Twenty-two years ago, one of the greatest noir movies of all time hit the screen. With a cast including Kevin Spacey, Russell Crowe, Kim Basinger and the then unknown Guy Pearce, the film weaves a tale of police corruption and celebrity scandal in 1950’s Los Angeles.
Soundtrack duties fell to the acclaimed composer Jerry Goldsmith who had been composing music for film and TV since the 1950’s. His back catalogue contains some of the greatest film and TV ever made, including Alien, Logan’s Run, Gremlins and Rambo: First Blood. The score was initially released back in November of 1997, but up until now has never seen a release on vinyl.
Varese Sarabande have produced a limited run of 500 copies on vinyl, available only for purchase through their website. 11 tracks long, and clocking in at a brisk 30:02 runtime the score is spaced out on a single LP with 6 tracks on side A and the remaining 5 on side B. The director of the film, Curtis Hanson, used a lot of songs from the period to add authenticity to the movie’s major scenes, leaving Jerry Goldsmith to tie the rest of the film together with his score.
We open in grand style with track 1, the ominously titled ‘Bloody Christmas’ which is a thunderous rampage of drums and high, shrill strings that assault the senses before seguing smoothly into a trumpet piece that wouldn’t be out of place in any smoke-shrouded back alley speakeasy you might care to frequent. This is definitely the standout track and while the rest of the soundtrack is by no means bad, it never quite hits this early peak again. ‘The Cafe’ hits us like a hammer to the head, starting with a dull, ominous clash of metal on metal before a growling piano makes itself heard, the trumpet nor far more mournful, picking out an intricate little theme of rising tension, the strings growing louder and more threatening before that tonal shift again crashes in and we instead find ourselves in something far lighter and fast paced.
‘Questions’ mixes synth nicely with the trumpet and piano, thumping out a slow, relentless rhythm that gradually rises to a Psycho-esque crescendo of clashing percussion and strings. The synth just gets on with things, tapping along in the background, occasionally rising above the wind and strings to remind you that it’s still there. ‘Susan Lefferts’ kicks off in ominous style, a minor key, the trumpet almost immediately making itself known once more. A slower, more ponderous and melancholy track, no sudden shifts in tone or metre here.
‘Out of the Rain’ sees us reaching the end of side A. This penultimate track is a rasping blend of horns and strings before shifting into something that wouldn’t be out of place at all in the Alien soundtrack, rolling horns fading away into the silence, backed by a single held note from the strings. Wrapping up Side A we have Track 6, ‘Rollo Tomasi’, a faster paced affair which starts with a crash of horns and drums to ensure that nobody falls asleep on Jerry Goldsmith’s watch! No sir! The mood again turns mournful, that flighty and somewhat manic-depressive trumpet again sliding into something almost morose before the synths and piano pick the pace up once more.
‘The Photos’ sees things getting serious. The solemn trumpet joined by a rolling refrain from the piano and strings before that thumping percussion again returns, trailing off into a single held note from the strings. ‘The Keys’ involve that metronomic synth returning to beat out time though beyond that this is one of the more forgettable tracks on the album. ‘Shootout’ is the longest track on the album, a mix of ominous drums, rasping trumpets and echoing, clattering percussion. It swerves from thoughtful to manic and back again, from sombre to action-packed in the blink of an eye. If one track could be picked to showcase the album as a whole, it would be a toss-up between this and ‘Bloody Christmas’.
‘Good Lad’ starts out far more bombastically than the title might suggest with kettle drums assaulting the senses before the trumpet returns in a refrain that conjures up definite comparisons to the opening theme from Alien. This is by no means a bad thing. We wind things up with track ‘The Victor’ which returns to our main theme to close things out with an appropriately triumphant refrain.
All in all a fine offering from Jerry Goldsmith, one that is steeped in the style of the 1950’s, but one that often goes unremarked among Goldsmith’s voluminous back catalogue. If you are an avid collector of vinyl and of Jerry Goldsmith’s work, then this could be worth picking up.
L.A. Confidential is now also available on Limited Edition vinyl from Varese Sarabande records.