Digital Space (1985)/Morton Gould
February 8, 2014
Soundstream came onto the audiophile in 1975, started by Thomas Stockham Jr. from Salt Lake City with a digital recorder that was sold or leased to 18 companies for the purpose of making digital long play albums. In 1978 JVC/Soundstream recorded Morton Gould and the London Symphony Orchestra, promoting the digital and JVC/Varese Sarabande released it in 1980. Five years later with the invention of the CD it was released in that format with the addition of 2 additional tracks of Star Wars material not included on the LP. The result is this highly sought after CD which has been discontinued for quite awhile and one that you would enjoy having in your collection because of the strong performance of the London Symphony, the conducting of Morton Gould and the selection of material which are not normally chosen for compilations.
Morton Gould was quite a familiar name to me growing up, my father having several of his RCA long play albums in his collection. The oh so infectious tune “Limehouse Blues” from Blues In The Night, “Slaughter On 10th Ave”, and The Grand Canyon Suite were just some of the ones that I remember. Many of you reading this are not familiar with Morton at all as his original compositions are not household names. Making the top 40 list was not his cup of tea. And the selection of material was certainly unique with Windjammer, The Red Pony, and Passionate Friends. The title of the album is actually quite misleading given the fact that other than the two Star Wars selections the album doesn’t have a whole lot to do with Digital Space unless you want to consider “wide open spaces” and then we can count Big Country, Windjammer, and The Red Pony. Given the artwork
cover and any lack of what is included on the front you could have very easily passed this up as yet another compilation with Horner, Williams, and Goldsmith and their science fiction hits when it was available as a new release. Luckily for this reviewer the Gould name got my attention while shuffling through the long play albums and it was my introduction to some soundtracks I wasn’t familiar with.
“Windjammer” is the opening selection written by the conductor and is a good example of what music can effectively do to describe and enhance a scene in this case the sailing ship Christian Radich which was even more important in a Cinerama picture which this was. You can see and feel the salt water and one of the multi tracks offers the sound of the wind to enhance the track even more. When you listen to the track note the effective use of the brass to make this fine ship even more majestic.
“The Big Country” sets itself apart from other western material as the opening strings begin at a presto pace almost frantic to introduce a huge bold theme of epic proportions. The introduction is a motif itself and blends together with the main theme both at the beginning and towards the end of the cue. While there are some people who can’t name the film they are certainly aware of the melody. It’s inclusion in this fine selection of symphonic selections is most welcome.
“The Red Pony,” the morning on the ranch cue from Aaron Copland, written several years before “The Big Country,” is another selection that tells a story like Windjammer, depicting the life of a farmer; the sun rising on the prairie and the beginning of a new day complete with the orchestra mimicking the rooster crowing. The slow yawning piece builds in intensity over the duration of the work.
“Airport,” the last film Newman worked on, describes in music the hustle and bustle of an airport terminal including what I think is a key element the use of the bongo drums which gives it a feeling of being in more modern times. The theme is a raucous one reminding me of passages from An American in Paris. Intertwined in is the love melody which is featured later in the complete score.
“Things to Come,” the epilogue track to this futuristic film dealing with war was written by the English composer Sir Arthur Bliss in 1936. Written by H.G. Wells and directed by Alexander Korda still holds up today as a watchable film. The score was destroyed during World War II but the material was reconstructed by the film historian Christopher Palmer who we have a lot to be thankful, this being only one of many that he worked on. The cue offers a majestic ending to the film and hope in the future.
“That Hamilton Woman” composed by Miklos Rozsa on the surface seems like an odd choice for a compilation album but in truth it is one of his more melodic scores. The romantic bars from the strings ooze romantic passages of love. To my ear I can hear touches of “Lost Weekend,” “Double Indemnity” and other classic Rozsa material.
“Star Wars” is a classic standard in our society as recognizable as the Star Spangled Banner or any number of other songs. It’s composer John Williams has become the #1 soundtrack composer of all time having had more nominations than any one.
“Tribute to a Badman” yet again might seem to be an odd choice for a compilation but the selection process for this album was carefully chosen and what you hear is a rare side of Rozsa, a western scene not unlike something you might hear from Moross, Bernstein, Tiomkin, and others. Listening carefully you’ll hear a typical Rozsa melody which is smoother sounding than most. It is a bold theme but doesn’t have the impact or bite of Magnificent Seven.”
“Passionate Friends,” doesn’t have that British sound even though it was composed by an Englishman Richard Addinsell. It has the sound of Max Steiner filled with the colors of Hollywood. This recording offered the stereo premiere of the composition and fits ever so nicely in the style of this CD.
“49th Parallel” was the first effort of the classical composer Sir Ralph Vaughan Williams in films and while it has the forced feeling that it is propaganda against the Nazis it is nonetheless a powerful moving theme that will touch your heartstrings. Williams will of course go on to do “Sinfonia Antarctica” one of the greatest scores of all time that became his 7th symphony.
“Spitfire” begins as a fugue, with the brass giving it away as modern. Sir William Walton primarily wrote for Shakespeare films being awarded an Oscar for “Hamlet.” There are two parts to the suite, a coronation march played in an almost frantic matter. The second part is the fugue with a pause to offer a short passage of material that is thought provoking and peaceful in nature.
The CD and LP are still available on the used market at what I feel is a premium price (40-50 dollars). This CD is also listed in my top 100 CD’s.
Total Duration: 00:53:03