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Friday, August 17, 2007

Chariots of Fire Movie Soundtrack: Moving, From Start to Finish

Chariots Of Fire
Moving, From Start to Finish

There is no wondering why Vangelis received an Oscar for his soundtrack to "Chariots Of Fire." It is infinitely superb, perfect for the movie, and perfect away from the movie. When I was road racing, I would listen to cut seven, also called "Chariots Of Fire," to prepare my mind for competition.

In the opening cut, "Titles," you can hear the tension of the sprint. Muscles flex with each note, and you'll feel the drive to finish first, to win. This is the song you heard in the early 80s, and, if you are lucky, still hear on soft jazz and easy listening stations.

"Five Circles" is misty-dewed mystical piece. Slowly paced synthesized winds will draw you into contemplation. Aptly named for the Olympic symbol, it has a power of lifelong dreams mixed with the imminence of the moment.

"Abraham's Theme" is a boldly sentimental, but not maudlin piece. The bells chime almost mournfully, with whale sounds piercing and overlaying through this achingly beautiful composition.

"Eric's Theme" is often played on the radio, but it never loses its message of grace. It preludes "Chariots of Fire"'s sheer intensity with its own persuasive pulse, with bass drums and cymbals beating, but not overwhelming.

"100 Meters" begins in a spacelike mysterium. It is filled with questions, and asks them as well as invites the listener to ask them. "For whom do I run?" the movie's theme, is musically weaved throughout.

Smoothly transitioning is the choral orchestration of "Jerusalem," answering the questions of "100 Meters." The sole work with words, it begins:

"And did those feet in ancient time/ Walk upon England's mountains green?/ And was the holy Lamb of God/ On England's pleasant pastures seen?"

This mighty songs brings a mighty decision:

"Bring me my spear: O clouds unfold!/ Bring me my chariot of fire!"

Finally is the majestic "Chariots of Fire," a 20:41 epic of undulated, unmatched passion for truth and God. A carefully fingered piano melody peacefully prepares the listener for the growing strength of this magnificent piece. Like Ravel's "Bolero," Vangelis increases the tempo, empowers the theme to be greater than the score. The piano notes dance, bringing in elements from the other cuts, until we go from a walk to a run.

For the runners who've been there, it is much akin to an early morning autumn long run, when you feel great, and in that groove. The pace drops mildly as you relax and enjoy the freshness of the run, but the final few miles are ahead. Like the speed-playing fartlek, it never monotonous.

Quickening, we can feel the runner sweat, excited about the last 50 meters. In a glorious finish, we are given an enthusiastic, marvelous crossing of the last step in a rested, satisfied way.

I fully recommend "Chariots Of Fire" by Vangelis.

Anthony Trendl
------------- essential recording
Most everyone is familiar with the romantic piano-and-synthesizer washes of the surprise instrumental hit "Titles (Main Theme)" from this 1981 film soundtrack. What is surprising is there's a lot more going on with this score. Greek keyboardist/composer had been recording albums for years before this soundtrack catapulted him into fame. He'd even been asked to join the prog rock band Yes at one point. He was wise to pass on the offer. Here you can hear the breadth of his talent at creating dreamy moods with synthesizers and classically inspired backdrops. Some of this music, however, doesn't quite hold its own without the visuals. Anyone looking for a stronger, more rock-like record by Vangelis should pick up Albedo 0.39. --Larry Crane
One of the most memorable soundtracks of all time, Vangelis's Academy Award-winning Chariots of Fire is such a landmark, it's become the stuff of parody whenever someone wants to punch a hole through sloppy sentimentality. But just go back to this 1981 film to relive a perfect marriage of image and music. Vangelis captures the heroism, grandeur, and pain of this racing drama, from the opulent main "Titles" theme with its echoing snare drum and piano cadences to the electronically abstract setting of Sir Charles H.H. Parry's choral work, "Jerusalem." Vangelis's score hangs suspended between orchestral lushness and electronic mood, sweetness tempered by the underlying psychological themes of the film. Often forgotten on this album is the extemporaneous title suite that, in the days of LPs, took up the second side of the album. Here, Vangelis explores some of the film's music cues at length, weaving them into a minor keyboard symphony. --John Diliberto

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