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FOR LOVE OF THE GAME – Basil Poledouris

September 17, 1999 Leave a comment Go to comments

forloveofthegameOriginal Review by Jonathan Broxton

It’s been a long time coming, but Basil Poledouris has finally returned to top form with For Love of the Game, Sam Raimi’s unexpectedly beautiful homage to the American pastime. Based on Michael Shaara’s novel, the film stars Kevin Costner as an ageing, washed-up pitcher given one last chance at the big time by his Detroit team mates. It’s one of those traditional, “go out and win one for the Gipper” sporting wish-fulfillment fantasies, where victory in the ultimate competition hinges on the last chance of the day, and where the once-great player returns from obscurity to triumph against all the odds. It’s been done a million times before, and will be done a million times again, but Costner and his co-stars, Kelly Preston and John C. Reilly, make it wholly believable.

Only the Americans, it seems, can do this kind of movie well. We Brits have occasional made a sports movie – Chariots of Fire springs to mind – but our national sport is soccer, a game notoriously difficult to successfully transfer to the big screen. You only need to look at films like Escape To Victory and When Saturday Comes to see examples of how not to make a football film. Musically too, American sports films seem to always have the edge when it comes to portraying the heroism of the sporting icon on the silver screen. Basil Poledouris, after the unexpectedly bland Mickey Blue Eyes, contributes a warm and nostalgic score to For Love of the Game, most of which seems to have been inspired by the ghost of Aaron Copland.

There are three types of music in For Love of the Game: big orchestral tracks, intimate guitar and piano music, and rock. Personally, the orchestral cues are the ones which capture the attention the most, with ‘Main Title’, ‘No Hits’, ‘The Decision’ and ‘Last Pitch’ standing head and shoulders above all others. There is something soul-stirring about Poledouris’s music when he writes in this manner – long string lines, noble French horns, lively flutes, a choir – and when the music builds to majestic crescendos during the final three tracks, the music recalls the greatest lyrical moments of Basil’s career to date. These thirteen minutes are easily good enough to stand right up there with Lonesome Dove, The Blue Lagoon and Free Willy as some of the most beautiful music he has ever written.

‘Relationship Montage’ features two lovely guitar solos, both acoustic and electric, courtesy of Dean Parks and George Doering, bringing wonderful memories of that other superb baseball score Field of Dreams flooding back. ‘Jane’s Home’ is sweet and sublime, anchored by a lovely piano solo, while ‘The Apology’ is rather moving, with trumpet, oboe and guitar passing around a wistful melody above a bed of heartfelt strings. At the other end of the scale, ‘Tuttle Knockdown’ and ‘Gus Hits’ are down and dirty rock music, a quite unexpected departure for Basil, but one which still impresses, albeit in a different kind of way.

After Starship Troopers and Les Misérables, it’s taken Poledouris a long time to get back into the scoring loop. Whether his absence was an enforced one or a personal choice is unknown, but it’s good to see him back, that’s for sure. It’s almost a cliché now, but I still believe that Basil Poledouris is the most underrated film music composer of his generation. The quality of his work speaks for itself, and quite how he has gone this long without receiving some kind of official recognition for his superb talents is, quite frankly, unforgivable.

Rating: ****

Track Listing:

  • Main Theme (3:33)
  • Relationship Montage (3:35)
  • Tuttle Knockdown (1:47)
  • Jane’s Home (4:50)
  • Gus Hits (1:09)
  • Lemonade (2:08)
  • The Apology (1:57)
  • No Hits (4:02)
  • The Decision (5:13)
  • Last Pitch (4:57)

Running Time: 33 minutes 33 seconds

Varèse Sarabande VSD-6092 (1999)

Music composed and conducted by Basil Poledouris. Orchestrations by Steven Scott Smalley. Recorded and mixed by Tim Boyle. Edited by Curtis Roush. Mastered by Erick Labson. Album produced by Basil Poledouris, Tim Boyle and Mi Kyoung Chang.

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