That's right, the mailman brought me a present today. This is one of the few big John Williams scores that had yet to be expanded in any way outside of horrid sounding bootlegs, and now it's here in all its glory. Though the film is generally considered as one of Spielberg's least successful entries, and it definitely is a flawed film to say it kindly, but it's one of those that has a lot of nostalgia value for me as it is the first movie I ever remember seeing in the cinema. And though there are glaring problems with it, I still find Hook to be an enjoyable film enough, the same way as I also enjoy 1941 despite both of their misgivings. Williams' score, however, is his greatest culmination in the fantasy genre when it came to his most popular period of writing music, and which is a type of score he would not revisit until the first Harry Potter movie came out ten years later.
In many ways, this score is both a summation of Williams' exuberant style of composition that began with Star Wars in 1977, as it is also one of his most heartfelt scores of all, being both abundantly melodic and gigantic in scope, almost wasteful in its thematic riches and at times even somewhat overbearing in its thickly laid theatrics. Incidentally, the movie was originally planned to be a musical and thus Williams with lyricist Leslie Bricusse made their initial plans with this in mind. But as the film reverted to a more conventional fantasy, the musical aspect largely dropped off, while the themes ended up staying with only two songs remaining in the finished film. The result is an epicly magical concoction of music that is just a whole lot of fun for a lot of its duration.
The album itself is the result of three years of work from La La Land Records and the package is certainly a beautiful one, though the multi-page liner notes tend to not go into a lot of particular detail on the background of the release itself. This, however, is not a "complete" release of the score as one would expect as John Williams, who acted as a supervising producer, vetoed some music he felt was repetitive for a proper listening experience, and a few additional inserts added to some cues in the film have also not been included. This amounts to roughly 10 minutes of excised music (not including alternate recordings), but the missing material is largely of no major significance, and all the most important music is still here. Likewise, Williams has retained all the original album edits that combined various cues together, but there are also extended, alternate, and film versions included for a variety of prior cues.
The biggest problem with the album, though, came with the sources that were available for use in the making of this product. The master tapes unfortunately had not been treated with much kindness, and this resulted in the album to having been assembled from various sources of alternating quality. The beginning parts of the score are largely in good condition and sound great, but there are a handful of cues that could not be located for inclusion. The greatest loss here was the massive, 18-minute action sequence of "The Ultimate War", the masters to which could not be found anywhere. Thus the producers were forced to rely on film stems, namely the music as it was mixed in the film, complete with loops, micro edits, and fluctuating sound quality. This is a truly unfortunate fact, and the volume tends to noticeably dip in some places only to pump back up again, while the sonic depth is not as vibrant as a lot of the rest of the score tends to be. Still, it's better than nothing as the complete battle sequence was one of the most highly anticipated portions of the score for expansion, and with the prior bootlegs sounding so bad as to be nearly unlistenable. But it's just too bad that the care in storing this score follows the sad precedence of neglect film music often has to deal with from some companies who don't see much value in proper preservation.
Regardless, this is still a handsome set. Is it the best that it could be? Not really, but this 5000 unit limited edition will likely be the definitive version of this score for a long time to come, and is still an infinitely well constructed album. It has its flaws, some outside of the producers hands, but I'm just happy to have this much of the score that is a notable part of my childhood, and whose original 70 minutes of music always left me wanting more. If any of my watchers might want to get this as well, then I'd suggest to hurry, as it might not be too long before all copies are gone (last I heard they've already sold their first batch of 3500 units, with the second batch of 1500 probably not lasting terribly long).
Still available from La La Land Records at $29.98: [link]