French composer Michel Legrand — the genius behind such unforgettable movie songs as “I Will Wait for You,” “The Windmills of Your Mind,” “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life” and others — died Jan. 26 in Paris. I adored his scores as much as his songs, ranging from classics like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and Summer of ’42 to less well-known but no less stunning scores for films like Peau d’Ane, Wuthering Heights, The Go-Between and The Three Musketeers. Few composers could boast as many familiar movie themes as Legrand. I was lucky enough to interview him, I think, three times over the years, and to see him in concert (whether with a full orchestra or just a small jazz combo) was never less than a complete joy. My obituary in Variety was followed by a collection of memorable moments from his career visible on YouTube.
One of Hollywood’s greatest studios has launched a long-range program to find, preserve and release some of its previously unreleased film scores. It’s called the “Universal Pictures Film Music Heritage Collection” and launches this week with the first-ever release of the music from Colossus: The Forbin Project. Scores by Henry Mancini, Ennio Morricone, Lalo Schifrin and other top composers will follow. It’s an exciting proposition for us film music fans, and I was pleased to break this story in the pages of Variety.
One of my favorite end-of-year assignments involves choosing the top 20 albums of “classic film music” released during the previous 12 months. This year’s task seemed harder than ever, because several labels gave us truly remarkable discs — some of them expanded classics, some previously unreleased scores, some of them reissues of very rare LPs. I enjoyed all of these, from the music of John Williams and Jerry Goldsmith to that of Aaron Copland and Vince Guaraldi and many more. The list spilled well over the 20 slots, so I added an “honorable mention” paragraph to sneak in a few more titles.
Each year at this time I rummage through 12 months of CDs to chronicle the best of the year in “classic film music” — that is, the expanded reissues, the newly recorded scores, and in some special cases the first releases of great old scores that always deserved an album but never got one. There are 20 entries, all listed here, but this year there were so many excellent releases that I added an “honorable mention” section at the bottom with more of my favorites that didn’t quite make the main list. Intrada and La-La Land were this year’s top labels (that is, with the most entries) but there are worthy contributions here from Kritzerland, Quartet, Varese Sarabande, Play-Time, Universal France and Dragon’s Domain. Check them out.
One of my favorite year-end tasks is compiling a list of what I think were the best albums of classic film and TV music to be released during the previous 12 months. First-time-ever releases (like Leonard Bernstein’s original On the Waterfront tracks), re-recordings (John Barry’s The Betsy), reissues on CD (Jerry Goldsmith’s Our Man Flint and In Like Flint LPs), expanded classics (Michel Legrand’s The Thomas Crown Affair) and box sets of great film and TV music (Elmer Bernstein’s Ava LPs, Star Trek: Enterprise) are all included. I chose 20, and had to drop five or six more that I really liked because of limited space. Thanks to all the producers and label execs who work so hard to keep us film-music buffs happy.