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Jerry Goldsmith scoring a TV movie?  That's not something you hear every day.  Although he has attained great fame for several TV themes, including Star Trek: Voyager, it isn't often that he ventures into the often-mediocre realm of television underscore.  Somehow, Frank Sinatra & Co. managed to hook Goldsmith in to work on their subpar 1977 telefilm Contract on Cherry Street.  The result is this exciting, if not exactly memorable 47 minute score that is quite reminiscent of his percussive orchestral work in Capricorn One.  However, whereas the former only had about 2 major action cues, Cherry Street is a long string of propulsive orchestral action.  Also present are a few short passages highlighting a jazzy muted trumpet solo, a characteristic of the composer's excellent film noir scores like LA Confidential and Chinatown.  That's not to say there aren't any quieter moments - about 15-20 minutes of the score is devoted to the somber, moving main theme and quieter music, never devolving into mediocre underscore.  The main instruments of the action cues are a huge legion of trombones, most notably utilized in the main title, as well as the more obscure alto flute, used in the quieter passages.  This adds an ethereal, almost Herrmannesque aura to the score.  Also present is a large amount of piano, adding soaring runs to the quieter sections and a foreboding bass ostinato to the action cues.  This new release of the music, its first (and probably last) appearance on album, is a super-limited edition put out by the Belgian label Prometheus, limited to 2000 numbered discs.  If you want this, head over to  SuperCollector  and pick up one of their few copies.  The liner notes, by Gary Kester, are routinely excellent, focusing more on musical content than the movie.  Sound quality is pretty good, not as pristine as I hoped for, and adds unwanted grittiness to the trombones, although I suppose it adds to the mood.  Overall, if the percussive orchestral style of Capricorn One appeals to you, you'll probably end up enjoying this too.


Track by Track Analysis:
1. Main Title (3:57)
Rather than using his bittersweet main theme for the credits, Goldsmith introduces his army of trombones, as well as the piano in the main action ostinato, written in a peculiar meter on the offbeats.  The alto flute also makes an appearance.  After this is a short action cue, in straightforward 4/4, but with devilishly complex string lines.  In the last section, Goldsmith's moving main theme is introduced on a jazzy muted trumpet.

2. Trickin' Along (1:18)
Another lush action cue, based on the main ostinato.  The complex string writing is back, and in the first section is a peculiar percussion effect.  Later, the piano is introduced, performing a short run in the midst of the action.

3. Red Light (0:42)
This short cue continues the bass ostinato introduced in track one, as well as the percussion effect and string action theme.

4. Equal Partners (2:58)
Goldsmith expands on his bittersweet thematic material in a concert-like arrangement of his main theme, without the trumpet.  Instead, soaring strings backed by piano pick it up, and carry it to new dramatic heights.

5. False Arrest (5:09)
I know you'll be surprised, but some of the woodwind writing in this score reminds me of, of all things, the Star Wars desert music.  It's written in the same low register, chordal minor woodwind style, with the alto flute leading.  Most of this cue, one of the most important in the score, is based on the bass ostinato, played on either low brass or piano, with the aforementioned woodwind effects.  The strings also get a chance to try out the melody.

6. Prowling (1:33)
One of the main highlights of the score, this presents a short scherzo grounded in alto flute, with string accompaniment.  Bernard Herrmann would have been proud of this, as it's in a style that he visited often.  After the initial 6/8 burst of flutes, a shimmering arpeggio for piano appears, under a lush string presentation of the main theme.  More of the scherzo ends the track.

7. The Execution (0:52)
Although we've had many instances of uneasiness, this track is the first encounter we've had with blatant despair in the score, with a grounded bass ostinato under increasingly dissonant brass and string playings of the main theme.  The effect is truly striking.

8. Eulogizing (4:23)
As an aftermath to the violent execution cue, Goldsmith hands us a quiet, reflective, and somewhat depressing eulogy cue, based heavily on desolate strings, but later including a heartwrenching playing of the main theme on alto flute.

9. The Vigilantes (1:20)
The theme is back (see, I told you it wasn't all action.) in a short recap for solo piano.  A guttural action cue follows it, based on a grunting ostinato in the low brass, with interjections of the main ostinato theme.  A violently dissonant outburst ends the cue.

10. The Deal (1:20)
Goldsmith continues his richly evocative woodwind passages on top of the main ostinato in piano, as well as his typical soaring strings.

11. One Way Ride (4:59)
Here we get the most exciting and frantic cue we've had in the album, continuing with the foreboding bass ostinati in strings and trombones, as well as huge string fanfares (yes, they're almost used as a brass instrument.)  Also present are frantically dissonant brass and woodwind runs, each followed by recoiling fragmented trombone figures.  In fact, the tension level sometimes rises almost to the level of parts of his Planet of the Apes score.

12. A Dusty Death (3:17)
Yet another exciting ostinato-based action cue comes next, based on a previously unheard string ostinato, as well as the usual arching, nonmelodic strings, screeching brass, and guttural trombones.

13. Bird Watching (2:20)
We now return to more quieter surroundings, with a softer rendition of the previous cue's ostinato, under various flute, piano, and pizzicatto string figures.  It's almost like a cue for a spy movie.  As I listen to this more and more, it continually takes on an aspect that makes it seem like a cousin to Planet of the Apes, but with an added theme.

14. Trouble Downtown (2:18)
After beginning with more fragmented ostinato music, a quieter, more foreboding presentation of the theme on that ethereal alto flute - one of my favorite instances of it.

15. Saturday Night Special (1:03)
Another unsettling track.  It features a fragmented, vibrato alto flute version of the main theme that really adds an air of gloominess and terror to it.

16. Breach of Contract (5:10)
Instead of ending his score with a huge action cue, the climax of the music is a heartwrenching five minute ode to Goldsmith's unstable, tragic main theme.  The entire piece isn't tragic, though; in the middle, the composer adds almost a comic version of his theme.  That doesn't last long though, and the final few minutes are more sections of the main theme over various dissonant brass and string effects.  The quality it takes on here is almost like the strings in John Williams' Schindler's List.

17. Finale (2:10)
Goldsmith ends his score with a farewell to his main theme, now back in its native jazz arrangement on muted trumpet, even with jazz percussion.
 

Although fans of Goldsmith's more modern scores may be put off by its grittiness and dissonance, anyone who loves either his dissonant, propulsive action material or his strong, Wind and the Lion or Chinatown-like themes, give it a shot.



 
Contract on Cherry Street: The Final Score
Music Rating 8/10
Packaging/Liner Notes 9/10
Sound Quality 7/10
Orchestral Performance 9/10
Length 10/10


Contract on Cherry Street is Copyright 1999 by Prometheus.  Review Copyright 1999 by Andrew Drannon.  All rights reserved.