Great balls of fire! The Towering Inferno (1974) was the biggest success of the Master of Disaster, Irwin Allen, and his last collaboration with the world's most famous film composer, John Williams. Williams had written TV themes and scores for Lost in Space, The Time Tunnel and Land of the Giants, as well as the score for The Poseidon Adventure (1972). The Towering Inferno was both the summa of his work for Allen and a large-scale lead-in for his legendary run on 1970s and early '80s blockbusters for Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Williams has always had a talent for opening themes and The Towering Inferno features one of his best: the bustling, five-minute "Main Title" accompanies a helicopter flight over San Francisco in soaring, heroic fashion. From there the score encompasses distinct romantic themes—presented symphonically as well as in the "light pop" style of the period—and a wide variety of suspense, chaos and action music as the characters struggle valiantly to stay alive.
Varese's original soundtrack to Psycho finds Joel McNeely conducting the Royal Scottish National Orchestra through Bernard Herrmann's classic original score. This album is the first time the entire score has been recorded for an album and its remarkable how eerie and evocative the music is, even when its separated from the film. Psycho stands as one of Herrmann's finest moments, and even if many collectors and film buffs would prefer the original soundtrack recording, this version is essential for fans of the composer, since it is the clearest, cleanest edition of score yet produced.
The least popular of Alfred Hitchcock's late-'50s thrillers – perhaps because it is really a comedy – The Trouble with Harry also has the least well-known of the scores that Bernard Herrmann wrote for Hitchcock's movies. All of that is a shame, because – in keeping with the comedic nature of the movie – Herrmann assumed a lighthearted and upbeat, ironic mask that led to some of the most gorgeous and hauntingly beautiful music of his career; the composer himself clearly felt a fondness for it, as he revived it in 1968 as the basis for his "A Portrait of Hitch." The reed and horn passages are playful and ironic, and the signature string part, bridging the small-town innocence of the movie's setting, is one of the finest things that Herrmann conceived. It all makes for delightful listening, and is some of the best programmatic music to come out of Hollywood in the 1950s. The performance by Joel McNeely and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra is of excellent quality, capturing the finest nuances of the score, and the recording does it full justice.
Citizen Kane: The Classic Film Scores of Bernard Herrmann is probably the best of the entire series by conductor Charles Gerhardt and the National Philharmonic Orchestra. Every track is worthwhile and memorably played, especially Beneath the 12-Mile Reef and the suite from Citizen Kane, the latter highlighted by Kiri Te Kanawa's performance of the Strauss-like aria from Salammbo.
A superbly atmospheric John Barry score effectively conveyed the mood of swinging London for this 1965 film by Richard Lester. Usually playing around with variations of the haunting main theme, Barry used vivacious horns, melancholic strings, and above all a groovy jazz organ (played by Alan Haven). A couple of the tracks don't work well in isolation: the vaudevillian "Something's Up!," and the vocal version of the main theme (not used in the film) by mediocre singer Johnny De Little. But overall, it's got a consistently captivating groove, rating as one of Barry's best scores.