John Barry

John Barry

John Barry

The Chase – Soundtrack

Columbia Masterworks

It’s 1966, and it’s hip to be cool. Or cool to be hip. It was a long time ago, and that sort of thing fuzzes out in my brain. Back then, movies still came from a studio system on the verge of collapse, and they had real soundtracks. Music was composed to go along with the action, lead characters had theme songs, and it was all part of the package, from the posters in the lobby to the gossip magazines carefully dancing around the real stories behind who was sleeping with whom.

Columbia and Sony have vaults full of these films, and the soundtracks are now dribbling out, re-mastered and cleaned up. Honesty, I don’t remember seeing this Brando/Redford/Fonda chiller, but listening to the music brings up an ominous world of threat and intrigue. Set in the south, it portrays a cynical view of life and values, or so say the liner notes. The movie basically died on release — the critics hated it, and the public concurred. What remains is this interesting backup music by the famed John Barry.

Barry earned his place in Hollywood doing some of the early Bond soundtracks, and carries on his skills with this odd combination of jazzy New York nightclub style interpreting the extant view of Texas during those days. That view varies little from the Gene Autry serials: Mexican cantinas filled with gun slinging cow hands, rich oil men’s daughters getting into fixes and white trash helping to mix it up any way possible.

How does all this sound, aurally? By today’s standards, incredibly classy and luxuriant. On “You Call That Dancing,” organs and saxophones build a dance floor with a tired chanteuse waltzing with the barkeep. That tone continues through the entire album, through “Look Around” and even the ominous “The Beating.” We never pick up a sense of urgency, which might go with the title, but seem trapped in a smoky world of tired sophisticates, fighting boredom with alcohol.

Useful as background music, this disc can quickly set a 1960s theme in the background as you sip Martinis and think whether it’s worth the trouble to smoke real cigs. I tried listening to this on a long car trip, and frankly, it didn’t help. Not till I found a cheap road house, and told the bartender “make that a double.”

Legacy Recordings: www.legacyrecordings.com

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