Intrada Records – 2015
Music by John Williams
I have to tell you I feel the gravity of writing a review on what is not only one of the greatest film scores of all-time, but one of my personal favorites. I’ve skipped writing most reviews lately because of my focus on directing movies, but I can’t let this one go by without diving into its greatness.
Is there anything more horrifying than the two notes of “Jaws – Main Title”? Anything more iconic or recognizable? I don’t think so. The way John Williams uses them, almost quietly circling around you, is not only is like a shark’s movement in the water, but there is something so deeply terrifying about the way they make you feel. I’m proud to admit they still give me goosebumps. The rest of the orchestration that builds into a frenzy, is just perfect at conveying musically what it must feel like to be attacked by a large Great White Shark.
CD 1 – Running over 70 minutes, this is the best and most complete Soundtrack of the music from Jaws ever released. It’s staggering to listen to the tender loving care put into the new state-of-the-art mixes using the original session tapes from Universal Studios. This effort affords the legendary score to be presented in genuine stereo, in clarity and dynamic range like never before. Intrada Records have outdone themselves giving cinema music fans a loving gift to treasure forever. This first disc even includes 15 minutes and 15 seconds of Extras, which amount to alternate mixes of tracks and pieces not used in the movie.
John Williams composes “The First Victim” beautifully. At first he scores it with almost magical touch when notes float in the big-wide ocean. Then the two notes from “Main Theme” come in more harshly than before to represent the shark swimming up from under “Chrissie.” Then all orchestral hell breaks loose when the beast attacks pulling her under, up against the buoy and finally down into the darks depths below.
“Remains on the Beach” has a grimness underscored by the harp notes fluttering over the rest of the orchestra.
The way Williams uses the “Main Theme” notes, changing their tempo, dramatically increases tension within “The Empty Raft (Extended Edition).”
I love the way “The Pier Incident” is constructed. It begins innocent and not threatening, until those two notes work into the fray. When they do, you feel the danger coming, but then they move away (with the dock) it feels almost like the danger is gone. That changes 1 minute 34 seconds into the track, when there is no doubt that death is coming for the lug that fell into the water with the dock.
“Father and Son” has always been important to the success of Jaws because it’s a heartfelt moment to attach you to those two characters. It’s especially warming after the suspenseful dramatic moments that transpire before it. The film and we as audience needed a breather and it helps us to care more about Sheriff Brody, who ultimately must face the jaws of death alone in the end.
“The Alimentary Canal” has almost the same feel as a detective searching for answers from a crime scene. The harp and clarinet are both used to highlight this cue.
“Ben Gardner’s Boat” starts out with a wondrous feel but gradually shifts down in tone. Almost like a musical representation of when “Hooper” dives down to check the wrecked boat to find “Ben Gardner’s head” floating out from the damaged hull.
The contrast is dramatic when the next cue “Montage” follows, which is an all-out celebration of life, which takes place in the movie when boatloads of people pack the town for swimming, beach going and overloading the ferry for summer fun.
The quiet somber beginning of “Into the Estuary” is very powerful. It’s the scene where the shark passes by the female painting by the jetty rocks and the dorsal fin and tail fin slink down under the water, causing a chill run down the spine of the collective audience. This happens because we know the Brody boys are in the pond the waterway is connected to and they are unaware of the danger coming their way.
“Out to Sea (Film Version)” is the highly entertaining piece that accompanies “Quint”, “Hooper” and “Brody” leaving on the Orca to go out to battle the shark. It’s pure unadulterated orchestral accompaniment.
“Tug On The Line” has a real dramatic pull to it, as John Williams reels in both the heroism of the characters plight and the historic feel of the ocean itself.
“Man Against Beast” is the all-out war between the men and the Great White Shark. This is the sequence where the shark is shot with yellow barrels attached to the rope. The shark ends up amazingly taking three barrels under water. The music composition from about three minutes and 50 seconds to about 4 minutes 20 seconds is one of the most cinematically satisfying this writer has ever experienced with a movie. It’s where the three characters are fighting tooth and nail (almost against each other) to defeat the shark. One of the pinnacle moments is when all three characters can be seen on the Orca with the barrels racing out to sea, which musically hits about 4 minutes and 10 seconds. Just brilliant and master stroke of music composed for film.
After the adrenaline surge of the previous track, “Quint’s Tale” is a somber piece to tilt the film into a darker, more deadly place. It also gives the shark and their situation weight. It makes it seem very real that they could die, because others have before them in somewhat similar set of circumstance.
