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Golden Child John Barry LP Assemblies

NEWS FLASH: Selected FSM CDs are 20% off at Screen Archives, May 12–17. Go here for the details.

I’ve had some interesting journeys in soundtrack-land.

When I was a kid and saw The Golden Child in a theater, I never would have imagined I’d be involved with a 3CD set 25 years later (2011) presenting both the John Barry and Michel Colombier scores recorded for the film.

This was a very ambitious project and it took a team of us to pull it off. Many thanks to La-La Land for releasing the album (now out of print, sorry) and Paramount Pictures and EMI Music for their cooperation with the research and licensing. (I remember at least one lawyer throwing up his hands, “I can’t deal with this!” So, of course, I just went over to the next lawyer to ask the same question, haha.)

In case you’re trying to remember what this is: Eddie Murphy’s 1986 film was something of a bust, neither a straight adventure nor a comedy. The original composer was John Barry, who recorded a large-scale symphonic score the same summer as Howard the Duck. (“It’s been a long hot summer,” Barry dryly remarked to a British journalist, as recounted in our terrific liner notes by Jon Burlingame.)

However, a test-audience disliked the film, and studio executives blamed the score as part of the problem—they felt Barry’s symphonic grandeur at odds with the streetwise (which is code for “black”) protagonist, and detrimental to the pace.

So Michel Colombier was brought in to rewrite parts of the soundtrack, but insisted on scoring the entire film—which he did in two weeks.

Ultimately, the producers mixed and matched parts of both scores—although they mostly used Colombier’s, who got screen credit.

But Barry’s song, “The Best Man in the World,” performed by Ann Wilson from Heart, is used for the main titles, and Barry’s cues accompany a few key scenes.

So it’s a real hodgepodge, and the 1986 soundtrack album featured contributions by both composers. The 2011 La-La Land 3CD set, we’re proud to say, features everything.

During the process of researching the score, I got to look at the orchestrations for the Barry score, which were done by Al Woodbury. All I remember is that they used the British system of using only reel and part numbers—no titles.

We also came across a set of 1630 digital tapes of the soundtrack album that was prepared before Colombier was hired—which is to say, when Barry was the sole composer.

There were, in fact, two albums assembled: one would have been almost entirely Barry music, and the other would have had mostly pop songs on side one, with excerpts from Barry’s score on side two.

This doesn’t mean that they would release two albums, but that they intended to pick one, based on various business considerations.

Here are our digital camera pictures so you can see for yourself:

There you have it, folks. Where else are you going to find things like this?

If you liked this blast from the past—and the vaults—please visit my IMDB page, for the egocentric purpose of inflating my silly “star rating.” Thanks!

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