enough, into the Western, resulting in some unbelievable plots designed to explain the arrival of the supposedly Irish Flynn (he was actually Australian, from Tasmania) in the Old West. But sample Steiner's score for Dodge City (track 5), with its Tchaikovskian spaces and romantic melodies deployed to imagine an open prairie quite different from the ones Aaron Copland was working on at the same time. These scores are enjoyable not only for film buffs, but for anyone who has ever wanted to think a little bit about movie music and its history. Highly enjoyable; well worth the reissue. Kudos to Sony.
Light years removed from the expansive psychedelia of his work with the West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Shaun Harris' lone solo LP remains a compelling curio of the singer/songwriter boom of the early '70s -- while its lush country-pop sensibility sits squarely in the mainstream, the record's melodies and arrangements are atypically complex and its lyrics are profoundly introspective, exploring themes of melancholy, self-doubt, and even suicide with uncommon candor. Recorded with members of L.A.'s famed studio team the Wrecking Crew and featuring string arrangements by the artist's father, the esteemed symphonic composer Roy Harris, Shaun Harris captures the fear and resignation of an artist in the twilight of his career -- "Nothing to write that hasn't been written/What's the real point of livin'?" Harris asks in the record's emotional centerpiece, "Today's the Day," his most direct confrontation of the despair that spreads like cancer across otherwise slick, sun-kissed productions like "Empty Without You" and "I'll Cry Out." Harris revels in such contradictions, capturing with nuance and insight the sunset of West Coast pop's seemingly endless summer.