During the 1980's, Michael Kamen had the fortune to be associated with two series' of successful action films, the Die Hard and Lethal Weapon films. The first outing for the former is considered one of the finest action scores of the decade - an accolade I find a little hard to agree with, even if it is undeniably a score of some quality. Although John McClane had his comic moments, the Lethal Weapon films really set the standard for cop buddy pictures that many copied, but few could equal. Even after three sequels, the Lethal Weapon films still seem far ahead in terms of quality of production and in the appeal of the central pairing. Although less serious than the Die Hard films, Kamen, along with guitarist Eric Clapton, have approached the scores with an almost straight face which gives the dramatic aspects considerable weight.
Although the packaging doesn't indicate who wrote what, it would seem logical to assume that Kamen penned the orchestral sections and Clapton wrote the guitar based material, or at least collaborated with Kamen in writing it. Meet Martin Riggs sets the tone for Clapton's contributions with an 80's electric guitar sound that manages to stave off sounding too dated. This is not a score brimming with particularly memorable themes, although the guitar motif which (presumably) represents Mel Gibson's immortal Riggs recurs a few times. Saxophonist David Sanborn appears as a guest soloist in several of the tracks. It was Sanborn who encouraged Kamen to compose (and who subsequently performed and recorded) a saxophone concerto after working together on this film.
The earlier tracks are a mixture of guitar which suggests Riggs' jokey approach, but also some of the element of danger. However, Mr. Joshua introduces a more recognisable Kamen orchestral cue and from that point onwards, Kamen's contribution becomes more obvious. The stand out track is undoubtedly the exciting Hollywood Blvd. Chase which crackles along fairly briskly, to thrilling effect. It should be remembered that Clapton also inspired Kamen to pen a concerto, in this case for electric guitar and there are a few cues, notably Coke Deal and We're Getting Too Old For This which are almost a test bed for the style of composition Kamen employed in its writing. The latter has both Sanborn and Clapton playing which provides for an interesting mixture of both concertos' style.
It somewhat disappoints me that Kamen is most well known for his earlier action scores such as this and the Die Hard efforts, but I can't help feel they are far from his best work. Lethal Weapon is enjoyable enough, although some of the action cues do tend to loudly clatter along a little aimlessly and the suspense while interesting at the time, isn't terribly memorable. Even the centrepiece cue, Hollywood Blvd. Chase loses momentum on a couple of occasions. However, if you're a fan of Kamen's action scores, this is likely to satisfy, but it seems a long way from the quality of some of his more recent work. As with the Varese Club release of Die Hard, this is a limited edition run of 3,000.