"The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)"
Expanded Soundtrack Review
Music By Michel Legrand
"Windmills of Your Mind" Performed By Noel Harrison
Quartet Records 32 Tracks/Disc Time: 71:26
Grade: A- (BEST OF 2014)
In 1968, one of the most eccentric and most sophisticated comedy-thrillers was born in "The Thomas Crown Affair", which was ironically by a first time screenwriter, who also happend to be a lawyer in Alan R. Trustman who had written the film during his free time on weekends. The film starred the late Steve McQueen, who later in the year would also make the most iconic film of his entire career in "Bullitt" which was also co-written by Trustman, as Thomas Crown, a debonair, bored billionare banker who hires a gang of thieves to steal over two million dollars from a Boston bank. The sexy and allureing Vicki Anderson (Faye Dunaway, "Three Days Of The Condor") is then brought in to figure out the motives behind the crime as well figure out who the mysterious Thomas Crown really is. The film is one of the most iconic films of the 1960's and with plenty of good reasons, Norman Jewison's direction was top notch, Haskell Wexler's cinematography was exceptional, it was stylish in it's judicious use of split screen and editing which was the brilliance of the late Hal Ashby ("Hooper"), McQueen and Dunaway's sizzling performance in the film and the unforgettable song, "Windmills Of Your Mind" performed by Noel Harrison, which would win an Oscar.
While all those factors led to the success of the film, the final piece of the puzzle was the memorable score by French import and jazz legend Michel Legrand who gave the producers of the film and director Norman Jewison, a great idea to make the film work. They would go on vacation for six weeks, he would go write the score during that time (approx. 90 minutes worth) and then they would all get together and assemble the film to his music or he would re-write the score for free! The experiment did actually work and thus was born one of Legrand's most accomplished and iconic film scores that not only romantic, but exceptionally warm and memorable. A pure jazz work that actually can standout as a separate entity out of the film. Featuring some of L.A.'s finest jazz musicians in business that included saxophonist Bud Shank, bassist Ray Brown, drummer Shelly Manne, Vince DeRosa on french horn and Legrand himself on piano, "The Thomas Crown Affair" would live and breathe through the amazing work of Legrand.
Quartet Records latest release of the score features the complete original score recorded in Los Angeles (totaling about 30 minutes) as it was featured in the film for the first time ever outside of the film. There is a major difference between the original 1968 album (which is this album is devoted to for the first half of this album) which was re-recorded in France and features lengthy and more fleshed out material as alot of the score in the film was sparse and used for both mood setters and transition pieces that propelled the story along. The original album is just simply stunning as-is and well thought out that really intoxicating and exceptional material and in particular in which Legrand underscores the budding romance between Thomas and Vicki highlighted by the tracks "A Man's Castle", "The Chess Game", "Moments Of Love", "Playing The Field", "Doubting Thomas" and "His Eyes, Your Eyes" while also including a meatier version of the heist music in "Cash And Carry", and "The Boston Wrangler" which in the film are brief and played more as action-transitions.
The original score is a little leaner, but exceptionally effective particularly because it isn't as meaty, but really does get down to the jazz score that makes it work so well. Legrand really pulled out all the stops mainly focusing on the romantic aspect of the film and really giving it a more urgent tone at times. "Meet Vicki", "Brandy", "Chess Anyone?", "Let's Play Something Else", "Togetherness", "Love Montage", and "All My Love, Tommy" which are really effective in their form and really inspire Legrand for what would be his wonderful album arraingements. The heist is also effectively underscored and inspired by his previous score to "Ice Station Zebra", Legrand builds up the tension and urgency in this material highlighted by "Knock Knock", "The Gang", and "Getaway", while returning to some lighter, breezy fare in "Escapeline" (which features Legrand scatting along which is great), "Cemetary" and "More Cemetary" that make this album stand out even more. The famous "Windmills Of Your Mind" also gets special treatment here with no less than three versions (one for the album and two short renditions on the original film score) sung wonderfully by Noel Harrison that matches Legrand's jovial score to a tee.
This version of "The Thomas Crown Affair" is definitely the one to have because you're absolutely getting the best of both worlds in the beefed up and magical album and the excellent original recording that fans of the score will absolutely love. I love it and it's a real special gem to finally have! Thumbs way way up!