Friday, 31 January 2014

Dark of the Sun by Jacques Loussier

The French composer Jacques Loussier is best known for his wildly successful Jazz Bach LPs which were multi-million sellers in the 1960s and 1970s. 

However he also did considerable soundtrack work, both for motion pictures and French television. Dark of the Sun — an adventure movie about mercenaries, diamonds and insurgents in the Congo, based on the Wilbur Smith novel — is one of his few English language films

It has also become quite a collectors item among soundtrack fans. I picked up a Japanese pressing of the LP some years ago and now I've just got a copy of Film Score Monthly's excellent CD issue, featuring considerably more music.

It's an instantly engaging score, more moody and evocative than the frenetic action themes you might expect in a movie of this sort, with a definite jazz feel and admirable use of percussion throughout (check out 'The Simbas Attack'). The minimalist percussion is particularly suspenseful when used with whistling ('Ruffo's Death'). There are also highly effective wordless vocals, notably on 'The Mission' and the hilariously titled 'Friendly Natives Having Fun Part 1 and 2'. 

The latter also features a penny whistle, calling to mind, perhaps deliberately, Bert Kaempfert's Kwela-inspired 'A Swingin' Safari'. There is also a distorted militaristic theme ('Dr Wreid') which stands as a kind of sarcastic commentary of the military mindset and some delicious, jazzy electric organ ('Claire and Curry'). 

My most immediate impression was of Ennio Morricone, especially his music for The Battle of Algiers or The Burglars — check out 'The Fight/Port Reprieve' here, although Loussier's work here is more conventionally melodic. But on closer listening there is far more to this score, and Loussier's diversity, originality and invention is impressive. 

I'm particularly taken with the lovely flute ('Curry and the Diamonds Part 1', 'Claire and Curry', 'Curry's Drive with Claire'). And since the score was recorded in London in 1968 I am wondering if it might be the work of the great Tubby Hayes.

An enormously rich and enjoyable score.

(Image credits: The LP cover is from Cidudadano Noodles ('Citizen Noodles') an impressive blog with an extensive post on the film. The Japanese LP cover is from Discogs, an excellent resource for tracking down and buying music which is also full of useful data. The CD cover, with its early use of a chainsaw as an offensive weapon — Tobe Hooper, eat your heart out — is from the Film Score Monthly page where you can buy the CD, which I advise you to do.)

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