Review: Rookie Of The Year (1993)/A Night In The Life Of Jimmy Reardon (1988)/Bushwhacked (1995)

Composer: Bill Conti

Label: Varese Sarabande (compilation) 

Catalogue Nr.: VCL 0306 1047

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Varese Sarabande Records continues its Bill Conti renaissance after 2005 saw the release of the composer's highly sought-after scores for the James L. Brooks comedy Broadcast News (1987) as well as a double-header with the urban romanticism Slow Dancing In The Big City (1978) and the Sylvester Stallone social drama F.I.S.T. (1978) as a part of the label's Club CD series. For their latest addition to the ongoing Conti-feast in early 2006, they unearthed not one, not two but three very different scores - all of which have been previously unreleased in any form. Every one of these three very different films is an oddball in its own right with the youth-sports comedy Rookie Of The Year (1993) being the only title in the bunch that might ring a bell for some readers. The romantic River Phoenix vehicle A Night In The Life Of Jimmy Readon (1988), which came shortly before his role as young Indy, or the forgettable Daniel Stern slapstick comedy Bushwhacked (1995) are entirely obscure these days. Needless to say that I haven't seen one of these films, so for this review I will have to thread this unusal release like a compilation.

The score:

Rookie Of The Year (1993):

The most widely known of these three films also carries the most sought-after Conti score of the bunch. A fan-favourite was his music for this little baseball comedy ever since the release of the film and now the long wait for a release is over. Mixed, edited and assembled by Míchael Matessino, our beloved film music Don Juan, the score is presented here for the first time on CD and, as it seems, in its complete form. The main theme of the score comes as a march that is utterly charming, catchy but at the same time captures the spirit that comes with the baseball mythology. Despite the architectural similarities to Conti's other infectious scores and themes for sports-related films such as Escape To Victory (1981) or The Coolangatta Gold (1984), his material for Rookie Of The Year is bearing a light-hearted side with playful Mozart-esque tones cropping up in between the big larger-than life Americana fanfares in the "Main Title March". Conti trademarks are especially presented in the virtuous use of the string section as heard in "A Great Summer" which also contains a noteworthy solo trumpet performance of the main theme.

"Mound Advice" is another cue that captures the spirit of the game with a secondary victorious larger-than-life theme developed out of the main theme. This secondary theme is furthermore used as the main theme's build-up, most prominently during the winning-finale in "Float It!". "Henry's Got A Plan" is a tension march with big band fanfares ala Rocky (1975). Although the playfully victorious tone represents the lions share of the 26 minutes of score from Rookie Of The Year, there are some stylistic breaks, most notably the typical comedy mickey-mousing with pizzicato strings from "Miracle Throw", the beautiful country guitar-woodwinds-piano music from "The River" or the sad solo piano in "Jack's Big Mistake". All in all, this score surely serves many clichés but in such a charming, exciting and largely entertaining way easily makes it one of the best of Conti's many efforts for the sports movie genre.

RATING: 88%

 

A Night In The Life Of Jimmy Reardon (1988):

Where the previous Conti score blasts off with fanfares and cheerful tunes, his work for this early River Phoenix vehicle (which also stars a young Matthew Perry in a supporting role) is somewhat controversial due to a heavy 80's synth-pop touch and rather cheesy melodies to meet with the film's teeny audience. Furthermore of note is that Conti apparently was not the only composer who ended up with a music credit for this one because the non-us version received a different musical approach from legendary Elmer Bernstein who also wrote an original song "I'm Not Afraid To Say Goodbye". The liner notes surprisingly avoid to clarify these circumstances and lack of further details about the score. A large part of the music, including its cheesy main theme, consists of synthesizer acrobatics that recap some of Conti's other synth-ladden 80's work such as Gotcha! (1985) in cues like "Reality" with its short e-guitar accompaniment, "Hawaiian Dreams" with its artificial pan flute, "The Flood" with its hip slap bass and synth drum beat, the sneaky "Jimmy's Theories" or "Atmosphere" which was most likely temp-tracked with Alan Silvestri's music for Romancing The Stone (1984).

Conti did his best to keep these portions varied and musically interesting. However, there is some classically oriented, lush and warm string writing that creates the necessary romanticism of the story and these cues such as "Go Around Back" and "Heredity" as well as some passages in between the synth cues are much more of note. It is obvious that the score's creation must have been troubled but the result is decent enough to be enjoyable at least on CD especially due to the appropriate running time of only 24 minutes. After all, this synth-pop music is one more side of Bill Conti's varied style that is generally underrepresented on CD.

