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Jaws - Soundtrack

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Genre: Soundtrack / Artist: Various / Soundtrack / Audio CD released 2000-07-24 at Universal Classics

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      27.10.2006 23:06
      Very helpful



      The John Williams Golden Age Spectacular Edition One

      What you behold here is the first edition in a little series I have devised to chart out the most important film scores from composer John Williams’ Golden Age of scoring, ranging from the mid-1970s to the mid-1980s and identified by the abreviation WGA. There will be some rarities included among the more easily obtainable releases (which I shall clearly note whenever appropriate), but in the interest of completism are a natural (and at times REALLY important) part of Williams’ accomplishments and should be included. Among the ones not to be found include among others The Fury (so rare that even I don’t have it), Dracula, 1941, Jaws 2 and Monsignor, not due to any reason of them being particularly bad, but I just don’t feel they are as important (or simply I don’t have them!). It may well be that at the end of my planned nine reviews you will start to be weary of the name John Williams, but I think that consideration you will just have to contemplate all by your self in your minds. Likewise, if anybody gets so excited that they become a Williams fanatic, I wave all responsibility of loss of money or extreme fanboyism that it may excite to the individual in question. Hopfully you’ll find this interesting... or not. But all reads are welcomed anyway!

      Has there ever been a simpler utterance in film music that instantly evokes a specific association in people’s minds than the main theme from Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. Apart from Bernard Herrmann’s stabbing chords in the shower scene of Psycho, John Williams’ two-note theme for the shark is one of the most instantly recognizable motifs ever created for the cinema. In fact, so engraved are those two chords in our minds today that it is hard to believe that Spielberg’s initial reaction was one of disbelief; ”You’re kidding, right?” was Spielberg’s comment when Williams initially played it to him on the piano. Of course, this is understandable, since Spielberg was expecting something grand and exciting to bring his early shark movie (and shark) to life.

      Jaws is infamous for its technical difficulties with the shark that really worked for only 10% of the time. Being still an up and coming director with only Sugarland Express in theatrical distribution, Jaws could very well have sunk his career. Therefore Spielberg worked his way around the technical problems by only showing glimpses of the shark and counted on the music to carry much of the scares. John Williams on the other hand was already a well-known composer of disaster films like The Poseidon Adventure, Earthquake, and his ultimate masterpiece, The Towering Inferno and he had also received an Academy Award for his adaptation of 1971’s Fiddler on the Roof. His long-standing collaboration with Spielberg, that is still alive and well, had begun as early as with Sugarland Express in 1974 and Jaws would mark only their second collaboration.

      Jaws was composed before the time Williams’ Star Wars began the renaissance of orchestral film scoring and sealed his reputation as a really great composer. Therefore, whereas Star Wars was a fantastic mixture of action, adventure and complex thematic brilliance on an epic scale, Jaws is much more introverted, jagged, modernist and thematically less enjoyable. The score is dominated by the two-note shark motif that usually begins slowly and gets more excited as the blood pressure of the shark rises in excitement. Although very simple, it is a perfect representation of the shark that works wonders with the pictures (funnily it does bear an incredible similarity with the opening notes for the finale of Dvorak’s New World Symphony in both structure and usage). Since the shark is mostly unseen for the greater part of the film, the motif works as a kind of means of mental visualisation. When the motif isn't heard, then the shark is nowhere to be found and nowhere is this more evident than in the ”false alarm” scene when the two small boys scare the people on the shore with a cardboard fin. There is no music in this scene and it immediately signals to us that something’s not right here.

      Of course there is much more to this score than just the shark motif. The town of Amity is personified by a cozy little tune filled with early Williams Americana that appears most notably in the cue ”Montage,” where it is accompanied by trumpet and harpsichord. There is also a jolly little shanty for the Orca, the shark hunters’ boat, represented in the chase sequences of ”Out to Sea,” ”Man Against Beast,” ”The Great Shark Chase” and a few other cues (incidentally the underlying rhythm would resurface on many future Williams scores as well). There is a sort of rolling sense of sport and entertainment to these scenes that gets more desperate as the shark attacks the Orca in ”Three Barrels Down” and ”The Shark Approaches” before being defeated in ”Blown to Bits.” These action cues really give Jaws a more adventurous edge that is otherwise missing from the score. In fact, when it comes to ”enjoyable” music, Jaws is not one of those scores that will supply it in quantity. The score as such works extremely well in the film (it is one of the best fits of music and pictures I know), but it is not quite so on it’s own. That is unless you enjoy hearing the shark motif repeated over and over again for about 40 minutes. This really makes Jaws a score more easy to appreciate than to enjoy.

      There are three albums available of the score. The first is the original 1975 LP and 1992 CD, containing roughly 30 minutes of music. The catch: this is actually a re-recording Williams made specifically for the album release. In essence this album contains all the basic material from the film in concert form, but the downside of this release is the poor sound quality that was inherent in the recording conditions of the 1970’s. For many years, however, this was the only way to hear the music outside of the film. Coinciding with Jaws’ 25 Anniversary celebration in 2000, Varèse Sarabande announced that Joel McNeely was going to conduct a re-recording of the complete Jaws score of 51 minutes with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. This announcement caused a sudden hastening of Universal’s project of releasing the complete original score recorded in 1975 for the actual film, not the re-recordings made for the LP. This of course was a little slap in the face of Varèse, who now had a great re-recording that had to compete against the original music that is really the only way for purists like me to listen to the score.

