* Prices may differ from that shown
Word of warning: Very Long Review Ahead (due to it pretty much having four reviews in one + specific item details)
Originally written for and published on DeviantART, November 2008.
Dreams do come true. It is not a fable or some old superstitious saying. Indeed, dreams and miracles are still possibilities even today. Against all odds and expectations (though these were always still considered as possibilites, regardless of how far-fetched they sounded), composer John Williams' music for the popular Indiana Jones film series has finally re-emerged, after a wait that for some spans even decades, with proper presentations of the original trilogy music never before made available. Producer Laurent Bouzereau has stepped up to bring out not only reissues of the original trilogy scores, but to also provide them in an expanded form and with greatly remastered sound to bring these wonderful, yet strangely neglected, scores back in full form. And even though the endeavour is not without its flaws and the scores still do remain incomplete, it is simply mindblowing to finally see the Indiana Jones scores join the ranks of other expanded/complete John Williams scores of the late 1970s and early 1980s of Jaws, E.T., Star Wars, and Superman. In the following review I will be going through each score in the box and provide a critical look at the pros and cons of what we have got, as well as other details of the music itself.
REVIEW OF THE BOX SET ITSELF
Now, taking the box set in your hand, the first impressions are very good. The discs are all encased within a dark brown, leatherette slipcase box that is elegant and understated. This is emphasised that nowhere can you actually find the "Indiana Jones" logo imprinted anywhere. The front only includes a gold-coloured, stanced logo of Indy's fedora over a curled up bull whip. That is all, and it looks incredibly handsome. In fact the only place you can with any assurance say this is for Indiana Jones is the title "Indiana Jones The Soundtracks Collection" pressed on the spine of the box. The Indy logo (to identify in stores) is thusly provided on a sticker over the shrinkwrap, so it is still possible for browsers to note what the box is, but which doesn't come to ruin the elegant look of the box itself once opened.
Past the box, the contents include expanded versions of the first three scores, the original soundtrack release for the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull score, and an additional bonus disc with more unreleased music from the first three films. Each disc is housed in an individual digipack. This is a bit of a shame really since the digipack (though seemingly gaining popularity over the older jewel cases) is susceptible to wear and tear over even a small period of time. And, God help you, should you do something to a digipack that will make it rip or smear or something, there is no way to replace one unlike with a jewel case. This becomes doubly hazardous as some people have mentioned a tight fit inside the box can make it difficult to get the discs out of the box. I fortunately haven't experienced this problem, but it is a consideration that these digipacks must be handled with care, or else you won't have much to savour from them. Another surprising packaging decision was to place the fifth bonus disc in a cardboard slipcase, which is not smart for any recording due to the danger of scratching when taking the disc in and out of it. It would have been better to get something less risky of causing damage to this unique disc not to be sold anywhere separately, but considering that many people are likely to just make their own iTunes (or the like) playlists, or re-sequenced CD-Rs, this might necessitate a less wearing usage for the discs.
The 32 page booklet included is frankly a disappointment. Apart from a four paragraph blurb from Bouzereau, there's nothing really in here but pictures that make the whole thing rather useless. I may be spoiled by superior liner notes by speciality soundtrack labels like Intrada and FSM, but at least a little more effort could have been given to this department to provide something with more insight to the Indy scores like was done for the 1997 Star Wars Special Edition releases, or for the Lord of the Rings Complete Recordings releases, to name two high profile commercial soundtracks. I doubt many would really feel the need to pick out this booklet apart from glancing through the pictures once when there's nothing it offers in addition. Also the individual discs have separate booklets of their own that all contain another blurb from Bouzereau, and remarks from Spielberg that first appeared in their respective original soundtrack releases. Plus then there's a few more pictures. These are obviously the booklets you'll get when the discs will become available separately. Again nothing really spectacular. But it is nice that they have preserved the original cover art, even if Last Crusade's off-centre poster picture is a bit funny when surrounded by so much white. So the box looks handsome, but the actual content is a bit of an empty affair. Thankfully, though, the music is anything but.
