The Best Years of Our Lives

Label X LXCD 14
Country: Australia
Format: CD
Release Date: 2000
UPN: 5-035135-100146

Album produced by John Steven Lasher. Performed by The London Philharmonic Orchestra, Franco Collura, conductor. Bob Burns, alto sax. Analogue Recording Engineer: Bob Auger. Digital Remix & Mastering Engineer: Louise Taylor. CD Notes by Royal S. Brown and Page Cook. Recorded at Church of All Saints, Tooting, London, 21-23 October 1978.

With such wide acclaim, I thought it would be appropriate to review this CD from Australia of the soundtrack first released on the Preamble label in 1988. It was re-issued in 2000 on Label "X."

I was fortunate enough to acquire the original release of THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES when it was released in 1978 on an Entr'acte LP. This was listed as "A Composer Authorized Recording," so Hugo Friedhofer obviously approved of its release. Orchestrator for this recording was Tony Bremner. The LP had a deluxe eight page booklet with a score analysis by Louis Applebaum, notes by Royal S. Brown and Page Cook and photos of Friedhofer and from the film. There was also a special 7" record containing one side one a 50th Anniversary Tribute to Friedhofer, written by Gene Lees and spoken by Richard Hatch; and on the other side, "The Homecoming," a key scene from the film complete with dialogue and music. This special LP release is now a collector's item -- it remains one of my fondest film music trasures.

The Label X CD has the same tracks, with digital mastering of the analog LP. But unfortunately, the extra tribute to Friedhofer is not included on the CD.

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES featured Myrna Loy, Fredric March (Oscar winner), Dana Andrews, Virginia Mayo, Teresa Wright and Harold Russell (who won two Oscars). The screenplay was written by the gifted Robert E. Sherwood. Director of photography was Gregg Toland, who worked with Orson Welles on CITIZEN KANE. The film was directed by William Wyler. Hugo Friedhofer also won an Oscar for Best Score of 1946. Altogether, the film received eight Oscars.

The Main Title (1:25) is one of the most memorable of any film score every written. It is poignant and powerful at the same time. The next track, "The Homecoming" (6:17), has some of the most heartwarming music every composed for a film, accompanying the three servicemen returning home after the war. But not all of the score has that same poignancy. There is Fred's (Dana Andrews) frightening remembrance of his bombardier duty on track 5, "The Nightmare" (6:12). This cue starts very softly and offers a hint of the song, "Among My Souvenirs" (the favorite of husband and wife characters played by Loy and March). Then it builds to a terrifying climax as Fred remembers his buddy lost in a bombing raid over Germany. This is one of the highpoints from this magnificent score. Another highlight occurs on track 9 ("The Citation/ Graveyard and Bombers" - 4:21), with the glorious main theme coming back and leading into the menacing graveyard scene for bomber planes.

Actually all the tracks from this score have something worthwhile to hear. The digital mastering is beautifully done and the sound is crisp and clean.

The CD doesn't have the score analysis by Louis Applebaum as with the LP notes, but does have the original extensive track by track notes by Royal S. Brown and a glowing appreciation of Friedhofer by Page Cook.

The last page has a note from producer John Steven Lasher. He admits to having problems with the close-miking of the original LP "which tended to favour certain instruments (the harp, celeste, piano, xylophone and timpani) in the recording." After nineteen years, Lasher decided to correct the recording with digital mastering technology. He concludes: " the end result is such that many will believe they are listening to a completely new recording. Of course, you - the listener - must be the final judge."

I believe this is what Friedhofer's milestone score has deserved and now received.

If you've never heard this score, you owe it to yourself to get this wonderful CD.

It belongs in every serious film music collector's library.

Roger L. Hall
Originally published @ Film Music Review – An online e-zine since 1998
Text reproduced by kind permission of the editor and publisher Roger Hall

1. Main Title   1:26
2. Homecoming   6:17
3. The Elevator / Boone City / Peggy   4:12
4. Fred and Peggy   2:22
5. The Nightmare   6:12
6. Fred Asleep   2:19
7. Neighbours / Wilma / Homer's Anger   7:31
8. Homer Goes Upstairs   5:49
9. The Citation / Graveyard and Bombers   4:21
10. End Title and End Cast (Wilma)   1:58
11. Exit Music   1:54

Leave a Reply