      So which should you choose? Well, both have their attributes. For puritan film score fans there is really no other way than the original score from Decca which features remastered sound by Shawn Murphy and has the complete 51 minutes of music composed and recorded for the film. The sound quality is not the best possible since the recording was made with analogue equipment in somewhat dismal conditions, so there is little expansion in sound. However this does accentuate the more intimate horror scenes, really making this score more powerful than in a modern recording, while the full-blown adventure themes suffer a little at the same time. Also, due to Williams’ desire to make the album better as a listening experience, he has opted to piece cues together or shift their places, so some tracks are not in film order, which can irritate some. The Varèse re-recording on the other hand has superb modern digital sound, which loses some of the more intense horror by having a more vibrant sound quality. Also, as a re-recording there are some minor faults in tempo and instrument detail that can irritate some people, especially if you happen to be very familiar with the music in the film. But if these usual re-recording gripes don’t bother you, then the Varèse version will proof to be a very good alternative to the original score. Therefore I’d say your best bet would be to get the 2000 Decca version, with the Varèse re-recording only if you are not familiar with the score in the film; the original album is best thrown into the trash bin.

      Jaws is a score for the connosseur rather than a casual listener. As a Classic it gets an automatic five star rating, but on it’s own merits as a listening experience it really is worth only four stars. John Williams went on to win the Academy Award for this score (his first original score Oscar) and well did it deserve it for its functionality in the film is so perfect. Even Spielberg maintains that half the success of Jaws can be attributed to the music. What ever your musical inclinations are, this is a classic score that will forever remain as one of the most instantly recognizable scores and an early example of John Williams’ mastery. For collectors a must have; for casual fans depends on taste. Available from Amazon for £13 or wherever else you can find it.


      Original 1975/1992 album
      1. Main Title (Theme from Jaws) (2:18)
      2. Chrissie’s Death (1:39)
      3. Promenade (Tourists on the Menu) (2:46)
      4. Out to Sea (2:26)
      5. The Indianapolis Story (2:23)
      6. Sea Attack Number One (5:23)
      7. One Barrel Chase (3:04)
      8. Preparing the Cage (3:23)
      9. Night Search (3:29)
      10. The Underwater Siege (3:31)
      11. Hand to Hand Combat (2:32)
      12. End Title (Theme from Jaws) (2:18)

      2000 Decca Records Collector’s Edition
      1. Main Title and First Victim** (3:30)
      2. The Empty Raft* (1:23)
      3. The Pier Incident* (2:22)
      4. The Shark Cage Fugue (2:00)
      5. Shark Attack*+ (1:18)
      6. Ben Gardner’s Boat (3:31)
      7. Montage (1:31)
      8. Father and Son*+ (3:43)
      9. Into the Estuary* (2:51)
      10. Out to Sea (2:58)
      11. Man Against Beast (5:34)
      12. Quint’s Tale (2:41)
      13. Brody Panics* (1:10)
      14. Barrel Off Starboard* (1:31)
      15. The Great Shark Chase**+ (2:38)
      16. Three Barrels Under*+ (2:06)
      17. Between Attacks*+ (2:06)
      18. The Shark Approaches** (2:41)
      19. Blown to Bits (3:03)
      20. End Titles (1:52)

      * Previously unreleased
      ** Includes unreleased music
      *+ includes music not used in the film

      Produced by John Williams / Laurent Bouzereau
      Music Composed and Conducted by John Williams
      Orchestrated by Herbert Spencer
      Music Scoring Engineer: Ted Keep
      Collector’s Edition Engineered by Shawn Murphy
      Recorded at 20th Century Fox Studios
      1975 / MCA, 1992 (MCAD-1660)
      Decca, 2000 (289 467 045-2)

      2000 Varèse Sarabande re-recording
      1. Main Title (1:06)
      2. The First Victim (1:43)
      3. The Empty Raft (1:15)
      4. The Pier Incident (2:19)
      5. Father and Son (2:19)
      6. The Alimentary Canal (2:02)
      7. Ben Gardner’s Boat (3:21)
      8. Montage (1:31)
      9. A Tug on the Line (2:12)
      10. Into the Estuary (2:49)
      11. Out to Sea (0:56)
      12. Man Against Beast (5:15)
      13. Quint’s Tale (2:30)
      14. Brody Panics (1:16)
      15. Barrel Off Starboard (1:38)
      16. The Great Chase (3:02)
      17. Three Barrels Under (2:05)
      18. From Bad to Worse (0:53)
      19. Quint Thinks It Over (1:08)
      20. The Shark Cage Fugue (2:00)
      21. The Shark Approaches (0:42)
      22. The Shark Hits the Cage (1:45)
      23. Quint Meets His End (1:08)
      24. Blown to Bits (3:11)
      25. End Title (1:56)

      Produced by Robert Townson
      Performed by The Royal Scottish National Orchestra
      Conducted by Joel McNeely
      Varèse Sarabande, 2000 (302 066 078-2)

      © berlioz, 2005, 2006


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    • Product Details

      Disc #1 Tracklisting
      1 Main Title and First Victim
      2 The Empty Raft
      3 The Pier Incident
      4 The Shark Cage Fugue
      5 Shark Attack
      6 Ben Gardner's Boat
      7 Montage
      8 Father and Son
      9 Into The Estuary
      10 Out To Sea
      11 Man Against Beast
      12 Quint's Tale
      13 Brody Panics
      14 Barrel Off Starboard
      15 The Great Shark Chase
      16 Three Barrels Under
      17 Between Attacks
      18 The Shark Approaches
      19 Blown To Bits
      20 End Titles

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