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Soundtrack review: The river wild (Jerry Goldsmith – 1994, 2015)

Intrada corner

Soundtrack review: The river wild (Jerry Goldsmith – 1994, 2015)


„The river wild”, the thriller where Meryl Streep becomes an unlikely action hero and fights Kevin Bacon, benefited from two scores from two of the greatest composers ever. Maurice Jarre’s effort wasn’t used and Jerry Goldsmith came to the rescue. I’ve enjoyed Jarre’s rejected score and I am very curious about the one that made the final cut.

„Practice”, the opening theme, is simply stunning. It’s so beautiful that I want to take it home and have it with me all the time. It’s sweeping at the beginning and end and very alert in the middle. It’s the kind of grand opening that makes you want to stay. I don’t always connect instantly with Jerry’s music but this score seems to be right up my alley. It’s easy on the years and the production and sound of this Intrada release are impeccable. I can fully enjoy every subtlety and nuance in the music.

Goldsmith uses the flute a lot in the first few cues, when the mood is still happy in that vacation. The flute always gets to me, I don’t know if I’ve ever heard a flute piece I didn’t like. When it’s used like this, only for special moments inside a cue, it’s even better. For example it makes ”Graffiti” sound alive and magic and it even pinches me with nostalgia because I sometimes associate flute sounds like those with the Paul Hertzog martial arts scores.

“Wade’s over” is where I feel the composition starts to lose any constraints it might have still had. I feel a release in this cue and I’m expecting great things from now on. This is percussion heaven reminiscent of ‘First blood part II’ and it makes me feel the danger of the situation. This is the moment when I really start to enjoy “The river wild”. The trumpet dominates the final part of this track and I associate it with the action parts.

“Same old story” hits me again with some nostalgia in its middle part where a few key strokes happen that resonated deep inside me. “All is well” is representative of the “water” cues. The music of the rapids is low key and thick with tension.

“Get the drinks” is the kind of track I have a hard time connecting with. It’s vintage action Jerry Goldsmith but there’s something about that sound that hasn’t yet sunk in with me. I find it cold and distant and I don’t enjoy it very much. The whole section of the score which starts there is difficult for me to enjoy. I get the tension, the atmosphere is there, but something puts me off. “The raft” is another example of a track I can’t connect with. It just goes by me and I can’t find its pulse.

As the rapids advance faster and faster towards the waterfall so I feel the monster cue of this score coming up. The 10 minutes long “Vacation’s over” will make or break this score for me. I will surely come back to “The river wild” once my connection with Jerry’s music will be stronger, but I hope I will enjoy this track.

Before that, “Do it!” finally gets me excited. This is the sound I loved so much in “First blood part II” and I can enjoy it here as well. I think it has more heart than the other cues. It’s loud and beautiful and I desperately cling to it as if it was a life vest. Luckily “Vacation’s over” delivers. It keeps that sound and I am enjoying 10 minutes of pure brilliance. This piece alone is worth the price of the album.

Despite this and the wonderful “Family reunion / End credits”, right now I enjoy more Maurice Jarre’s composition for “The river wild”. I will surely listen to Jerry’s again sometime in the future but at this point I found more heart and melody in the other one.

Cue rating: 74 / 100

Total minutes of excellence: 26 / 76

Album excellence: 34%


01 Practice

04 Here We Go

08 Wade’s Over

22 Do It!

24 Vacation’s Over

26 Family Reunion


Mihnea Manduteanu

I have been listening to film music for 25 years and writing about it since 2014. I've written over 1000 reviews and I can't imagine myself doing anything else. I am also a member of IFMCA (International Film Music Critics Association).

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