Ooo! More music!
2CDs: It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963)
Review Rating:   Excellent
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Catalog #:
Stereo / Mono
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March 18, 2011

Tracks / Album Length:

CD1: 25 tracks / (73:00)
CD2: 14 tracks / (39:08)


Composer: Ernest Gold

Special Notes:

24-page colour booklet with liner notes by Jeff Bond and Ray Faiola / Limited to 2000 copies.

Comments :    

There’s something inherently absurd where not a single cue from the original recording sessions to what was probably the most expensive comedy film up to 1963 no longer exists.

As Ray Faiola, Chelsea Rialto Studios’ chief engineer, recounts in La-La Land’s sumptuous booklet, the search for surviving tapes was unsuccessful, forcing the CD set’s producers to make a radical decision that’s only happened a few times among soundtrack CD releases: rebuild the score from the surround sound music stems.

Not quite an isolated music score (but pretty close, given the Mad music stems used for this release came from the rear surrounds), Mad was rebuilt, and what’s contained in this 2-disc set is both the re-recorded soundtrack album + source songs in full stereo on CD 2, and the reconstructed score on CD 1, of which only the “Overture,” “Entr’acte,” “End Title” (partial) and “Exit Music” are in stereo.

Those accustomed to archival recordings won’t be disturbed by the mono remix, in which two partial stereo stems where combined to create a robust mono track, but fans might feel let down, since even the DVD contains a rousing surround sound mix of Ernest Gold’s score.

Any disappointment ought to evaporate early into the score because Gold’s original film soundtrack recording features a greater array of thematic variations and quotes, and it’s more energetic than the re-recorded version released on LP by United Artists. (The 2010 CD from Kritzerland Records reissued the LP version with the usable stereo film versions cited above.)

Gold’s knack for melody are evident in every cue, but his skill in crafting bawdy, bouncy, and even genteel theme versions are quite startling. Known for epic scores (Exodus) and most of producer / director Stanley Kramer’s Message Film output, the two longtime collaborators must have startled a few critics when they successfully pulled off a grand comedic movie without a hitch, going against their professional personas as Very Serious Men.

Gold’s background included shorts, cartoons, and dramas, but Mad deserves to be placed alongside Exodus as one of his finest achievements because there’s plenty of gravitas in Mad – such as the resonating strings in “Pike Piqued,” or the trilling tension in “Truck on Down.” One could characterize the bulk of the Mad score as mickey-mouse music – never settling in one place, always covering action – but Gold also wove in plenty of subtext, tension, and mystery into many cues.

The film’s mystery element, however, does deepen as the characters make their way towards the supposed location of the buried loot. Will they find it? Who will get it all? Will the police foil their greedy desires? And will there be any consequences for the troupe having broken a few rules and buildings along the way?

The vocal parts in the “Overture” and “Entr’acte” have dated, but they’re written with tongue firmly tongue-in-cheek, and Gold’s carnival waltz, while heavily used, suits the scenes of chaos, particularly where planes and cars nearly smash into solid structures at outrageously high speeds.

Engineer Faiola met the tough challenge of building up cue volumes (some cuts had dips to accommodate dialogue and sound effects), removing severe hiss, and adding a slight depth to the bass and lower tones, so while the original Mad cues aren’t in stereo (aforementioned excepted), what’s been reconstructed is a rewarding listening experience that also allows one to marvel at Gold’s deft writing, and some fine orchestrations.

Jeff Bond’s liner notes provide an excellent background to the film and its production, often adding info lacking in the hour-long doc included in the DVD and Blu-ray editions. The graphic design reproduces the original sprawling campaign art, and cue breakdowns provide a good narrative to the film’s epic montage of scenes.



© 2011 Mark R. Hasan

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