REVIEW OF RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
The first score of the set is also the least interesting to me as the score was already once released in a close-to-complete form in 1995 by Decca in the US, and by Silva in Europe. I was lucky enough to manage to pick this up before it went completely out of print and disappeared back in 2002. Since then it has been fetching high prices in the secondary market, but in the light of this release, prices might go down. Raiders of the Lost Ark is definitely my favourite Indiana Jones score (and John Williams score as well), and brings together a great sense of fun, of derring-do, of mystery and awe, of ancient dangers, and it accomplishes this with great pacing, verve, and spirit. Consisting of essentially three major themes, and complemented by a multitude of others, it is definitely a score that is adventuresome and a lot of fun through and through, never stopping for too long before presenting one major action scene or another hugely dramatic scene, while spending very little time rumbling in its place for long periods at a time.
The Indiana Jones theme of course is known to just about everybody, as well as I'd say the story of its creation of how Williams wrote two Raiders themes, and Spielberg liked them both so much that he just suggested Williams use both. For the uninitiated it might actually come as a surprise that the score opens very differently from what you might expect, with low droning and mysteriously advancing timbers of orchestral colour, unmelodic and hard to grasp. The whole opening sequence advances in this way for the longest period. It is only at the middle stages of "The Idol Temple" that some a bit more harmonious music emerges as Indy steals the idol statue. But what I really like about this opening sequence is that Williams really just hangs everybody along for the longest of time before making his actual musical voice known to people. It is only after stretching this stuff up to over ten minutes does Williams finally fling to you his great Raiders March theme as Indy jumps for the plane in "Flight from Peru". It is one of the greatest expositions of theme ever that would be so cool to get to hear with fresh ears and feel how sensational that first appearance most likely was.
In the passage of time the Raiders March has probably become a little too engrained in people's minds to become a little detrimental, but I love it. The main march may be a bit less enjoyable today (kind of like the Superman march), but the secondary B theme has stood the test of time considerably better I feel and makes the whole thing all the more enjoyable. Past the theme for Indy, there are two other major themes. The first is for Indy's past sweetheart Marion, which is whimsical and romantic, not a million miles away from similar themes for the love themes in Superman and The Empire Strikes Back. It doesn't essentially figure that heavily in the score outside of brief references, but it does bring a lot more of the sense of romance to the otherwise very heroic sound. Particularly the desperate sounding variation of it at the end of "The Basket Game" is brilliant. The third major theme is for the Ark of the Covenant, the great artefact that is the "phone to God". It is steeped in mystery and danger, the theme never letting go of the mythological aspects of the artefact and always bearing a hint of danger in its presentations. From the eerie, choral precursor of "Washington Men", the magnificent "Map Room: Dawn" (one of the most brilliantly scored and set up scenes in the entire film), the goosebump inducing "Uncovering the Ark", and the final, powerful, religiously monumental "The Miracle of the Ark", the theme never allows you to settle for any sense of security. It tells you straight off, and keeps on reminding you, that the Ark is not to be messed with.
As with the score's main themes, there's a multitude of lesser, but still important, themes and motifs used throughout. There is the ancient, Arabic sounding "medallion" theme, which becomes pretty much a B theme for the Ark later on, which is quite a beautiful creation in its own name. Then there is the heavy motif for the Nazis, that first appears fully-fledged during "The Fist Fight/The Flying Wing" being brutal, authoritive and powerful. The Nazis, and more specifically the Gestapo agent Toht, also gets a small motif that hangs more on the threatening tone of it than on any specifically pronounced notes. Past the themes, there's also many fun set pieces that the score is really littered with. The travelogue cue of "To Nepal" features some really nice, swirly variations on the Indy theme, "The Basket Game" provides some great humorous scherzo writing Williams likes to do almost everywhere (with brief Arabic undertones in certain sections), the aforementioned "Map Room: Dawn" with it's glorious variations on the Ark theme, and the action set pieces of "The Fist Fight" and the penultimate "Desert Chase", which is eight minutes of straight action heaven.
