The World At War/Davis

March 22, 2010

Ranked 19th by the BFI (2000 poll) in terms of popularity, the 26 episode 1973 television series produced by Thames Television and created by Jeremy Isaacs was a historic achievement offering rare color footage, interviews and material at a budget that broke all records for British television at the time. Narrated by Sir Laurence Olivier, the series offered a different look at WWII with interviews from people who were directly involved in the war rather than being of celebrity status.

Carl Davis got involved and worked on original material for this massive project early on in his long and illustrious career in television and films. Originally released on a Decca LP (SPA 325), this re-release on the Davis label comes from the Silva release of November 2003 without new material. They are identical. However, the Silva/Davis recording does offer an expanded arrangement from the Decca recording with additional original music, sound clips of famous speeches of the era, and appropriate songs from the time period. Over ½ of the release is original Davis music sequenced in between the songs and speeches.

The Chamberlain declaration of war speech is a good introduction to the main theme “World At War,” a sad solemn theme followed by a very business like march theme ending with a violin solo before returning to the haunting beginning melody. “France Falls” is a 10+ minute cue featuring the mourning alto sax carrying the tragic melody followed by well placed chords from the organ, a nice bit of chamber orchestra arranging before returning to a slower dance style of the theme again with piano and strings. “Turkey Shoot” is an unusual arrangement of a relentless piano with vibraphone and trombones playing. It is a good underscore that depicts the return of the planes to the carrier. “Warsaw Aftermath” is a mazurka which turns into dissonance to create the true picture of the horror of what happened in Poland. “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” is an upbeat march with excellent orchestration; “GI Blues” again uses the mourning saxophones to lead into a nice blues composition that reminded me of a private investigator blues theme from Hollywood. “Reckoning” and “The World At War” end the CD with a restating of the tragic main theme. Mixed in are silly songs such as “Run Rabbit Run,” swing numbers like “Coming In On A Wing And A Prayer,” to the nationalistic “The Red Army is the Strongest,” with speeches by Churchill, Eisenhower, Montgomery, and Chamberlain. While this isn’t the ingredients to a good listening experience it is important to the overall flavor of the soundtrack.

I have always enjoyed the versatile Carl Davis who seems to be at home in a broad genre of material. His orchestrating in this CD upon closer listening is quite unique and improves on multiple listens.

CD# is Carl Davis Collection CDC006

Edited and adapted by James Fitzpatrick

Track Listing:

Speech – Neville Chamberlain (0:44)

The World at War – Theme (3:56)

Wish Me Luck as You Wave Me Goodbye – Gracie Fields (2:34)

The Washing on the Siegfried Line – Arthur Askey (2:33)

Boum – Charles Trenet (2:32)

France Falls – Suite (10:53)

Speech – Winston Churchill (0:31)

Adolf – The Billy Cotton Band (2:46)

Lili Marlene – Lale Anderson (3:14)

Red Star (4:07)

The Red Army is the Strongest – The Red Army Choir (2:41)

Speech – Field Marshal Montgomery (0:28)

This is the Army Mr. Jones – Irving Berlin (2:19)

G.I. Blues (3:05)

Coming in on a Wing and a Prayer – Anne Shelton (2:44)

Speech – General Eisenhower (0:21)

Arnhem Airlift (1:03)

Warsaw Aftermath (2:34)

Run Rabbit Run – Flanagan and Allen (2:44)

I’m Going to Get Lit Up – Carrol Gibbons (2:32)

Turkey Shoot (4:44)

London Pride – Noel Coward (3:24)

When They Sound the Last “All Clear” – Vera Lynn (3:21)

Blood Sweat and Tears (3:46)

Speech – Winston Churchill (0:23)

Reckoning (3:20)

End Titles (1:07)

Total Time is 74:45

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