The Second Disc

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The Entertainer: Marvin Hamlisch’s “D.A.R.Y.L.” Premieres on CD, Features Teddy Pendergrass and Nile Rodgers

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DARYL OSTIt’s appropriate that Marvin Hamlisch’s only children’s book was titled Marvin Makes Music, for making music was indeed what the man did – music for Broadway, music for television, music for the concert hall, music for the silver screen. In any genre, Marvin made music overflowing with melody, wit and heart, and his populist approach earned him the nickname “the people’s composer.” Hamlisch’s film career began in 1968 with the score to the cult film The Swimmer and ended with his posthumously-released work on the HBO motion picture Behind the Candelabra; along the way, he picked up three Academy Awards (all in 1974, for The Sting and The Way We Were) and nine further nominations (between 1972 and 1997). La-La Land Records has recently unveiled the first-ever soundtrack to one of Hamlisch’s less-heralded projects, the 1985 sci-fi fantasy D.A.R.Y.L., on compact disc.

Director Simon Wincer’s film centered on a mysterious little boy named Daryl (Barret Oliver) who comes into the lives of foster parents Andy (Michael McKean) and Joyce (Mary Beth Hurt). Eventually it’s discovered that Daryl isn’t a boy at all, but rather an artificial intelligence named D.A.R.Y.L. (Data-Analyzing Robot Youth Lifeform) who wishes to be human. This contemporary spin on Pinocchio followed the eighties trend of “weird scene” movies aimed at youngsters, but something in the premise clearly inspired Marvin Hamlisch. The eighties wasn’t the best decade for the Pulitzer Prize and EGOT (Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Tony)-winning maestro; his score to D.A.R.Y.L. proved to be his only Hollywood assignment between 1983 and 1987. D.A.R.Y.L. arrived between his scores to two unsuccessful musicals, London’s Jean Seberg and New York’s Smile.  Despite fine scores with some of Hamlisch’s most inventive and effective music, both shows failed to reach their potential. D.A.R.Y.L. is yet one more crucial piece of evidence that Hamlisch’s gifts were still in abundance during this period of his career.

La-La Land’s beautiful presentation offers the score in full, plus three bonus tracks. Two of these bonuses are source cues (of Beethoven and Rodgers and Hart!) but the third is the song that exists at the heart of D.A.R.Y.L., “Somewhere I Belong.” Philadelphia soul man Teddy Pendergrass performs the song with lyrics by Dean Pitchford (Footloose) in a glossy pop rendition with production and guitar by CHIC’s Nile Rodgers that makes its worldwide debut on CD here. (This version is the full 5+-minute version of the song, too, rather than the truncated edit.) Pitchford’s lyrics take Daryl’s point of view while also functioning as a universal love song: “Somewhere I belong/somewhere I can call my home/Open your heart to me/I’ve got the feeling/That your love is leading me home…”

Hamlisch threaded the yearning, reflective melody of “Somewhere I Belong” throughout his heartfelt, often poignant score, beginning with the latter portion of the Main Title (which begins with a languid, wistfully whistled melody that’s quintessentially Hamlisch). Echoing the family film’s various elements of comedy, drama and high adventure, Hamlisch’s score is among his most diverse. Most of it is traditionally orchestral, but befitting the modern science-fiction elements, he also incorporates more cutting-edge sounds. The score’s first major brush with electronics is the brief, synthesizer-led “Baseball Montage” but soon piano and orchestra take over in softer mode. (The bright and brash “Baseball” melody recurs in the buoyant “Turtle’s Homer.”) A far colder, more sterile use of electronics is heard in “TASCOM/I’m Scared” for the sequence in which D.A.R.Y.L. returns to the facility in which he was created.

There’s more after the jump!

A joyous sense of fantasy permeates “They’ve Got a Kid” in which the Richardsons welcome the good fortune of their new foster child Daryl, and Hamlisch’s always-playful sense of humor is on display in “The Joyride.” (“We’ve Got a Kid” also recalls the sound of his then-recent score to Romantic Comedy which also blended synths with orchestra.) However, the score also amplifies the darker aspects of the film. Strings add dramatic tension to “Welcome to TASCOM/Never Was Human” and the booming “Hooker and Turtle to the Rescue,” while a snare drum-driven theme appears with increasing suspense on cues like “The Army’s Coming” and “The Car Chase Begins.” (Par for the course in this genre of film, the military gets involved!)

Hamlisch’s effortless pop sound appears in “Baseball Montage” and “Transition/The Patrol Car,” quoting “Somewhere I Belong,” but more frequently, the music is in classic cinematic mode – whether quietly and sincerely sensitive (“You Are a Person”) or boldly triumphant (“The Big Plane Moves”). A piano-and-orchestra arrangement of Thomas H. Bayly’s song “Long, Long Ago” – composed in 1833 – adds a note of classically-inspired nostalgia. Veteran orchestrator Jack Hayes handled those duties for Hamlisch, but the composer conducted his own score, naturally bringing out the nuance in each track.

La-La Land’s premiere release of the music of D.A.R.Y.L., a limited edition of 1,500 units,includes a lavish sixteen-page booklet featuring a note from producer Dan Goldwasser and an extensive, wonderfully detailed essay with track-by-track annotations courtesy of Jeff Bond. In addition, there are numerous color images from the film. Mastering engineer James Nelson does his typically stellar work here.

D.A.R.Y.L. may be a footnote in the impressive career of Marvin Hamlisch’s, but it’s one that deserves the attention of all of the composer’s fans as well as any listeners interested in richly melodic, evocative film scoring. La-La Land’s presentation is top-notch and one can only hope that it leads to further premieres and expanded editions from the Hamlisch filmography.

You can order D.A.R.Y.L. directly from La-La Land at the link below!

Marvin Hamlisch, D.A.R.Y.L.: Music from the Motion Picture (La-La Land LLLCD 1307, 2014)

  1. Main Title
  2. They’ve Got a Kid/Second Part of Game
  3. Long Long Ago/D.A.R.Y.L.’s Second Hit
  4. Long Long Ago (Reprise)/Is It Me
  5. Baseball Montage/D.A.R.Y.L., Sweetheart!
  6. Turtle’s Homer
  7. D.A.R.Y.L. and Dad
  8. The Departure
  9. TASCOM/I’m Scared
  10. Terminated/What You Feel in Yourself/What Am I?
  11. Welcome to TASCOM/Never Was Human
  12. Look at Him/Hugs Father
  13. The Army’s Coming/The Destruction of D.A.R.Y.L./The Escape
  14. The Car Chase Begins
  15. Transition/The Patrol Car
  16. You Are a Person/Two Soldiers
  17. The Big Plane Moves/The Joyride
  18. Hooker and Turtle to the Rescue
  19. D.A.R.Y.L. Hits the Water/D.A.R.Y.L. Runs Home
  20. Somewhere I Belong (Hamlisch/Pitchford) – Teddy Pendergrass
  21. Six Variations on the Duet “Nel cor plu non mi sento” from the opera La Molinara by Paisello: Variations 1 & 3 (Beethoven)
  22. Isn’t It Romantic (Rodgers and Hart)

Written by Joe Marchese

June 23, 2014 at 13:14

One Response

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  1. Let’s dust it off and drive it to the game Saturday.  What will it do on the straight-a-way?


    Bill Waters

    June 23, 2014 at 13:38

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