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Flags of Our Fathers: Various Artists

Jack Bowers By

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I don't ordinarily review film scores, but the patriotic epic Flags of Our Fathers, about the raising of the American flag on Iwo Jima and the memorable photograph that changed the mood and momentum of World War II, has a jazz/swing pedigree of sorts with music by jazz aficionado Clint Eastwood, orchestrations by conductor Lennie Niehaus, recreations of songs from the era by Michael Stevens and Clint's son, bassist Kyle Eastwood, and one jazz classic, "Summit Ridge Drive, by Artie Shaw and his Gramercy Five.

Dinah Shore makes an appearance too, singing "I'll Walk Alone by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn (who also wrote "The Vict'ry Polka ). Eastwood throws in not one but two marches by the legendary John Philip Sousa, "The Thunderer and "Washington Post March, and on a more classical note includes the third movement from Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G Minor and the second movement from Franz Joseph Haydn's String Quartet, Opus 6 (which are reversed on the playlist that appears on the CD tray). The elder Eastwood's music is for the most part dark, atmospheric, somber and bass-heavy, which obviously serves its purpose, but like much film music, doesn't stand easily on its own without the corresponding visual component. Interestingly (I suppose), the passages "Goodbye Ira, "The Platoon Swims and the end titles are identical, thus lending the film music a sort of over-all thematic continuity.

As one who was actually alive during that time, I well remember Irving Berlin's "Any Bonds Today? (although I didn't know he had written it) from those terrific Warner Bros. cartoons starring Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd and their colleagues (all brought to life and given personality by the incomparable Mel Blanc). Here, it's reproduced by Kyle Eastwood with a vocal group that I suppose is meant to personify the Andrews Sisters (as is the lively "Vict'ry Polka"). And I recall too the million-selling "Summit Ridge Drive with its unusual clarinet/harpsichord front line and dogged rhythms.

For those who've seen Flags of Our Fathers, the music may evoke a visceral response as the various scenes it portrays are called to mind. For those who haven't, it will of course be less meaningful in this respect. On that basis, it's hard to recommend the CD, so closely is it tied to the visual aspects of the film (which is true of almost any score). If you've seen the film, you may appreciate having the score as a reminder of its scope and power; if you haven't, much of what is presented here will seem vague and disconnected, at times nostalgic but lacking either substance or staying power.


Track Listing: The Photograph; I

Personnel: Clint Eastwood: vocals, piano; Dinah Shore: vocals; Artie Shaw: clarinet; others.

Title: Various Artists | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Milan Records

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