And this is only scratching the surface really, as the score is a truly colourful tour de force that is a pleasure from beginning to end (with the possible exceptions of the music in the first scenes of the film and the more abrasive "The Well of the Souls" track). Now, when it comes to this new release from Concord, there are some good things to say, and also some bad ones. First it must be noted that the sound quality is stunning. There is so much more detail uncovered from the music than I've ever heard before, and it makes the whole thing sound completely new. Certainly I have always considered the previously expanded version to have featured phenomenal sound, but this just highlights how much detail was also lost in the less bass-heavy, and brighter sounding earlier release. However, at the same time Concord seems to have made a small mistake in making the pitch a bit too high and thus the music runs a little faster than it should. This is not a major problem as the difference is barely noticeable, so this is an issue I don't really have a problem with and probably affects more on those who know this music inside and out.
However, a bigger issue is that they have decided to put an edited down version of the great actioner "Desert Chase" that omits nearly a minute of music from the complete track. This I must say is incomprehensible. For one, the full version was already once released on the 1995 version, and for another, none of the other music is edited down in the slightest (not even "Basket Game" that omitted the intro in the OST release). It makes no musical sense, or logical sense, to edit this one, very important track down to its present form, and it makes me sad that I now have to resort to replacing this one track with the differently mixed one from the 1995 release (the change in audio quality is quite notable). But double the sadness for those new to these and who don't even have that earlier release.
Of the previously unreleased cues, not a lot was missing to begin with, so the quite nice "Washington Men/Indy's Home", the rather disposabe "Bad Dates", the small action piece of "Indy Rides the Statue" (which includes the ostinato heard "The Idol Temple"), and the glorious second part of "The Well of the Souls" called "Uncovering the Ark", which features some very, very cool renditions of the Ark theme, filled with mystery and creepiness, make these great bonuses. So essentially past the butchered "Desert Chase", the Raiders release is quite wonderful, and I have no other real complaints about it.
REVIEW OF THE TEMPLE OF DOOM
After the more light-heartedly semi-cartoony adventure serial style of Raiders, the sequel (or rather prequel) of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom saw everything turn a lot darker with macabre subjects of human sacrifice in obscure ceremonies in the depths of India, children slave labour, and other such aspects littering the film. On the offset, it also contained a lot more gags and humour as opposed to Raiders in the form of the snobby Willie, Indy's young helper Short Round, and certain scenes that were almost slapstick in their nature (see the dinner scene at the palace). For Williams, this new film brought a chance to re-visit his earlier music, but also go to the depths of hell to provide musical accompaniment and a lot of very frenetic action writing. In fact, whereas Raiders is pretty much a straight-forward actioner in its progress and composition, Temple is almost insanely complex. What strikes one immediately is the amount of action that is in the score and how utterly energetic a lot of this is. With the first scenes in Shanghai, to the huge action extravaganza in the final 30 minutes of the film, this is a score that can easily exhaust you in the long run and probably will not make for a desirable listen for many times in a row.
But at the same time Williams does provide a lot of respite as well in differing ways. The score begins in a most unusual, but still very fun way, with an adaptation of Cole Porter's "Anything Goes" sung in Mandarin. It is most decidedly a fun opener, and once again Williams does the same thing as he did in Raiders in stretching out the appearance of the main Raiders March theme until the end of these scenes. The ensuing "Indy Negotiates", the tumbling "The Nightclub Brawl" (unfortunately missing the Anything Goes band overlays that makes the music sound a lot less fun than in the film), and the likewise unrelenting "Fast Streets of Shanghai" makes for a stunning piece of suspense and action to make one's head swirl right off the bat. This is all then completely released as Indy's theme is blasted in full force at the end of "Fast Streets of Shanghai" for a glorious end to a self sustained opening scenes of an adventure serial, making it clear that this film won't be slowing down anytime soon.
