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Greatest Hits (1969-1999) – John Williams

June 10, 2007

Watching a Hollywood movie as a kid, meant one thing for me. As the lights dimmed and the theater went dark, and the credits flashed on screen, it was the credits, that had me hooked. The background music, just would take me into another world. Whether it was the Bond theme or The Good The Bad The Ugly’s haunting score or the opening credits of Where Eagles Dare , somehow I had that adrenaline rushing whenever I heard that background score. And from then onwards I had this fascination for Hollywood movie Background scores, so much that people around me, thought that I was a bit loony. Actually they were wrong, I was fully loony.

Anyway that’s a separate topic altogether. This post is on one of my favorite Hollywood music composer, John Williams, the man who gave those memorable scores for Jaws, ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Star Wars, Superman, Saving Private Ryan to name a few. He is a favorite of Steven Spielberg and its no wonder that most of Spielberg’s movies have music by him. And he also scored for Oliver Stone’s movies like Born on the 4th of July. This album which contains most of William’s scores from 1969-99, is quite Spielberg-Lucas centric, majority of the tracks are from their movies. Which is the only thing I found disappointing, because he gave some memorable scores for non Spielberg movies also. If you still do want to listen to more of his scores, I suggest you pick up the album “John Williams-40 years”.

Heros and Superheroes

Superman, Man of Steel, a larger than life hero, and John Williams , comes up with the perfect score. Starting off with a long trumpet blare, the tempo picks up slowly, the trumpet sound hits a high pitch, and then goes into full crescendo, with trumpets blaring and cymbals clashing. A truly larger than life score for a super hero. Its another matter, that the series, did not really do justice to Superman.

Indiana Jones , the man with a hat, a stubble, a whip. Some one whom I always wanted to be, but could never be. Be it dodging boulders, or staying alive in a snake pit, or fighting goons in Cairo, Indy was always the ultimate adventure hero for me. And what better tribute than the Raiders March , this again has a thunderous trumpet score like Superman, and the tempo wonderfully fits in with Indy’s daredevil nature.

World War II

From superheroes and raiders, to real heroes , Hymn to the Fallen , from Saving Private Ryan, just touches you deeply, as it reminds you of the sacrifices made by the soldiers. Starting off with a typical military beat, it goes into a slow, melancholy tone, and at the end of it, you find yourself totally moved.

Schindlers List a totally dark and depressing movie about the Holocaust. And in keeping with the mood of the movie, the music itself is very slow, very melancholy. And that’s what made Williams a great composer, he was as comfortable with the larger than life mood of an Indy Jones and Superman, as he was with the gloomy mood of a Schindler’s List.

Once upon a Galaxy

Even if your not much of a Star Wars fanatic like me, you surely would have never missed the background score for Star Wars- A New Hope . A fascinating score, which has been copied everywhere by TV channels, movies. Again starting off with a high trumpet sound, this goes into a full scale orchestral sound. Perfectly fitting into the movie’s theme of inter galactic warfare, this score does take you into outer space for a while. The Imperial March of Darth Vader’s Army in The Empire Strikes Back , is another great score, having that typical military beat. Again this score seems somewhat similar to that in Ben Hur, where the Roman Army marches in Judea.

Of Sharks and Dinosaurs

When Jaws was first released in 1975, it simply scared the audiences in theaters. And one big factor, was John Williams music. Using an alternate note motif, the track slowly picks up to one big crescendo, and when you actually watch it on big screen, you are simply scared out of your wits. And when 19 years later, Spielberg decided to again scare the audiences with dinosaurs in Jurrasic Park , it was the inimitable Williams who came up with another great score, especially in the opening scene, where the helicopter lands against the waterfall backdrop.

Kids with Aliens

In 1981, an alien named ET charmed a young boy called Eliot on screen, as well as millions of audiences worldwide, and again a wonderful charming score by John Williams . This album contains the score of the famous scene where ET flies along with Eliot .

Real to Reel

JFK a movie that tries to discover the truth behind his assassination. The score is more of a funeral dirge, one used when Presidents are buried.

Born on the 4th of July , is about a real life Vietnam veteran, who becomes an anti war protestor later. The movie starts off with his childhood in mid western America, and the music perfectly captures the languid pace of that area.

Apart from the movie scores, the album has the Olympic Theme for the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and Summon the Heroes , which was the theme for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics . So if you love some good music scores, go get yourself this album.

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