‘Raiders’: The Music Brings Back the Film : *** JOHN WILLIAMS, “Raiders of the Lost Ark” soundtrack, DCC Compact Classics


Pop fans seem to be born with a distrust of traditional soundtrack albums--as opposed to today’s movie-related albums that simply bring together various tracks by contemporary artists.

In some cases, the suspicion is justified. Unless you are a connoisseur of film music, formal soundtracks often come across as background music that seem too passive without the visual stimulation of the film.

But there have been marvelous exceptions.

Among the contemporary-minded soundtracks that convey a strong pop sensibility or tension: “A Clockwork Orange,” “The Long Riders,” “Midnight Express,” “The Mission,” “Once Upon a Time in the West,” “O Lucky Man,” “One From the Heart,” “Paris, Texas” and “Performance.”


John Williams’ “Raiders of the Lost Ark” score may not offer enough pop sensibility to make it an automatic addition to that list. But the score was such a rich element in the film that this album is a treat for anyone who loved the movie, a playful nod to the adventure serials of director Steven Spielberg’s youth.

Indeed, the music, with its triumphant, symphonic flurries, captured so marvelously the humor and bravado of the movie that conductor Williams and the London Symphony Orchestra were virtual co-stars with Harrison Ford. You can’t help but reach for the popcorn when you hear the spectacle of “The Raiders March,” which opens the 15th anniversary commemorative edition of the original soundtrack.

In the liner notes, which feature a detailed discussion of how particular pieces of music related to specific scenes, Williams outlines his approach to the score.

Discussing the exhilaration of “Desert Theme,” Williams says: “I always approach those things particularly with Steven in sort of balletic terms. I look at it as a musical number that has a beginning, a middle and an end, and try to calculate a series of tempos, and a series of changing tempos. . . . The music may sound serious but it’s not really, it’s more theatrically conceived and hopefully always has an aspect of fun or even camp about it.”

In case they missed the album when it was released during the holiday rush, “Raiders” fans should be delighted to find that this edition contains 35 minutes of music that wasn’t included on the original 1981 soundtrack album.

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