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CD: Man on Fire (1987)
Review Rating:   Excellent  
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November 5, 2012

Tracks / Album Length:

16 tracks / (36:39)



John Scott


Special Notes:

8-page colour booklet with liner notes by Jim Lochner / Limited to 1000 copies.

Comments :    

John Scott’s gorgeous music for this buried film would remain largely forgotten if not for a single odd footnote as being ‘that other cue’ used in the finale of Die Hard (1988). At the time, Michael Kamen was under tense pressure to write a full score for the iconoclastic action film, but in the end a few cues from the editor’s temp track remained in the final release mix, including the main theme from Scott’s 1987 score, and an action cue from James Horner’s Aliens (1986).

John Scott’s music was originally released by Varese Sarabande on an audiophile quality LP and as part of the label’s first CD wave, making that CD an instant collectible. Replicating the same tracks and non-chronological track order, the first cue on the reissue is in fact the score’s end credit music, and although the highly melodic work opens the album with sublime elegance, it does runs contrary to the mood established by Scott in his grimmer title music.

Man on Fire was later remade by Tony Scott in 2004, and perhaps due to rights issues, the ’87 version has vanished from circulation since its first home video release and initial pay TV airings. Fans of John Scott will enjoy the composer’s shift from strong thematic material to striking variations – a balance the composer adeptly pulled off in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984) – and there are essentially three components to the score: the brooding, minimalist theme variations for the film’s dark sections; a strangely grandiose version (“Sam Wins the Race”) that’s all twittering emotions and deeply saturated chords with a huge emphasis on strings; and more straightforward versions (such as the gushy “Becoming Friends” and “We’ve Got Each Other,” the latter used in Die Hard).

Being an 80s score, Scott does make use of some rock elements, including the more 70s styled “Start of the Search” with xylophones, electric guitar and bass guitar; and there’s contemporary sounds within “Rabbia Must Die” with electric elements and a short march motif reminiscent of Scott’s marvelous King Kong Lives.

Scott went through an American period of sorts, getting plum assignments as Brit directors were signed to helm big budget productions, and with Hollywood cash, he wrote large scale works that often transcended the banality and glaring flaws of the finished films. Among his best work are King Kong Lives (1986), the sublime The Deceivers (1988), and the Jean-Claude Van Damme actioner Lionheart (1990).

The only downside to this pristine-sounding album is its short running time (most of the cues run under 2 minutes), but as the new liner notes infer, the CD features the full score, including material dropped from the film. The replicated track sequencing was also designed by Scott to avoid heavy theme repetition.



© 2013 Mark R. Hasan

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