Saturday, September 4, 2010

Retrospective: The Blue and the Gray

The Blue and the Gray (Bruce Broughton) was the first CD I had the privilege of writing liner notes for. It came about as the result of a phone call from Joe Sikoryak in late 2007. I'd known Joe professionally for years, as the layout guy and art director for Film Score Monthly magazine, as well as the FSM and Intrada labels. Intrada was about to ramp up their CD production slate, and was looking for new writers to help cover the workload. Naturally, I was excited about the opportunity. I was even more excited to discover that my "trial" assignment would be a Bruce Broughton score. Broughton had long been one of my favorite film composers (as a tubist, I also loved his tuba concerto), so I felt doubly lucky. I would also be given the opportunity to consult with the composer, which I have since learned is far from a given!

While I waited for the music to arrive, I familiarized myself with the film. The Blue and the Gray is an epic Civil War miniseries from 1982, directed by Andrew V. McLaglen. It's an impressively lengthy tale, spending much time dwelling on the fringes of the war, and the pace is measured but (in my opinion) rewarding. (If you have any interest in seeing it, I urge you to secure the original, uncut version, rather than the shorter "recut." I've seen it selling for less than $10 in major retail chains lately, so it's a good impulse buy.)

As might be expected, Broughton's music is spectacular, featuring an abundance of terrific melodies that grab you from the start and don't let go. There's lots of variety -- a good balance of drama, romance, action, and even a little horror; and in addition to full orchestra, Broughton makes terrific use of small instrumental groupings. There's plenty of great period color, both in the choice of instruments and in the melodies, which carry something of a Stephen Foster vibe. The score runs over two hours, but things don't get dull for an instant! It's vintage Americana, and vintage Broughton, and at only 2,000 copies I'm somewhat stunned it hasn't sold out yet! You can click here to help remedy that!

I want to close this entry with some special thanks to the folks at Intrada -- to Joe for thinking of me for the job; to Douglass Fake for hiring me, and bearing with me as I learned the ropes; and to the indispensable Roger Feigelson for his guidance and support. Finally, thanks to Bruce Broughton, who was generous with his time and insights. As an entrée into the world of liner notes-writing, I couldn't have wished for a better experience.


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