The title of this two-CD set is completely misleading because people are going to be expecting “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” and “As Time Goes By.” However, it is a good collection of music created by some of the best composers the world of cinema has ever heard, even if it doesn’t feature their most popular works.
For those that pay attention to a film’s score, names like Jerry Goldsmith, Henry Mancini, and Elmer Bernstein are very familiar, but “Main Title From Patch of Blue,” “The Tango I Saved For You” from “Gaily Gaily,” and “Suite from Birdman of Alcatraz” are certainly not the titles their names first bring to mind, if at all. Even John Williams, who became the rock star of film composers due to his contributions to legendary films, such as Jaws, Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Ark, gets recognition for his lesser-known work on The Missouri Breaks.
According to the liner notes, Hollywood’s Greatest Hits is an archival project, so the selections were made based on the fact that “the written scores for these films have been lost through the decades.” All the music from the 45 instrumental tracks had to be transcribed before it could be recorded, no small feat. The Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra was then given the task of performing these pieces.
The music comes from both popular films and more obscure ones, and has been arranged by themes. They include action/military (“Overture To A Bridge Too Far” and “Kelly’s Heroes Theme”), romances (“Main Title to Ryan’s Daughter” and “Women in Love”), Westerns (“Red River Suite” and “Hour of the Gun Main Title”), and Biblical films (Love Theme from Ben-Hur and Theme from The Greatest Story Ever Told).
The standout tracks are the ones that don’t have the typical classical music sound. “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3 Main Title” by David Shire has got a great jazz groove. Quincy Jones brings the funk with “They Call Me Mr. Tibbs Main Title.” “Uketalia” from After The Fox by Burt Bacharach has a muted trumpet over a strumming ukulele. I kept expecting Leon Redbone’s voice to come in. Of course, you can never go wrong with Duke Ellington and Billy Strayhorn, who, along with Harold Flender, composed “Paris Blues.” The most unique piece is “Main Title from Tom Jones” led by a harpsichord.
A bonus track on each disc includes a female singer; Marilyn Monroe sings “Some Like It Hot” and Brigitte Bardot and Jeanne Moreau sing “Paris, Paris, Paris,” from Viva Maria.
Hollywood’s Greatest Hits is a good choice for fans of classical music. It is also provides a great example of the power music has in its ability to create a wide variety of moods. Even without knowing the movies, the listener can tell what the story is about. A must-have for film soundtrack collectors.