The quick charge of the main theme does provide the impetus for when “Brody Panics.”
“Barrel Off Starboard” seems to have a glimmer of hope for the men, until the shark pokes it’s head into the track at 1 minute 7 seconds.
Williams creates a real sense of urgency in “Great Chase”, but he does it in a way that sounds exhilarating. “Shark Tows Orca” is a short little down beat piece that reflects the dire situation they men face as the shark is leading them out to it’s territory.
“Three Barrels Under” carries the weight of the power of the shark and makes it seems as though it might be almost indestructible.
It’s fascinating to listen to the fabric of “From Bad To Worse” as John Williams trickles themes already established into the track to make it both fun and recognizable.
There are a couple colorful motifs that have become recognizable in “Quint Thinks It Over.”
There is no doubt the seriousness of “The Shark Cage Fugue”, but Williams still roots the cue in the themes he’s set up for the characters and their situation.
“The Shark Approaches (Film Version)” has the main theme driving relentlessly.
There is huge blackness in “The Shark Hits The Cage.” Williams makes it very clear with his composition that death is ready to strike and there’s little hope for escape.
Speaking of no escape “Quint Meets His End” is super intense and can make you visualize what happens to the crusty sea expert, when he slides down into the mouth of the Great White.
Williams makes “Blown To Bits” a fun cliffhanger of a cue with seafaring swashbuckling motifs sprinkled amongst the relentless main theme and courageous character themes. The brass really shines. After the shark dies the music sprinkles like fairy dust over the shark’s descending carcass.
I really appreciated the softness and finality to “Jaws – End Title” because at this point in the movie, the audience needed to catch their breath after such a terrifying, exciting cinematic thrill ride. I know this firsthand from seeing the film when it was first released in the drive-in with my grandparents.
“Jaws – Main Title (Alternate)” is another juggernaut of five and a half minutes of film score. It just comes at you with no warning or apologies. “The Typewriter” is a quick blur of hot notes to put you on edge.
“Man Against Beast (Alternate)” is driven by the deep theme propelling the track, while heroic composition is juxtaposed against it. There are moments in this piece that take you right back into the movie, especially if you know the film as good as I do. It was like watching the movie in my mind. An amazing experience really.
“Barrel of Starboard (Alternate Segment)” has a somberness needed to balance the film.
You can’t help but get excited during “Great Chase (Alternate)” and this cue truly engages you in daring adventures with ostentatious bravado. “Shark Tows Orcas” is a bit of a downer, but that was it’s designed purpose when things looked bleak for our three characters.
The drumming in “The Shark Approaches (Alternate)” does sound cool because it’s another way to create tension. The brass and strings strike with ferociousness in “Quint Meets His End (Alternate)” that made me think of Creature From The Black Lagoon (which came out before Jaws), Jeepers Creepers and Jeepers Creepers 2 (which came out after it).
“Wild Shark Theme” is an aggressive string take that even goes way down into the lower register to strike fear into your listening ears.
CD 2 – Clocking in at forty-five and a half minutes this includes the 1975 MCA Soundtrack Album, which are the first twelve tracks. The Extras consist of Music From Amity Town Beach, which had never before been released. For a Jaws fan like myself this makes this even more special.
I won’t go into a track by track review of the 1975 MCA Soundtrack Album, but I have to talk about Source Music that was used on Amity Beach.
“Joplin Rag ( Original Rag)” is a ragtime piece that immediately brings an authentic touch to the small town setting. “Winter Stories Waltz” creates a sort of familiarity to the film that offsets the suspense and terror. “In The Good Old Summertime” is fun and light, which was truly needed for such a terrifying film. “Thousand And One Nights Waltz” sounds something you’d hear on a merry-go-round or ride in Disneyworld. “Marching Band No. 1” and “Marching Band No. 2” are of particular interest because as per the detailed in the incredible CD Set Linear Notes, Director Steven Spielberg can be heard playing clarinet.
Jaws Original Motion Picture Soundtrack is a worthy marker to celebrate the 30th Anniversary of Intrada Records. I have nothing but respect and admiration for a company that works so hard to honor the music from Film and Television. In my mind, there can’t possibly be a better representation of the music coming from the crowning achievement that is called Jaws.
Don’t waste a second more. Visit Intrada Records website and store to purchase this absolutely incredible Soundtrack release. It’s a must have and likely the best release I review this year.