More Bernard Herrmann
More Reviews of Soundtrack Music
- This vintage pressing of the National Phil’s performance of selections from three of Herrmann’s classic “phantasmagorical” film scores boasts outstanding Double Plus (A++) grades from first note to last
- A superb recording with a huge three-dimensional stage, open, clear, extended up top and down low — the sound on this pressing is nothing short of amazing
- 4 stars: “The sound glitters, some of the brightest and richest audio of its period (attested to by the album’s being part of Decca/London Phase 4 Stereo), and the performances have a dignity and intensity that makes the music — drawn from the key parts of Herrmann’s scores for the Ray Harryhausen-created fantasy films The Three Worlds of Gulliver, Mysterious Island, and Jason and the Argonauts — seem even more serious and profound than it originally did.”
- If like us you’re a fan of Blockbuster Orchestral Recordings, this is a killer album from 1975 that belongs in your collection.
Side one boasts some wonderful material from Mysterious Island and Jason and the Argonauts. Who else but Herrmann could have orchestrated such phantasmagorical goings on?
The Three Worlds Of Gulliver Suite takes up all of side two. The complete score from which the suite is taken can be found on the original Herrmann album The Three Worlds of Gulliver, a long-time and extremely rare member of the TAS Super Disc List.
This vintage London Phase 4 Stereo pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for —this sound.
If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.
What the Best Sides of The Mysterious Film World of Bernard Herrmann Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear
- The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
- The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1975
- Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
- Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
- Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space
No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.
Borrowing from the Best
One of the reasons this music is wonderful is because it’s been more or less lifted from, and orchestrated exactly like, Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Tale of Tsar Saltan. Herrmann was no doubt familiar with Rimsky-Korsakov’s work, and knew that this “sound” was exactly the one that would work for the film. He overlayed his own compositional style onto Rimsky-Korsakov’s and the result is a soundtrack of breathtaking beauty, full of exotic instrumental colors and delicious audiophile-candy percussion.
For entertainment value and blockbuster sonics, this album is hard to beat.
Taxing the Limits
This album used to be on the TAS Super Disc list but appears to have been deleted some years back. We still consider it a Super Disc, as long as you have a pressing like this that actually lives up to the hype (ours or anybody else’s).
An orchestral dreadnought such as this requires mastering and pressing of the highest quality. This music taxes the limits of LP playback itself, with deep organ notes (listen for the famous Decca rumble accompanying the organ if you have the deep bass reproduction to hear it); incredible dynamics from every area of the stage; masses of strings playing at the top of their registers with abandon; huge drums; powerful brass effects everywhere — every sound an orchestra can produce is found on this record and then some. (You will hear plenty of sounds that defy description, that’s for sure. Some of the time I can’t even imagine what instrument could possibly make such a sound!)
What We’re Listening For on The Mysterious Film World of Bernard Herrmann
- Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
- The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
- Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
- Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
- Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.
Selling the Hype
Record dealers that sell records based on their reputation — and that means pretty much all of them, present company excluded — are selling the hype. If they haven’t played the record, they can’t tell you what it sounds like, TAS List or no TAS List. The catalog number may be right, but finding the sound that lives up to the description can only be done one way: by playing the record. Most copies of The Mysterious Film World, whether they have a Decca label or a London one (all of the ones we are selling are mastered and pressed by Decca; some get one label and some get the other) leave something to be desired.
It’s positively shameful. This music is so good! On top of that, it’s custom made for audiophiles. Audiophiles are supposed to be the ones who can appreciate the wide range of colors Herrmann created, with the help of what a wise man once called the single greatest instrument ever invented: the modern symphony orchestra.
Mysterious Island Liner Notes
Mysterious Island marked the third collaboration between composer Bernard Herrmann and the leading independent producer of family films Charles H Schneer and the foremost exponent of three-dimensional animation and special visual effects Ray Harryhousen – the triumvirate already had to their credit the innovative ‘Seventh Voyage of Sinbad’ and the charming picturesque fantasy ‘The Three Worlds of Gulliver’ and the association would culminate in the renowned ‘Jason and the Argonauts.’
The score for Mysterious Island is one of the most dramatic in all film history rivaled only, perhaps, by the same composer’s ‘Seventh Voyage of Sinbad’ in its deployment of massive blocks of dense orchestral color and in the bizarre and brilliant invention that so artfully illustrates Ray Harryhausen’s grotesque menagerie of unnatural misfit monsters – sight and sound blend to form one of filmdom’s most vivid and persuasive excursions into the realm of fantasy.
Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)
Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of other pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful recordings.
If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.
A Must Own Orchestral Record
This Orchestral Spectacular should have a place of honor in any audiophile’s Classical Collection.
Others that belong in that category can be found here.
Music From The Columbia Picture Mysterious Island
The Giant Crab
The Giant Bee
The Giant Bird
Music From The Columbia Picture Jason And The Argonauts
Music From The Columbia Picture The Three Worlds Of Gulliver
Lilliputians 1 & 2
Victory 1 & 2
The King”s March
The Chess Game
AMG 4 Star Review
This album was recorded by the composer early in 1975 and has proved to be one of the more enduring parts of Bernard Herrmann’s catalog, a steady seller on LP, and issued several times on CD, including an audiophile version from Mobile Fidelity.
During the early to mid-’70s, Herrmann began re-recording many of his earlier scores at Kingsway Hall in London with the National Philharmonic Orchestra. The sound glitters, some of the brightest and richest audio of its period (attested to by the album’s being part of Decca/London Phase 4 Stereo), and the performances have a dignity and intensity that makes the music — drawn from the key parts of Herrmann’s scores for the Ray Harryhausen-created fantasy films The Three Worlds of Gulliver, Mysterious Island, and Jason and the Argonauts — seem even more serious and profound than it originally did.
Herrmann tends to take the tempos slower than he did in the original scores, which gives him and the players a chance to open up the detail and nuances in the music, bringing out their surprising depth and complexity. What’s more, the players sound like they’re having the time of their lives playing it.