Bernard Herrmann, as well as being renowned for his amazing and very fitting scores to the best films of Alfred Hitchcock, he was also extensively asked to write scores for sci-fi and fantasy films and 7th Voyage of Sinbad is one of his finest. Each track is a movement unto itself and the whole score is full of incident and memorable musical accompaniments to the various bizarre creatures that Ray Harryhausen brought to life on the screen. The Overture is one of Herrmann's most exciting with crashing brass and very oriental turns in the woodwind and strings, also broken up with a slightly more lyrical bridge passage. It would take too long to mention something about every single track as there is something or interest in every corner of the score and no moments are wasted with idle meandering strings or other dull moments that so often occur on today's fantasy scores. The action cues are similarly interesting and never descend into mindless plodding bass. The Cyclops music has huge lumbering brass crashes that come to the fore whenever he appears on screen. The Skeleton and the duel with the Skeleton highlight (not surprisingly, I suppose) xylophones to mirror the bones. The use of expanded percussion works very well to bring a very exotic sound to all the music. The exciting percussion also become prominent during The Fight (although what the fight is with is not specified.)
There are more lyrical moments. The string melody for the Princess is perhaps slightly more traditional Hollywood sounding, but it still has a spark of the exotic that stands it apart. Other moments such as the Fog which is almost exactly what you'd imagine a musical depiction of fog to sound like; mysterious, brooding, but with a quite dense sound despite only using a few woodwinds and strings. I could give a track by track description, but that wouldn't really do justice to the music and anyway, why read my feeble attempts when you can hear everything that Herrmann's imagination could create brought to you in splendid fashion by Debney and the RSNO. The performance is amazing, and the pacing seems quite fast compared to the re-recordings that Herrmann did of a few of the tracks, I suspect that this version most closely matches the original speeds. It is most apparent in cues such as the overture, just how well the RSNO, the brass in particular perform. The sound quality is a trifle muffled when played quietly, but when you crank up the volume a little or use headphones, it comes across brilliantly and all the instrumentation can be heard very well indeed, while still having a wide, concert-hall stereo image. Anyone who enjoys Herrmann or fantasy scores would do well to give this a listen as you'll be amazed just how much more inventive Herrmann was than some of today's composers.
Read other recent reviews by Tom Daish: The Snow Files: The Film Music of Mark Snow
, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad