La-La Land Records LLLCD1243
22 Tracks/Disc Time: 57:45
In the late 70's, there was a period in Hollywood that explored both the romantic and sexual aspects of true love romance and character driven stories that pretty much came after the instant success of Love Story earlier in the decade. After a memorable summer that made Star Wars an instant blockbuster classic, First Love was thought of by Paramount Pictures as an intimate and seemingly erotic drama that could crossover and become a hit. The film based on a 1957 New Yorker short story entitled "Sentimental Education" by Harold Brodkey which was later published in a collection entitled "First Love And Other Sorrows", starred William Katt of Greatest American Hero fame as Elgin Smith, a literate college undergrad who has grown tired of dorm room one night stands like his other college buddies like his friend David (John Heard, Big) and longs for a more mature romantic relationship. While David is dating two women: Felicia (June Barrett) and Shelley (Beverly D'Angelo, National Lampoon's Vacation) as his way to keep his sexual appetities up, to which Elgin has no keen interest in and eventually is roped into a double date where Elgin escorts Shelley. During the date, Elgin sees a beautiful fellow co-ed named Caroline (Susan Dey, L.A. Law) and instantly falls in love with her. He manages to get her to go out with him and then pursue a very passionate love affair. However, Caroline is hung up in love with an older man named John March (Robert Loggia, Big) and soon their relationship completely unravels and soon Caroline leaves him and the school completely in the dead of winter. The film which was directed by Joan Darling a former actress, which is her first and only directorial big screen film after a successful career in television.
The film is about as obscure today as many films are that really didn't do anything at the box office as First Love did since its release in 1977. One of the primary reasons why this film has been brought back from obscurity is the fact that Academy Award Winner John Barry wrote the music for the film much to the surprise of many and I'll explain that in a bit. Barry was in the middle of a mid-70's run where he had relocated from his native England to Los Angeles as a six-week stay became a more permenant one soon after as Barry was offered project after film project that included the likes of Robin And Marian, King Kong, The Deep, The Betsy, Game of Death and many, many more. First Love had a bit of a musical complicated story as the simple aspects of the love story within the film as the producers had ultimately preferred pre-recorded songs over original score that included work of Cat Stevens and Paul Williams. Barry had written over forty-minutes of original score that had a more European and mature feel of those of the 60's and early 70's. with Barry's trademark lush material. Unfortunately for Barry, his score was almost completely replaced by Stevens and Williams' songs as well as temp track music by Carmine Coppola and Jean Sibelius which explains why Barry isn't listed within the film's credits for the most part.
This CD release of Barry's score really is an interesting work that is engaging at time and romantic, but I can see why the producers didn't use it and its because it might have overwhelmed the film somewhat and the tone was somewhat off from the traditional Barry score the producers may have been hoping for. However, what is on this album is really good for the most part and beginning with the haunting, romantic "Main Title" which is lush and tragic at the same time immediately sets the tone for what Barry's music was intended to do for the film and also introduces a jazzy motif that lightens the mood and the album features the tighter "revised" version that plays within the film. The haunting main theme estabalished in the "Main Title" gets a fuller, lush version in "The Big Love Scene" which underscores the love scene for Elgin and Caroline. Barry uses the European influence throughout passionate sounding track the ends in a more subtle tone which is somewhat similar to Barry's original intentions which is also available on this album. Barry does use the tender lush material featured in the love scene and the Main Title (Dante's Theme) for "The First Time", "Wait Till It Happens/I'm Shelley", "Caroline's Note" to passionate degrees as those highlighted track to varying degrees of success. Barry does use a little of the jazzy European flavored style to Elgin's character weither he's playing soccer or involved with David's escapades with a bit of serious but playful fun and triumph in "Two On A Bike", "Soccer Game", and "Elgin's Room". The End Credits are a brief but effective close to the score with a reprise of the score's main theme.
La-La Land Records release is a nicely put together album and one that fans of the late composer will love. My main problem is the same one I've had with other Barry's scores for the most part is that it is too repetitious and it wears itself a bit too thin at times to really truly love it and that's why I'm giving it a marginal recommendation for that reason. I love the theme itself, but spread through the rest of the running time with some type of difference doesn't quite cut it for me unfortunately. It is still great to see an obscure score by the late composer released and one that does deserve to be heard again.