Sunday, 8 April 2012

Film And Television Themes - Bruce Smeaton (1987)

I hadn't heard anything about Bruce Smeaton when I picked up this album at the Salvos with a bunch of other Australian soundtrack LPs. But this combination of movie and television soundtrack pieces is actually a very nice set from an interesting and talented composer. As seems to be the case for anyone who wants to do this sort of work in Australia, Smeaton has an eclectic resume. My favourites from this LP tend to be tracks that are clearly written in an established genre, but which Smeaton has added an extra, idiosyncratic edge. '1915' for example, a track from an ABC miniseries about ANZACS in the first world war, is played as an old-style military march - but Smeaton uses chord progressions and arrangements which give it far more emotional depth than its source material ever really achieves. On the film soundtrack excerpt 'Eleni I And II', Smeaton attempts to evoke the film's setting of Greece with the use of soprano sax, accordion and strings in the first movement and in the second, a 7/8 motif that starts out quite starkly but then is joined by the full orchestra and turns into something incredibly compelling. This second movement sounds quite unique due to Smeaton's use of the Akai EWI - an electronic wind instrument which he also uses to great effect on the track 'Iceman' - which produces a synth sound that could easily sound dated, but in this context blends nicely with the other instruments to create a very distinct sound. The liner notes on the back describe the theme from 'The Great McCarthy' as 'a cross between early ragtime and Nino Rota' which sounded pretty bloody appealing to me - and the liner notes were spot on. Once again this track sees Smeaton taking a familiar style but giving it a fresh approach and creating something truly interesting. Although some tracks on this LP are a little more pedestrian than the favourites I've mentioned (the less said about the soprano sax-laden, cheesy, eighties rom-com theme to 'Roxanne' the better) this is a predominantly enjoyable album of some very well composed and produced soundtrack material.

Label: ABC Records
Released: 1988
Players: All pieces played by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bruce Smeaton.

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