American Journey by John Williams Available at Amazon.com

 

 

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American Journey by John Williams

Heart and Spirit of the Journey
Review by Christopher Coleman

 

American Journey by John Williams

American Journey
8/10

American Journey by John Williams

 

Category  |   Score

Originality 7
Music Selection 9
Composition 9
CD Length 8
Track Order 7
Performance 8
Final Score 8/10

 

 

Real Audio Clips

 
 
 

 

 

Composer John Williams
Composer 
John Williams

 

Quick Quotes


"
Let's get one thing straight, though. Compared to John Williams' excellent fanfare for Atlanta, also included on this CD, this new piece is quite bland and unmemorable." ***

Andy Lindahl - Score! Reviews American Journey

 

 

Composed and Conducted by John Williams
Album Produced John Williams and Ken Wannberg
Performed by Utah Symphony, The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Recording Arts Orchestra of Los Angeles, The Boston Pops Orchestra
Released by Sony Classical Records - January 15, 2001

Composer John Williams has become as much a part of the fabric of American music as Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and George Gershwin.  In some ways this prolific composer has surpassed even these all-time greats.  John Williams' talents have long been recognized far and wide; certainly outside of the obscure confines of film-musicdom.  Or course, Williams' film exploits are some of the most recognizable bits of music from the latter 20th Century and they have received their due attention; however, some of the composer's most stunning works have been composed for projects far from the glitz and glamour of big-budget-Hollywood.

International audiences have been getting goose-bumps from John Williams' Olympic compositions for nearly two decades.  Smaller, select crowds, but no less international, have been inspired by, encouraged by, and also prodded into self-examination by the John Williams' musical handiwork as well.  Now, Sony Classical's much anticipated release, entitled American Journey, features such compositions - some released on CD for the first time.  The feature track is John Williams' theme for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, entitled Call of the Champions, but at least equally anticipated has been the release of the six movements from American Journey.  The release goes still further by including other select works from the composer that contain and communicate the same spirit and heart.

In 1984, John Williams added his unforgettable Olympic Fanfare and Theme to the unmistakable "Bugler's Dream" which was itself introduced in the 1968 Olympics.  The honor of adding to the musical lore of the Olympics was certainly deserved as John Williams' 1984-theme has become intertwined with countless Olympic images captured in our minds.  Later, in 1996, John Williams would outdo himself yet again with his composition "Summon the Heroes" (15).  Again, smartly capturing the spirit of the Olympics, Williams was also able to give Summon the Heroes its own majestic personality.  For the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, Williams was commissioned to pen the main theme.  Expectations have been for the composer to, at least, equal the brilliance of years past.  His composition, Call of the Champions (1), too has its own unique identity, but sadly falls short of the grandeur of Williams' previous works.  Relying on choral accents to be the stand-out feature of the piece, those enthralled with the power of the chorus used in Duel of the Fates from Star Wars:  The Phantom Menace will find them thin and almost unfeeling.  The piece continues with strong use of wordless chorus along with Williams patented brass and timpani, but somehow there exists a void in Call of the Champions.  The "heart" so clearly communicated in Summon the Heroes makes Call of the Champions lack thereof all the more conspicuous.  That being said, Call of the Champions is only disappointing when judging by John Williams' own previous works.  This piece, coming from nearly any other composer, could be considered a modest triumph.

Fortunately, American Journey goes much further than featuring Williams most recent non-film related composition.  Immediately following Call of the Champions, is, by far, the best portion of the release.  One of the most highly desired selections of unreleased John Williams music was that for the multimedia presentation, American Journey, presented in Washington D.C. as a part of nation's capital's Millennium celebrations.  These six tracks make up nearly half the total playing time of the compact disc.  In American Journey, each movement is filled with his evocative brand of music found in his earlier compositions for the Olympics as well as film scores such as: Empire of the Sun, JFK, and Born on the Fourth of July.  Of course, the easiest comparison can be made between The Patriot and the overall spirit of the six movements of American Journey.  Such a connections to The Patriot can also be clearly heard in Jubilee 350 (9). Hymn to New England(13) , and Celebrate Discovery (14) - all of which were originally composed during John Williams' tenure as music director of the Boston Pops.  While the abundance of similarities in a handful of Williams' pieces here would draw the unabashed ire of many film music fans, all seems to be quickly forgiven because the quality of the music remains at such a high level.  One can hardly help but be encouraged and inspired by the compositions contained in American Journey.

A number of other notable inclusions exist on the CD.  Song for World Peace (8) is one of Williams' most lyrical pieces to date.  Focusing on instruments reflecting the notions of peace and innocence such as the flute and violin, Song for World Peace plays as the sole, reflective interlude the CD features.  Next, despite its familiarity, The Mission Theme (10) used for NBC News' theme for a number of years, is an engaging track - especially in all the moments in between statements of the well-known theme.  Also tucked away in this release is a brief tribute to Leonard Bernstein.  In For New York (11), Williams brilliantly and with the highest of energy, arranges elements from classic Bernstein works:  New York, New York, On the Town and West Side Story.  Tracks such as these give the CD a splash of color and texture.

All in all, American Journey is an exceptional release of non-film-music from John Williams and makes for a wonderful companion to Sony Classical's excellent, retrospective on the composers 30 year career, John Williams: Greatest Hits 1969-1999.  The biggest downfall of this release is its feature track, Call of the Champions.  In comparison to John Williams other Olympic compositions, Call of the Champions simply doesn't measure up.  Even when held up to the light of the other tracks of this CD, Call of the Champions is thin and devoid of that mystical essence of heart that John Williams pours so liberally elsewhere.  Still, American Journey is filled with bold and beautiful music that is unmistakably Williams and is sure to inspire any soul with even a shred of competition or patriotism.

More info. on this soundtrack available at Sony Classical.


Track Listing and Ratings

 Track

Title Time

Rating

1 Call of the Champions 5:00  ***
  American Journey    
2 Immigration and Building 5:39  ***
3 The Country at War 3:22  ****
4 Popular Entertainment 2:30  ****
5 Arts and Sports 2:37  ****
6 Civil Rights and the Women's Movement 3:27  ***
7 Flight and Technology 7:10  ****
8 Song for World Peace 4:42  ****
9 Jubilee 350 3:44  ***
10 The Mission Theme (Theme for NBC News) 3:30  ****
11 For New York 3:03  ****
12 Sound the Bells! 2:50  ***
13 Hymn to New England 3:11  ****
14 Celebrate Discovery 3:49  ****
15 Summon the Heroes 6:16  *****
 

Total Running Time

60:45  

*The Experience-O-Meter displays the track to track listening experience of this soundtrack based on the 5-Star rating given to each track.  It provides a visual depiction of the ebbs and flows of the CD's presentation of the soundtrack.

 

Referenced Reviews
John Williams: Greatest Hits  |  The Patriot

 

 

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