People somewhat older than myself were weened on Ray Harryhauson movies, these were the special effects events of the year. Of course it was all done with models and hours and hours of painstaking stop motion animation, but the end result was amazing to audiences of the time. In our current world of cheap and easy computer generated effects, these movies seem tame and you can see the joins, but in many ways they were much more imaginative and the more rugged look of the effects added greatly to the atmosphere. Although I have some strange feeling that Bernard Herrmann wouldn't have done these films if he hadn't needed to through either contractual obligations or simply because they paid well, his contribution was always inspired and certainly greatly more interesting than the equivalent wall to wall music that thrashes about in the background of today's effects movies, trying to make itself heard above the THX sound effects. I suspect that it would be more intelligent not to try and compete, but rather attempt to compliment the movie. With these movies, each episode was scored with another new inventive set of orchestrations or another new motif, but something that set it apart from the rest. These days, sadly, whole scores are pretty interchangeable, but Herrmann was too talented to ever let that happen.
Starting with the bold and brassy Jason Prelude, this sets the tone for a heroic journey that lies ahead. I must admit that it's not one of Herrmann's most technically adept preludes, certainly not nearly as brilliant as the one from 7th Voyage of Sinbad. However, it sets the tone marvellously. Brass and woodwind along with percussion alone are featured in this score, there is no string section. Unlike Psycho which was done with only strings for budgetory reasons, I suspect that Herrmann had more than enough budget with this score and merely intended to experiment as he so often did. It's amazing that all of these experiments worked and never come out as misjudged. That's creative genius for you. I suppose something as bold and heroic as Jason and the Argonauts needed a great deal of brass and percussion just to play up the heroism. It is interesting that in the quieter passages, Herrmann has to use pulsing woodwinds for the harmony rather than long string notes. This is of course to ensure that the wind players are able to breathe now and again. Of course it is the bold and spectacular parts that will stick in the mind most notably. Sections such as The Olympic Games which features blaring fanfares or whenever a brief reprise of the main theme comes into play for a particularly exciting or heroic moment. As with many Herrmann scores, there are many short, but nonetheless interesting and noteworthy cues, but it would take ages and ages to mention them all.
Praise for this re-recording has been fairly unanimous in its adulation and so no Herrmann fan will be without it. I must confess that I am slightly surprised that it has been placed on a pedistal above the many excellent Varese releases of Herrmann scores. However, I must confess that the sound, performance and everything about this release is absolutely splendid, including the detailed, track by track liner notes written by Intrada's very own Douglass Fake. It is unfortunate that Bruce Broughton cannot be involved in many high profile films these days, but let us hope that it leaves him time to conduct some more great Herrmann and Rozsa scores (he previously conducted Ivanhoe and Julius Caeser). Definitely a score worth hearing and worth supporting Intrada so they do a few more in the future.