Themewise, Indy's theme is pretty much the only one that returns, as obviously neither Marion nor the Ark is in the film. These two have been replaced by the theme for Willie, that is generally similar to Marion's, but is a lot fluffier and humorous than whimsical. It may not really be as memorable as Marion's theme, but it does bring a nice sense of relief to the rest of the music, as well as a few gloriously romantic ones. Shorty, of course, also gets a theme that is more orientally inflected, and is boisterously fun at times, and skitteringly humorous at others. Then we have the Slave Children theme that is the underlying film specific main theme here as it appears often as the signature for the Village Indy and co. set out from and the children that Indy at the same time ends up saving. In fact, when it comes to themes and motifs, this must be one of the most theme heavy scores in Williams career in that practically everything seems to have one in this film. The Shankara stones (the artefact of the film) have a theme of their own, though it is not heard very often (though they do get one of the most magnificent moments in the film in "Approaching the Stones"). The main villain Mola Ram gets a suitably dark and foreboding theme that is heard at proper intervals (particularly in "To Pankot Palace"). The little Nurhachi statue gets a small theme of its own in "Indy Negotiates", the country of India gets a little regional sounding motif, the Thugee ceremonies features some of the most evil writing Williams has ever penned with the heavy chanting and pounding percussion, the British army gets a fanfare in "British Relief"... heck, if Williams' grandfather had appeared in the background somewhere, he probably would have got a theme too.
In picking the score apart, it really is one exposition of theme against the counterpoint of another to the extent that figuring it all out can be a very daunting task. To me there are a couple of tracks in particular that truly stand out from all of this wealth of material. Firstly there's "The Scroll/To Pankot Palace" that opens with slight references to the Shankara Stone theme and is then followed by the truly spectacular trek to the palace itself, featuring some of the most dark fanfaric material ever, as well as some disturbing tribalistic drumming. A much hoped for inclusion. Following this is the sublime "Approaching the Stones" that is hands down the most ecstasy inducing moment one of these treasure finding moments ever got in an Indy film. In this the deep choir moans and aahs in the background in a constant carpet of dread, and when Indy takes the first stone in his hand, the Shankara Stone theme explodes and the choir perfectly reflects the face of Indy has he gazes at the prize in his hands. Utterly fan-freakin-tastic!
Then as we enter toward the end of the film, the huge acton outing starts with "Short Round Escapes", and continues on without much interruption through "Saving Willie", "Slave Children's Crusade", "Short Round Helps", "The Mine Car Chase", "Water!", "The Sword Trick", and "The Broken Bridge/British Relief" in a tour de force action sequence that takes you on a breathtaking rollercoaster ride one is likely to never forget. Of these, specifically, the cues "Short Round Helps" with its heroic reiterations of both Shorty's and Indy's themes, the rollicking "Mine Car Chase" (in which even the freaking mine car gets a theme), the humorous quotation of Raiders' "Basket Game" in "The Sword Trick", and the powerful "The Broken Bridge" with its ritual chants and the final choral rendition of the Slave Children's theme, all make for some utterly wonderful adventure listening.
All in all, Temple of Doom is a score that may be a little overwhelming in the start, but which makes for a great example how Williams just seemed to jump into the film headlong and provided something that is unrelenting from beginning to end. Again people have mentioned pitch issues with the score, but I suspect these are also on the minor side (me not being too familiar with the score beforehand, so I can't say). A few bigger issues do surround the release however. Firstly, as with Raiders, Temple is plagued by pitch issues that are again not likely notable to the untrained ear, but which is an unfortunate oversight on the part of Concord. Quality control could thus be a lot higher, but indeed this is not that noticeable unless you are really audio savy and familiar with the score. Secondly, even with this wealth of new material added over the 40 minutes originally issued on the 1984 LP, there are some glaring omissions still. For instance the little village cue many were hoping for (called "Fortune and Glory" in fan spk) would have nicely led to the opening of "Short Round's Theme", but is unfortunately missing. The cue "A True Believer" for Indy's possession is missing with its truly evil music.