        RATING: 64%

 

Bushwhacked (1995):

This one basically only serves as an evidence that Conti's assignments just became more and more weird during the 90's. When listening to the music for Bushwhacked (1995) one gets the feeling that Conti was either forced to copy a temp-track which included his own music or that he simply thought 'why bother?'. The two Conti scores that are quoted the most here are Masters Of The Universe (1987) and Yellowstone (1994). While it is certainly fun to hear all these obvious references to his earlier adventure work, Conti does not win any creativity awards with this copy and paste effort. It all starts quite innocent with a fun mixture of his trademark big band brass and country music as the main theme in "Whacked!" before the self-plagiarism begins with a short quote of Skeletor's theme from Master's Of The Universe (1987) in "Fire" followed by the main theme. Okay, no big deal if this would be the only reference. "The New Girl" actually continues quite nice with some fun mickey-mousing for woodwinds, horns and strings with some harmonica thrown in but "Max Meets Kids" carries a quote of his majestic music for the documentary Yellowstone (1994).

"Devil's Peak" strikes with a sudden outburst of hard rock for e-guitars before "The Swat Team" continues with a brief outburst of Yellowstone-majestic as well as a slowed and scaled down rendition of "Quiet Escape" from... you guess it... Masters Of The Universe (1987). Things continue that way with "Danger" featuring the exact same fanfare from "Kevin's Plight / After Them" from... I am tired to name it again! Luckily, "The Hike" finally brings a refreshing fanfare and "Mad Max" offers a nice mixture of suspense and mickey-mousing that continues into "Palmered" but it is really nothing outstanding. Another mixture of Yellowstone (1994) and Masters of the Universe (1987) opens "Our Leader" which is closing with the refreshing fanfare from "The Hike". A shameless re-arrangement of the main theme from Masters Of The Universe (1987) closes the score in "Big Finish" and literally blows the bottom of the self-plagiarism-barrel. Granted, rule number one in film scoring is to take a good thematic structure and develop the most out of it for various occasions but Conti really perverted this rule on Bushwhacked (1995). If you think about it, this copy and paste job was actually the most fitting reply that Conti could give to a movie like this, so if you listen to this oddity of a score you should take it with the necessary humour. Believe me, you will need a whole lot of humour to actually sit through.

        RATING: 53%

 

The presentation:

The amount of work, research, licencing and logistics that went into the production of this CD must have been a true nightmare. Different sound mixes and a slightly noticeable variation in sound quality are the unavoidable by-product when several scores from various sources come together on one CD and the various people involved did a really good job on the mix. Only the lack of effort when it comes to the liner notes is a bit of a travesty. Neither the involvement of Elmer Bernstein on A Night In The Life Of Jimmy Reardon (1988) nor the self-plagiarism that is Bushwhacked (1995) received a more detailed investigation that could have solved the mysteries where necessary. Instead, we get some entertaining, albeit hollow and partly unrelated comments from Bill Conti who was very busy with preparing for the Oscar show by the time the interview was made and obviously had other things in mind than educating fans about some of his most embarrassing assignments. The release is limited to only 1500 copies and is likely to disappear soon.

Presentation by the Label: 81%

 

Summary:

This triple-header with over 70 minutes of music can be summed up as Bill Conti overkill. Rookie Of The Year (1993) is basically the strongest selling point of the album while the other two only serve the Bill Conti collector. It comes down to you, my dear reader, if you want to sacrifice your money for 26 minutes of great scoring only to get two turkeys. Bill Conti fans won't ask this question because they have already ordered this CD but the ordinary score fan might want to think twice, especially when he is terribly bothered by 80's pop that comes with A Night In The Life Of Jimmy Reardon (1988) or shameless self-plagiarism as in Bushwhacked (1995).

Review by Andreas Creutzburg

 

                   Tracklisting:

01. Main Title March (06:19)
02. Miracle Throw (02:10)
03. The River (02:07)
04. A Great Summer (04:11)
05. Mound Advice (02:48)
06. Jack's Big Mistake (01:30)
07. Henry's Got A Plan (02:44)
08. Float It! (03:58)
09. Desperation (01:18)
10. Reality (01:16)
11. Go Around Back (03:22)
12. Hawaiian Dreams (02:37)
13. The Flood (02:54)
14. The Note (01:57)
15. Jimmy's Theories (02:39)
16. I Want It Now (01:15)
17. Atmosphere (02:12)
18. The Bad "L" (00:45)
19. Heredity (03:33)
20. Whacked! (01:48)
21. The Fire (02:44)
22. The New Girl (01:27)
23. Max Meets Kids (01:48)
24. Devil's Peak (01:05)
25. The Swat Team (02:18)
26. Danger! (02:22)
27. The Hike (01:11)
28. Mad Max (01:39)
29. Palmered (01:11)
30. Our Leader (03:14)
31. Big Finish (04:17)

 

 

 

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