Miklós Rózsa

Blood on the Sun [Original Motion Picture Soundtrack]

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Citadel's Blood on the Sun is essentially two albums in one. The first consists of a cleaned-up historical recording of composer Miklós Rózsa taking a studio orchestra through the score of the 1945 film indicated in the title, and the second made up of latter-day adaptations of Rózsa's film themes for chamber combinations and, at the end, chorus and organ. The common thread in the adaptations is that Rózsa himself had a hand in preparing and recording them, with the assistance of producer Tony Thomas; all of this extra material has not been available in a long time, and some of it has never appeared on CD before.

Rózsa contributed a strong, dramatic, and meaty score for Blood on the Sun, an anti-Japanese Imperialist potboiler that made its bow just six weeks before atomic bombs rained down on Japan. The lacquer discs used for this recording, belonging to Rózsa, were probably the same ones this low-budget, independently made film was synced to in 1945. These transfers, however, were made in the1970s for a Citadel LP back when both the tools and the standards for this kind of audio restoration work were radically different from what they are 30 years hence. Although Citadel's producers have taken the track through an additional digital step, the reverberation added in the '70s is still a tad too heavy, though certainly justifiable given the gritty and limited sound of the sources. It's still listenable -- just one sincerely wishes that the original discs had been used as source rather than Citadel's tape. Nevertheless, the score is superb; Rózsa's glosses on traditional Japanese-styled music is not conceived as caricature; however, his dark, menacing big city music is the main attraction.

After that, guitarist Gregg Nestor is heard in six short Rózsa cues as arranged for solo guitar. These are very nicely played, and it is surprising just how well Rózsa's music fits onto the guitar -- one associates his music so readily with their unique orchestral sound that one would not think it possible to shrink it to six strings. However, it works. The highlight of the disc is the Notturno for saxophone and piano, arranged from a cue used in multiple film noir -- this smoky city nocturne is well done by saxophonist Ralph Gari, who adds just the right amount of vibrato in the sax's tone to suit the mood. Two choral pieces from costume dramas, sung by the Brigham Young University A Cappella Choir, suffer from a master tape that's falling apart.

Citadel's Blood on the Sun is decidedly for specialists and fans of Rózsa who will happily embrace this disc of odds and ends. The significance of it is that Rózsa did become aware late in life that he needed to adapt both his past recordings and his works in order to ensure the survival of his music for future generations. Although there would be a point where ill health would stop him from doing so entirely, Blood on the Sun collects some of the things that he worked on in a retrospective sense.

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