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Thirty years ago a large television station in Los Angeles (KABC) produced a series of thirty minute WWII documentaries which included music from a previously composed material for a forgettable B film Wheels of Fire and used it as the soundtrack for their series. In the thirty years that have followed there has been an lp on Cerebus, a demo CD, and now this 1000 limited edition on BSX. While I’ve not seen any of the episodes I will trust the liner note writer Randall Larson that the material matches up quite well as the Wheels of Fire soundtrack has yet to become available. This was a practice that Hans Salter, composer of Universal horror films did on a regular basis. Christopher Young (1957-) has gone on to become a successful Hollywood composer, teacher at USC and UCLA, and has taken under his wing many budding composers an opportunity to learn and get their foot in the door. Chris has over 120 film credits with a golden globe nomination for perhaps his best work The Shipping News (2002) as well as numerous awards for many of his horror films.

“The Prelude” begins with a nice major keyed melody, a little hint of a Star Wars theme from first the horns and then the strings. It is proud and majestic with military fanfare and I would guess that this theme was the introduction to each of the episodes. “The German War Machine” opens with a prelude that leads to the dark and mysterious and then the track lumbers along without melody in staccato fashion with a mimicking of the clanking of machinery, the piano chords off key and the snare drum indicating military. “The Homefront” offers the listener a harmonica, strings, piano, and snare drum with strings joining forces with the brass to provide  a lushness that will tug a bit at the heart strings. Listening to this track you’d be fooled that this is war material except snare drum identifying the tie in with the soldiers. “The Pacific Fleet” is one of my favorite tracks an underscore one which makes effective use of the entire brass as the ascending strings bring it to a climax. What follows is a series of dissonant motifs from vibes, brass, percussion, and piano chords. The low strings in a minor key enhance the track even further. “A North Atlantic Passage” another favorite track begins with a theme from the horns which repeats and segues into another low register display of dissonant trombones with tinkling percussion all around. The track ends with another dissonant motif. “The Prisoners” is another nice piece of orchestration with distorted brass motifs along with an emphasis on the low register. “Aftermath” as the title suggests  opens with the lonely horns in a funeral like setting. It is a short track that depicts the horror of war. I can say that each track is unique as there is no central melody that attempts to tie them together. The forty minute length of the CD will go by quickly and you’ll find your own favorites.

Randall Larson summed it up nicely: “Their use in these programs has likely allowed the music to be heard far beyond their use in the original films while at the same time Young’s music gave Jone’s documentaries a powerful musical dynamic that definitely increased their production value.” Isn’t that the job of good film music?

Track Listing:

1…. Prelude (1:54)

2…. The German War Machine (1:55)

3…. Invasion (3:28)

4…. Aftermath (1:56)

5…. The Resistance (4:44)

6…. Panzers (1:04)

7…. Fortress Europe (1:38)

8…. Blitzkrieg (2:52)

9…. The Homefront (2:48)

10….The Pacific Fleet (3:04)

11….A North Atlantic Passage (2:58)

12….The Prisoners (3:13)

13….Operation Overload (2:42)

14….The Price of Victory (0:56)

15….The Push to Berlin (2:14)

16….Those Not to Be Forgotten (2:20)

17….Liberation (1:01)

Total Time 41:26