October 28, 2019
Perhaps no president will be faced with the sort of action hero needs of Harrison Ford’s in Air Force One (1997). Wolfgang Petersen’s (Das Boot, The Perfect Storm) was intended to cap the summer blockbuster season with its tale of Communists overtaking and hijacking the President’s plane with Glenn Close playing a Vice President tasked with determining whether or not to negotiate to save the important hostages. Originally, the film had Randy Newman (!) set to provide a score for the film, but he was the first to get off the plane when his music was rejected. And in classic Hollywood fashion, with 12 days at his disposal, Jerry Goldsmith was brought in to provide a new score. The tight schedule meant that even the master had need of an additional composer for help and he asked Joel McNeely to write music for several sequences using themes Goldsmith had prepared for the film. The resulting score was recorded over three weeks with both composers often working nights to add additional music or changes to existing cues. When Varese released music from the film, they were in the midst of addressing growing frustration with their playing time for CDS, most barely hitting the 30-minute mark. With a new Goldsmith score, this often made fans apoplectic with frustration and even doubly so under the circumstances of this particular project. So, it is with some fanfare that Varese now corrects this with a more complete edition of the score with its broad, engaging theme and high-octane action music.
The score is spread across two discs and items are clearly marked to delineate the music that was on the original soundtrack release (though in some cases, these 8 tracks are now not edited together and receive new titles). Goldsmith’s primary action cue kicks things off right from the start in “The Parachutes” with its blend of his finest martial and patriotic styles. The counter to this is the Russian music that appears in the following “Parachute Attack”. From here we are on our way through a host of thematic variants that require a constant build of tension in the enclosed space of an airplane. Of course, this builds very early on in the superb action cue, “The Hijacking, Part One & Two”. (It is worth noting that there are two versions of this sequence. The initial one on disc one is the one heard on the OST. The other on disc two is the film version which incorporates some of McNeely’s work as well.) This moment is certainly one of the highlights of the score and a mark how Goldsmith works to build tension by shifting orchestral colors, adding different ostinatos, and moving things constantly forward. That this happens early in the film is what will make the rest of this score an even more fascinating listen as Goldsmith then must regroup and begin the larger arch of building up the sequences that move us to the even bigger denouement of the film. Along the way, there are moments of relaxation but the slightest hint of either the President’s or the Russian music makes the journey all the more interesting.
About 20 minutes or so of “extras” pad out disc two. The general score presentation focuses on presenting mostly Goldsmith’s music with the cues McNeely contributed clearly marked. The extras are film and alternate takes that allow some comparison to how some cues changed. The notes for the album mostly review the different tracks and the score and a plot overview of the film. Fans of Goldsmith will certainly hear many familiar tropes here from so many of the master’s earlier work brought in to help bolster an engaging theme that still makes one want to stand a salute. The two-disc release is available with a 4000 copy run.
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