The bridge percussion before "The Broken Bridge" is missing, and while I'm okay with not having that, there are many who consider it a major omission. The cue "Map/Out of Fuel" consists of an alternate (probably first) take of the scene, and is missing the extended insert of Willie's theme, though it is a great cue regardless of this and the little string performances of Indy's theme near the end are really great. And then there's the issue of the end credits, which are the original album version, not the film version. The album version edits the beginning of the track "Return to the Village" (available on the fifth disc), and cuts off 26 seconds of music from the beginning of the actual end credits, thus omitting the oft desired counterpoint with Indy's theme and Shorty's theme. It is a shame this was not included, and to me it stays the greatest miss in an otherwise quite excellent CD. And particularly considering the original album has been pretty much unavailable for over a decade, and even then heavily truncated, so any new music is a blessing for this score.
REVIEW OF THE LAST CRUSADE
After Temple of Doom proved to be a little too dark for audiences and even to the makers, the third film, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, went back to the more light-hearted roots of Raiders. Toning down on action and presenting more specific character development between Indy and his father, the film ended up being rather a disjointed affair and considerably less energetic as the previous two films had been, though I still find this third endeavour of searching for the Holy Grail before the Nazis got to it a fun film in the great spirit of Indiana Jones. For Williams this score brought about a certain shift in his style of becoming more streamlined and not as overly complex as in Temple. There are again a lot of themes here that are completely new to this film outside of the Raiders March, again due to the film not having any returning thematic elements (Sallah and Marcus Brody do play a part here, but they never had themes in Raiders). Also this being longer than either of those two previous films necessitated a far longer score (about 120 minutes to the 90 of Raiders and 110 to Temple). But like said much of this music consists of a more linear style that brings out the themes in a steadily recognizable shape and many scenes don't even use specific recurring themes at all.
The Indy theme in this film is also considerably downplayed so as to prevent it from becoming a parody of itself, thus making any appearance of the famous theme not seem overbearing, and only in the end credits does the theme truly come forward past a quick quote. Still, this is a wonderful score regardless of being slightly more disjointed overall (like the film was). Of the new themes, the most notable is the one for the Holy Grail, which is very much in the style of a hymnal religioso melody, permeating the score with the great purpose of finding this artefact in time before the forces of evil. Secondarily there is the Illumination theme for Indy's father's quest that is more in the style of inner harmony, a theme that is harmonious and relaxing like a sunset (yes, I ripped off the end credits ride off that uses that music with that reference). Past these two major themes, the score also contains a great multitude of secondary themes for various circumstances. In the opening scenes there is the theme for the Cross of Coronado, a little Spanish jingle that works wonderfully, along with the minor dirge theme for the Panama Hat guy. For the Nazi's, and the main SS Colonel Vogel, there is a very pompous march that appears in many places past the midway point of the film and from which I always get a big kick out of. The Nazis generally are also further represented by a driving, heavy ostinato, that is most notably used during the tank chase scenes. And finally for the relationship of father and son, and perhaps more as a personal theme for Henry himself, there is a bit more of a avuncular theme that in the film was largely dialled out past a few references that were harder to get rid of.
However, unlike the previous scores, Williams is very lax about the usage of the themes in this score, and often resorts to just staging almost unrelated action setpieces on totally new material. The opening "Indy's Very First Adventure" is largely one of those scherzo cues that liberally references to a couple of themes here and there, but not past them being major statements, the "Escape from Venice" is likewise a scene that is completely individual for most of the time thematically, the "Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra" peruses a light action scherzo that appears a couple of times in the film's castle scenes, the "Belly of the Steel Beast" and "On the Tank" cues both feature a rumbling and hurtling fugue on one Nazi ostinato, but again doesn't rely on the actual thematic constructs of the big themes that much. The end summary is that there are a few things that knit everything together, but the knitting is not as tight as it could be. Still, this doesn't really matter as a lot of the material is very fun to listen to, and provides a lot of variety at the same time without seeming overbearing or repetitive.
