MUSIC REVIEWS: John Williams Soundtracks-Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade


Through four movies, a host of real dangers as tricky and perilous as the supernatural ones, learning history while Harrison Ford smiles that slightly skewed grin, being introduced to a whole bunch of unforgettable ancillary characters, The Indiana Jones movies have thrilled, chilled and entertained and through the hair raising visuals and 40’s Saturday morning serial like traps, John Williams has provided the music.

Raiders of the Lost Ark Soundtrack
(Concord Records)

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On the Raiders of the Lost Ark CD (the first movie in the Indiana Jones series) Williams introduces us early on to his pallet of possibilities in the opening sequence: there’s some spooky, ‘rattling bones’-like percussion in the opening track “In The Jungle,” rat-scurrying type sounds on “The Idol Temple” and the big horn-filled “Escape From The Temple.” One of the most recognizable themes in the Indiana canon (maybe in all of modern movie-dom), gets its first airing on “Washington Men/Indy’s Home,” the lush “Flight To Cairo” introduces some middle-eastern flavor and in “Basket Case” those recognizable recurring themes come through again. “The Fist Flight/The Flying Wing” has great daring-do-do big sweeps and “Marion’s Theme/The Crate” a superb lead flute.

At the time of “Raiders” release big adventurous movie music had been out of flavor and I believe with this first Indiana Jones soundtrack Williams really created the genre anew.

Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom
(Concord Records)

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The music for Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom is quite unlike that of its predecessor. The music on this CD is very interesting indeed, there’s a great use of bells, slicing strings (I thought of Bernard Herrmann a lot) chanting on the track “The Temple of Doom” and even an actual Asian-flavored vocal on the opener, an inventive cover of “Anything Goes.” Along the way, we get Williams’ usual sweeping strings, that familiar Indy theme, some break-neck moving in “Slalom On Mt. Humol” and the romantic light “Nocturnal Activities.” “The Scroll/To Pankot Palace” is really a high point here, a true piece of modern classical music. I have heard it argued that modern movie music is our modern-day classical music, and with this track, I think the argument could really be made for that claim.

It’s interesting to note here that although all three of these latest releases (keep your pants on, I’m getting to the last one!) have unreleased songs on them, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom has the most.

Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade
(Concord Records)

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Williams had a lot of ground to cover on Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade. As you might recall, we meet Indy’s dad in this third installment of the series, played by Sean Connery and a young Indy, played by the dearly departed River Phoenix in the opening scene. This start of the film, “Indy’s Very First Adventure” has some typical ominous Williams’ stuff and “X Marks the Spot” is another fine classical piece. I like best when I can hang my hat on those familiar Indy themes, which come in during “Scherzo For Motorcycle and Orchestra.” “Ah Rats!” employs the ol’ Williams’ trademark trick of plucking ‘scurrying’ strings (by this point in the three CD’s we’ve heard this representational sound effect used quite often) and for the first time in any of these movie soundtracks, things get downright “Disney”-fied on “Brother of the Cruciform Sword” and “Belly of the Steel Beast.” But just when I was losing hope in this soundtrack, Williams bounces back with great ending pieces like “The Canyon Of The Crescent Moon,” “The Penitent Man Will pass” and “The Keeper Of The Grail.”

With movie soundtracks, I think it’s damn hard, near impossible, to separate the tracks from the visual, even if you don’t remember the movie perfectly. I tried to listen to these CD’s for what they were, only consulting the track titles when I had to note their names, so as not to be influenced by a rush of remembered visuals. Given this, I’d dare say John Williams’ music for the Indy films, as with everything he does, is first-rate and indeed is modern-day classical. I’d rate these fantastic CD’s (each one has a great booklet as well) Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom the best of these three with Raiders of the Lost Arc next and lastly Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Now, back to where we last left our hero…

Ralph Greco, Jr.

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