"Congo" (Complete Score)
Featuring Lebo M
Intrada Special Collection Vol.220
31 Tracks/Disc Time: 62:49 Grade: C+
Congo was the 1995 action-adventure film based on the late Michael Crichton's novel which was originally was set to be filmed in the early 80's by Crichton himself. However, with the film's futuristic effects and make up not available during that time period, the project was shelved until Paramount revived the film in the early 90's with Director Frank Marshall, who had helmed the hit films Arachnophobia and Alive under his belt under his direction from a scripted by Academy Award winner and playwright John Patrick Shanley (Moonstruck, Joe vs. The Volcano, Alive). The film which featured a virtual cast of unknowns at the time and now stars in their own right which include Laura Linney (The Big C, Primal Fear) and Dylan Walsh (Nip/Tuck) along with great veteran actors Ernie Hudson (Ghostbusters), Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show), Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix) and Joe Don Baker (Walking Tall). The film revolves around a quest for a rare source of diamonds large enough and pure enough to function as powerful laser communications transmitters and weapons by a megalomaniac C.E.O. Travis (Baker) who sends his son, Charlie (Bruce Campbell) into the dangerous African Congo to search and retrieve them. When contact is lost with his son and the team, his future daughter-in-law Dr. Karen Ross, a former CIA operative (Linney) is sent in after her fiancee and the group. She's accompanied by Dr. Peter Elliot (Walsh), who long with his gorilla Amy is proficent in sign language who's able to talk through a voice modulator, Monroe Kelly (Hudson), a adventurer and mercinary and Hemmolka (Curry), a nutty archiologist looking for a lost city named Zinj that happens to contain the very precious rare diamonds that the C.E.O is looking for. They soon find out why no one returned from the original expedition and find a force more vicious and destructive that no one has ever left the jungle alive. The film despite lackluster reviews and howling bad one liners managed to gross a successful box office run in the Summer of 1995.
Originally composer James Newton Howard was slated to write the music for this film after previously working with Director Frank Marshall on Alive and did start preliminary work on the film when he was called away at the last minute to work on another trouble film, Waterworld. With the film needing a composer of high caliber and stature with the experience to score a film such as this one, Academy Award winner Jerry Goldsmith was the chosen one to bring the world to life. Ironically, Goldsmith had been attached to write the music for the film when Writer/Director Michael Crichton was planning to direct it himself after working with the famed author on several other films before that. He lobbyed for the job with Marshall as he remaining loyal to his friend and collaborator's vision. The music for the film features a mix of ecclectic action, but also a tender and sprited theme for the quest through the African jungle working inconjunction with Lebo M ("Spirit of Africa/The Expedition", "Amy's Farewell/Spirit Of Africa/End Credits") who had scored a memorable turn turning Hans Zimmer's score for "The Lion King" into one of his finest. The "Spirit of Africa" is a very tender theme and has a lullaby quality to it that does work perfectly and is used sparingly throughout the rest of the score.
Goldsmith also provided a theme for Amy, the gorilla who plays a major part in the finale of the film providing tender and subtle material in tracks "Meet Amy", "Sad Amy" that do recur throughout the score in various guises and also used the adventure theme to solid use in "Crash Site", "Zinj", "The Eye", that do feature alot of exotic percussion and electronic effects for sweetner. The best material in all honesty is when Goldsmith just unleashes some great action material that his adrant fans (including myself) do get excited over and for the most part went missing in the original soundtrack release of the score which include "Meet Monroe Kelly", "Bail Out","Help Me", "Amy's Nightmare" and "Kahega", which feature some of Goldsmith's exciting and energetic material which really is sorely lacking for the most part in this score. Bail Out features a rodeo styled motif in the middle of the track that is really fun and joyful. The action material at least in view, are definitely the highlights of Intrada's expanded album.
In all honesty, I've always found Congo to be the most disappointing score in Jerry Goldsmith's reniassance period of the mid to late 90's and at times, sorta of plays like a weaker cousin to the rousing and cheesy "King Solomon's Mines", a film that didn't have the budget that this one did, but Goldsmith really unleashed some great music for it. There are parts that are terrific which is mainly the action material in particular, but I've never quite got into the "Spirit Of Africa", which kind of pales to Lebo M's work on "The Lion King" without question. This album features a wealth of new material that was left off the original Sony album during the film's theatrical release as Goldsmith settled for the more subtle material with a couple of the action tracks bookended by his and Lebo M's collaboration which sacrificed almost all of the action material which he would also do on his First Knight album as well. Maybe, that's why I've never been a fan of this score and the film is just unintentionally funny especially when Tim Curry blurts out lines like "We Are Watching You" in all honesty. I can only recommend Congo for the more propulsive action material which is vintage Goldsmith, but everything else is bland just goes by unmemorably and that's too bad because I really am a fan of Goldsmith's work and I've always wanted to like this score for other than its' action cues, but I just can't. This album is definitely for hardcore fans of the composer (like myself), but for the more causal fan, I'll recommend it with mixed thoughts.