Music

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (Jerry Goldsmith) – Review

Jerry Goldsmith’s filmography is so expansive that despite over a decade of posthumous premiere releases, new ones continue to be announced. Intrada’s release of The Reincarnation of Peter Proud is the latest, finally making available a a work highly sought-after by the composer’s ardent fans.

The film follows its titular character as he grapples with the possibility that his dreams are actually memories from a past life. Drama unfolds as he begins dating the daughter of the woman he dreams of killing him, forcing audiences to ponder weighty ethical questions as the film careens towards its conclusion.

To match the unease and tension of this plot, Goldsmith wisely chose to craft a hybrid score with prominent electronics in addition to his trademark orchestral mannerisms. This approach is heard in the very opening track, “Main Title.” In it, flute introduces the dreamy main theme before electronics take over. Synthesized versions of the theme take us deeper into the ethereal before a descending ostinato of piccolos and synthesizers makes its first appearance. The track is a masterclass in how to convey a dreamlike state.

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Electronics remain prominent for much of the album’s first few tracks, with the main theme never gone for long. Even peppier cues such as “Classic Cars” will feature electronic percussion and flourishes to keep the listener unsettled. The effect is claustrophobic and off-kilter, crucially keeping us tuned in on Peter’s psychological turmoil even when the visuals are grand. Things start to liven up with “The Search Begins,” Goldsmith adding in synthetic plucked-string counterpoint to his theme to convey a lighter feel. “The Search Continues” expands on the soundscape with solo violin accents over top as orchestra begins to have a fuller presence in the work.

The score’s transition to a primarily orchestral sound is handled smoothly, as the general demeanor of the score remains fairly subdued. Brass is rare and much of the writing is similar to that of Goldsmith’s other thrillers of this period. This leads to a bit of a lull in the album’s midsection as Peter Proud continues researching his dreams and begins his love affair.

A theme for the romance is heard in full first in “Ann & Tennis” and brings some much-needed emotion to score. Its performances in “First Date” and “Where Have You Been?” both find fresh ways of conveying the danger that this relationship brings Peter, using dissonance and electronics in the former and piano in the latter. Even though the idea is introduced fairly late in the game, Goldsmith works hard to craft as strong a narrative as he can given the constraints. This builds to one of the highlights of the score, “The Lovers,” where strings give an expansive treatments to the main and love themes.

“The Final Confrontation” brings the score to a head, with the main theme put through the wringer. Strings turn it into an action motif at the start, before electronic haze dominates the midsection. In classic fashion, a tortured rendition on strings crescendos before cutting back to the melody on solo piano. It is an impressive finish that pays off both emotionally and in terms of a musical narrative.

For years, The Reincarnation of Peter Proud has been a much sought-after release for Goldsmith fans, and it is not hard to see why. The composer’s compositional and narrative talents are both on full display here for a film that offers quite a few challenges. At over an hour in length, though, its beginning and midsection do drag a bit as the film’s investigative drama forces the composer into a prolonged period of tension. The overall dourness can also be a deterrent from frequent re-listens.

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The reasons for its long trip to release are also worth noting. Without original masters available, Intrada was forced to pull from lesser sources for this CD. The result is noticeable distortion in the right channel at various points throughout. One of the sources was also only in mono sound, forcing the producers to create a kind of fake stereo ambiance in those tracks, but this is not as much of an obstacle.

Intrada is owed a recognition for the work they put into bringing this score to market as it finally fills a major hole in Goldsmith’s filmography. It is musically accomplished, but sound quality issues on top of its dark demeanor make it hard to recommend over several other Goldsmith scores in this genre. Diehard collectors of the composer are of course urged to pick it up, but casual collectors should prepare themselves for an hour of grim, heady music should they decide to follow suit.

The Reincarnation of Peter Proud is now available on Intrada Records.

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