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 In 1989, John Williams returned to complete the first Indiana Jones trilogy with his score for The Last Crusade.  This served as a turning point in the composer's action music style, closing the book on scores like The Empire Strikes Back and Raiders, while looking ahead to his music for Hook, The Lost World, Jurassic Park, and The Phantom Menace.  This new tone has been a bone of contention amount his fans - on the one hand, it is much easier to listen to while still housing the Maestro's virtuoso musical devices.  On the other hand, this can get too playful and cute, to the point of marring a score and making the listener long for the glory of Star Wars and Superman.  Whatever the merits of the new "Williams sound," it suites The Last Crusade perfectly.  This was a much more humorous chapter in the series, and the style matched it scene for scene while still providing some of the composer's most thrilling action music and moving themes.  Williams' leitmotivs are more numerous than usual, with each producing a different emotional facet of the piece.  WB's release is sadly truncated, preserving just under an hour of the 110 minute score, encompassing the best of the music's set pieces.  In summation, this is an essential purchase for any film score fan, especially die hard Williams collectors.

Track by Track Analysis:

1. Indy's Very First Adventure (8:11)

Williams begins his score with this lengthy setpiece, which introduces several of the score's themes and a lengthy action segment.  After a prelude of dissonant strings, Williams lightens the mood with a Goldsmithian landscape theme, as well as an introduction of the cue's main theme, which is somewhat connected with the Grail theme, presumably to represent the artifact searched for by Indy.  After a few minutes of leitmotivic blending, a new action motif enters, and Williams turns the rest of the cue into a brassy scherzo, constantly touching upon the leitmotivs.  This section perfectly demonstrates the composer's new outlook on the Jones series, with the main theme containing almost a comedic playfulness more like Ewoks than Indiana Jones, although it still makes for exciting listening in album form.

2. X Marks the Spot (3:07)

After a nostalgic brass theme and a subtle mention of the Jones fanfare, Williams begins a triad brass fanfare that will resurface later in the cue.  Next he introduces the Grail theme, whose unexpected major/minor chord switches transform it into one of the Maestro's most moving themes. The remainder of the track houses some brooding, string-driven underscore.

3. Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra (3:49)

Another of Crusade's main themes is introduced in this concert arrangement, which, after a brooding buildup and hint of the Jones fanfare, breaks loose into one of John Williams' most fast-paced scherzos, almost to the level of Empire Strikes Back's "The Asteroid Field."  This also serves as a foundation to a large part of The Phantom Menace's (largely unreleased) action music, particularly "Sith Spacecraft/The Droid Battle."  The cue's theme serves as a leitmotiv for Jones and his father.

4. Ah, Rats!!! (3:36)

Predictably, this begins with an oppressive dissonant string descent followed by some brooding underscore.  Soon, however, the magnificent triadic Grail theme returns in trumpets, followed by the introduction of a new theme to represent the Grail knights.  Warm and nostalgic, this receives a mini-concert arrangement in the end credits.  Unexpectedly, a few minutes of perilous minor key action music round out the rest of the cue.

5. Escape From Venice (4:21)

One of the most memorable action cues of the score, this begins with a towering brass motif, and later melds into another furious action scherzo that sets the foundation for the composer's new stance on action music throughout the 1990s that will resurface in scores like The Lost World, Hook, and The Phantom Menace.  The opening motif makes several other appearances throughout the cue, which soon begins a Presto ostinato figure that continually builds, finally hitting oblivion.  The cue ends with a mention of the Grail theme, fading out on cheesy synth.

6. No Ticket (2:42)

This cue is based completely on a playful question and answer motif for strings that would sound more at home in Hook than a Jones movie.

7. The Keeper of the Grail (3:21)

After a few seconds of underscore, the knight theme from "Rats" makes another appearance, soon eclipsed by yet more typical Williams underscore.  Soon, however, a moving Medieval theme enters for a few seconds in the strings.

8. Keeping Up With The Joneses (3:35)

Williams masterfully combines most of the motivs from earlier in the score, including the fanfare from track 2, the ostinato from "Scherzo," the nature theme from Indy's Very First Adventure, and a new descending Nazi motif that will later be expanded into another theme.  Unbelievably, he transforms the bouncing scherzo theme from "First Adventure" into one of the most moving melodies of the score, presumably to represent the relationship between Jones and his father.

9. Brother Of The Cruciform Sword (1:53)

Two more completely new themes find their first use in this cue: a distinctly Arabian motif signifying the Brotherhood mentioned in the title, as well as the ruthless Nazi brass fanfare.  This served as the inspiration for Michael Giacchino's similarly tinted Nazi theme in Medal of Honor.

10. Belly Of The Steel Beast (5:26)

Perhaps my favorite action cue of the score, this serves as a masterful counterpart to Raiders' "Desert Chase."  Unfortunately, like its counterpart, this is shorn of almost half its lengthy running time, although what we get is some of the Maestro's best action writing of all time.  He introduces the piece's main thematic material in the first seconds and proceeds to put it through countless variations, utilizing some of his most traditional devices, including chromatic brass/woodwind triad fanfares at several points.  After a Korngoldian mention of the Indy fanfare, the tone completely changes, building the remainder of the track on a fresh thematic idea that takes the form of the passionless, deadly mechanism of the cue's title.  Even during this moment of sheer terror, the piece's main theme manages to work into the upper registers of the virtuoso woodwind runs, forming the most exciting moment of the score.

11. The Canyon Of The Crescent Moon (4:16)

This consists of long passages of brooding underscore, showcasing dissonant strings and ambient electronic FX.

12. The Penitent Man Will Pass (3:23)

Williams bases this final underscore track almost completely on the Grail theme in a series of impressionistic arrangements, including an early combination with dissonant strings and one with synth choir.  A grand string chorale rounds out the cue.

13. End Credits (Raiders March) (10:36)

After a final moment of perilous action music, the score settles into its resolution.  The moving theme from track 8 returns for a brief moment, soon overshadowed by the huge Grail theme voiced for the final time by brass.  Another hint of the Knight motif soon melds into the first strains of the Raiders March, finally expanded into the large concert arrangement from the first score in the trilogy.  Williams' credit suite consists of a final version of the Knight theme, a replay of the Scherzo for Motorcycle and Orchestra, and finally another huge display of orchestral power in the Raiders March.

Overall, this is probably Williams' most entertaining entry into the Indiana Jones series, although overshadowed by the other two in sheer compositional power.  Still, buy it immediately.

The Last Crusade: The Final Score
Music Rating 10/10
Packaging/Liner Notes N/A
Orchestral Performance 9/10
Sound Quality 9/10
Length 6/10

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is Copyright 1989 by Warner Bros. Records.  Review Copyright 2000 by Andrew Drannon.  All Rights Reserved.