Of the three scores, this was certainly the release that I was most looking forward to, and it certainly doesn't disappoint. The Last Crusade on album originally included 60 minutes of music, but still omitted a lot of very good stuff from the film. Likewise sound quality was flat and restricted, making the whole thing sound very, very bad. Now, listening to the remastering done for this score, it has truly taken a completely new life it never had before, sounding deeper and larger than ever before. Also it is so great to have 97% of all the music I always wanted to have from the film finally on disc. Special treats are "The Boat Scene" where the Panama Hat and the Cross themes get some nice reiterations as in the previously unreleased portion of "Indy's Very First Adventure". The brief 40 second travelogue cue "Journey to Austria" is a real treat, a great sweeping bit of music that is never heard anywhere again. "The Austrian Way" is another nice addition with its warmer, somewhat erotic tones in its string writing as Elsa kisses Indy goodbye. The cue "Alarm!" is a wonderful addition that has never been available on even bootlegs before, with some further performances of the castle scherzo, and some great variations on the Nazi march.
Likewise the middle portion of the "Belly of the Steel Beast" of "On the Tank" is great to finally have, and even though it is presented as an individual track instead of being inside the "Belly" track, it doesn't feel stupid or detached in any way, playing well on its own. Also on the fifth disc there are further cuts of Last Crusade material that make the box set to me an absolute must have, including "Father's Study" with its wonderful Grail theme presentations, "To the Blimp" with the swirling airport music in its unedited form, "The Blimp Turns Around" with a delightfully bittersweet rendition of the Grail theme and an absolutely huge performance on the Nazi theme (one I've wanted for a long time and which makes me giddy as a schoolboy), and finally "Wrong Choice, Right Choice" for the final Grail scene where Henry is healed from his gunshot wound to a glorious performance of the Grail theme.
So, more than anything, Last Crusade probably has gained the most in terms of becoming a lot more of an appreciatable effort than the other two that have never really had a bad rep before. The expanded tracks really help bring a greater sense of the architecture of the score and with such improved sound, makes the original album a complete toss. As far as any criticism would come, it would concern the odd (though understandable) choice of switching "Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra" and "Alarm!" upside down that makes the musical flow suffer a bit (as "The Austrian Way" leads to "Alarm!" leads to "Scherzo" is the way it was designed to be, and makes better musical sense seeing how the tracks end). Also I have to question why was the sneaking around music of "Father and Son Reunited" included over either "The Two Joneses" or "Elsa's Betrayal", both infinitely more interesting cues. Or indeed, "In the Catacombs" with its brief reference to the Ark. But outside of these, I'm very happy with what I have and thus this makes for another great release (though it truly benefits the best with the included material on the bonus disc than strictly separately).
REVIEW OF THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL
The fourth Indy film has received a lot of flack for all kinds of stupidity included within the film, and of which I will freely say a lot of it is deserved. In a way the film seemed to be a strange mixing of nostalgia with modern action tendencies that are not as clearly defined and more reliant on quick moves instead of truly well composed choreography and clear shots. The music of Williams likewise ended up getting stuck in the rut in a way that it, while still very well composed and of high quality, ended up for one getting buried under the film's sound mixing (unlike where it was always front and centre in the previous films), featured some truly annoying Williams moments from his current styles, and just generally felt like a bit of a lesser affair when compared to his preceding three efforts... though at the same time, the waning quality of film music in general still raises Crystal Skull above most other scores any day of the week.
The Concord box only includes the original soundtrack release of the score, so unlike the three other scores here, this newest one offers nothing new past the 77 minutes of material inluded on the original 2008 album, which was also released by Concord. The album begins with concert renditions of the main themes. "Raiders March" is pretty much a reperformance of the Raiders end credits cue with Marion's theme in the middle. The "Call of the Crystal" presents the mysterous Crystal Skull theme, that bears some resemblance to the Ark theme, only being inversed, and which over the progress of the theme rises to a very hypnotic level that is very effecting, in essence the perfect representation of the skull's powers. The following "The Adventures of Mutt" offers the scherzo-like music for Indy's son as a reckless, but humorous swirl that is fun, but sounds a bit too much like the Lost Boys music from Hook to be honest. Just a little too humorous, and not rebellious enough to really seem that much like to reflect the character's personality. Fourthly there is the slightly jazzy "Irina's Theme" for Cate Blanchett's villainess, which is sensual, yet menacing to a degree. Anybody expecting anything close to the Germanics of the Nazis in Last Crusade, you won't really be getting the same with a Russian treatment. This is a bit more saxophone kalinka with subtlety than anything else.
The score proper is generally a healthy mix of these, but a lot of it is mixed with Williams current styles that unfortunately fail to lend that much of a sense of uniqueness to the Indiana Jones score canon. Whereas each of the three preceding scores had very distinct personalities unlike really a lot of anything else that Williams was doing at the same time, Crystal Skull bears more similarities with the scores he's been turning around for a while now and at times I'd be hard pressed to identify this as Indiana Jones at all, or at least if I were to hear random sections of this score, I probably wouldn't be able to tell it apart outside of the old themes popping up here and there. As such, at least as far as the album is concerned, there is very little in the way of making direct identifications as even the old themes only make a scant few appearances. In a way, the score for Crystal Skull is actually a bit of a schizophrenic experience in a way how it seems to try to balance the old and the new, but never really does this with as much ablomp. In a way, when looking at the appearances of the older themes, many of them seem to exist on the surface level of nostalgia quotes instead of actual structural particles.
A good example is the map sequence in "Journey to Akator" where the Raiders March is used in the travelogue scene, but it is simply a straight performance of the theme with no unique inflections what so ever, unlike in every other map sequence before this (even Raiders "Flight to Nepal" was completely unique in construct). Other references, like straight lines from "Indy's Very First Adventure" in "Snake Pit", or the rip from "Map Room: Dawn" in "Spell of the Skull" (even going so far as containing the Nazi motif from that scene), seem frankly little lazy and unfortunately make for the straight references seem a bit copy/pasted here. The intentional quote of the "Basket Game" in Temple of Doom was an instance where it was a clear tongue-in-cheek homage, but here it just sound fake. The film also contains a couple of quotes of the Illumination theme from Last Crusade in reference to Henry, but neither is on the album. Otherwise I must say that regardless of the strength of some of the new themes (the skull theme particularly), a lot of the score actually is less interesting in the sense that it doesn't really sound uniquely Indiana Jones instead of "John Williams writes a generic action score" where a lot of music is almost freely exchangable with Star Wars or Harry Potter. The extended moments of rumbling suspense and atmosphere, like in "Return", "Orellana's Grave", and "Oxley's Dilemma" don't make for that much of an interesting listen.
On the offshot, neither is the action writing really unique enough to make ends meet. The major action sequence of "The Jungle Chase" is great and volleys a lot of the themes back and forth, but the album presents only about half of the cue. Otherwise, "A Whirl Through Academe" is a bit more lighthearted, but doesn't really make me want to go back to it. In the latter half of "Journey to Akator" there is an extended period of straight source music that goes on a bit too long, and the dissonant action woodwind flutterings in "Secret Doors and Scorpions" and "Ants!" I've heard coming from Williams pen often enough times to not care. In the finale cue "The Departure", we do get a bit more of a grandiose fanfaric sound that is nicely over the top, and in "Finale", Marion's theme gets its most extended appearance on album, while the ensuing end credits offers a suite of the themes, the most unique aspect here being how Mutt's theme is played in counterpoint with the Raiders March. So, regardless of serving the film well enough, I just can't really get into the score to the same degree than the previous three, regardless of the inherent quality of the writing. It's just that Williams' has made complex seem so easy.
So in the end, the Indiana Jones: The Soundtracks Collection is a great release, if somewhat of a flawed one. Yet these flaws essentially are not huge, so this is still a highly satisfying collection of classic film scores. Outside of the rather empty packaging, the little mishaps on the scores, a few pitch issues, and such, should these not bother you, then this is a most recommendable purchase, and just listening to the music is enough for me to almost forget my problems. The fifth bonus disc especially is the best incentive to get the box as the material there is not going to be available separately when the scores get released independently later on. Particularly in the case of Last Crusade, those extra cues really help shape out the score even more than what the single disc can do. Unfortunately the disc is not filled to capacity and 17 minutes are taken by a rather needless interview strip that is gleaned straight out of the DVD extras of the films.
The basic retail price hovers around $50, but at least the early sellings of the box from various outlets like Amazon have been selling it considerably cheaper (I myself payed only £20 for it on Amazon.uk). So for anybody even remotely into film scores or Indiana Jones would be wise to pick this up as the box set is advertised as being a "limited edition" so it won't be around forever. Now, with the cap off the jar, here's hoping for complete editions of the original trilogy down the line (or at least of Temple and Last Crusade). Certainly the sells on the box have already exceeded Concord's expectations.
Raiders of the Lost Ark: *****
(Concord Records CRE-31002-02)
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: *****
(Concord Records CRE-31003-02)
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade: *****
(Concord Records CRE-31004-02)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: ****
(Concord Records CRE-30825-02)
Box set as a whole: ****
(Concord Records CRE-31000-02)
For track lists, see: http://www.soundtrackcollector.com/catalog/soundtrackdetail.php?movieid=85909
© berlioz, 2008
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 In the Jungle
2 The Idol Temple
3 Escape from the Temple
4 Flight From Peru
5 Washington Men/Indy's Home
6 A Thought for Marion/To Nepal
7 The Medallion
8 Flight to Cairo
9 The Basket Game
10 Bad Dates
11 The Map Room: Dawn
12 Reunion in the Tent/Searching for the Well
13 The Well of the Souls
14 Indy Rides the Statue
15 The Fist Fight/The Flying Wing
16 Desert Chase
17 Marion's Theme/The Crate
18 The German Sub
19 Ride to the Nazi Hideout
20 Indy Follows the Ark
21 The Miracle of the Ark
22 Washington Ending & Raiders March
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 Anything Goes
2 Indy Negotiates
3 The Nightclub Brawl
4 Fast Streets of Shanghai
5 Map/Out of Fuel
6 Slalom on Mt. Humol
7 Short Round's Theme
8 The Scroll/To Pankot Palace
9 Nocturnal Activities
10 Bug Tunnel/Death Trap
11 Approaching the Stones
12 Children in Chains
13 The Temple of Doom
14 Short Round Escapes
15 Saving Willie
16 Slave Children's Crusade
17 Short Round Helps
18 The Mine Car Chase
20 The Sword Trick
21 The Broken Bridge/British Relief
22 End Credits
Disc #3 Tracklisting
1 Indy's Very First Adventure
2 The Boat Scene
3 X Marks the Spot
4 Ah, Rats!!!
5 Escape from Venice
6 Journey to Austria
7 Father and Son Reunited
8 The Austrian Way
9 Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra
11 No Ticket
12 Keeping Up With the Joneses
13 Brother of the Cruciform Sword
14 On the Tank
15 Belly of the Steel Beast
16 The Canyon of the Crescent Moon
17 The Penitent Man Will Pass
18 The Keeper of the Grail
19 Finale & End Credits
Disc #4 Tracklisting
1 Raiders March
2 Call of the Crystal
3 The Adventures of Mutt
4 Irina's Theme
5 The Snake Pit
6 The Spell of the Skull
7 The Journey to Akator
8 A Whirl Through Academe
10 The Jungle Chase
11 Orellana's Cradle
12 Grave Robbers
13 Hidden Treasure and the City of Gold
14 Secret Doors and Scorpions
15 Oxley's Dilemma
17 Temple Ruins and the Secret Revealed
18 The Departure
Disc #5 Tracklisting
1 Raiders March
2 Interviews with John Williams, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas
3 Uncovering the Ark
4 Indy and the Villagers
5 The Secret Passage
6 Father's Study
7 Marcus Is Captured/To Berlin
8 To the Blimp
9 The Blimp Turns Around
10 Death of Kazim
11 Wrong Choice, Right Choice
12 Return to the Village/Raiders March