The World at War

City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra / Carl Davis

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The World at War Review

by Bruce Eder

The Thames Television series The World at War had some of the most distinctive music, both original and period, of any documentary ever presented on television on either side of the Atlantic. The original material was the work of transplanted American composer/conductor Carl Davis, while the source music was comprised of some of the more entertaining popular numbers of the 1930s and 1940s (mostly British and French), some from recordings, and others from radio broadcasts. Producer James Fitzpatrick has assembled new recordings of Davis with the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra, which has been doing excellent recordings for more than a decade and doesn't disappoint here, with a brace of period-popular sides, into a 75-minute CD -- the main title theme, "France Falls" (a ten-minute mini-suite with a killer alto sax solo surrounded by haunting strings in its front-end section), "Red Star," "Blood, Sweat And Tears," and "Red Star" (with its haunting bass clarinet opening), are all among the best music ever written to accompany a documentary film presentation, or any body of genuine history, and are worth the price of the disc by themselves. But in addition to Davis' best work, we're also treated to period recordings by Gracie Fields ("Wish Me Luck as You Wave Goodbye"), Arthur Askey ("(We're Gonna Hang Out) The Washing on the Siegfried Line"), Charles Trenet ("Boum"), The Billy Cotton Band ("Adolf"), Lale Anderson ("Lili Marlene"), Anne Shelton ("Coming In on a Wing And a Prayer"), and Noel Coward ("London Pride"), among others -- one delightful find is Irving Berlin's own 1943 London recording of "This Is the Army, Mr. Jones." And those are intercut with very brief speech excerpts by Winston Churchill, Neville Chamberlain, and Dwight Eisenhower, among others. The sound quality is excellent throughout, on the old tracks as well as the new -- the producers recorded and mixed from digital into analog to give all of the new material a warmth that is often lacking in digital-to-digital sides. And the annotation is extraordinarily thorough and interesting.Your only complaint may be that the producer didn't find room for George Formby and his recording of "Imagine Me on the Maginot Line," which was used on the series, but the and the Billy Cotton and Arthur Askey tracks are good alternatives, and the Trenet track is in a class by itself, capturing everything that was right about France as a place to live in 1939, and wrong with it as a focus of anti-Hitler strategy in that same era.

Track Listing

Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Neville Chamberlain 00:44 SpotifyAmazon
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra 03:56 SpotifyAmazon
3 Gracie Fields 02:34 SpotifyAmazon
4 Arthur Askey 02:33 SpotifyAmazon
5 Charles Trénet 02:32 SpotifyAmazon
France Falls / Prague Philharmonic Orchestra 10:53 SpotifyAmazon
Winston Churchill 00:31 SpotifyAmazon
Billy Cotton & His Band / The Billy Cotton Band / Alan Breeze 02:47 SpotifyAmazon
9 Lale Andersen 03:14 SpotifyAmazon
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra 04:07 SpotifyAmazon
Red Army Chorus 02:41 SpotifyAmazon
Field Marshal Montgomery 00:28 SpotifyAmazon
13 Irving Berlin 02:19 SpotifyAmazon
14 Prague Philharmonic Orchestra 03:05 SpotifyAmazon
15 Anne Shelton 02:44 SpotifyAmazon
Dwight D. Eisenhower 00:21 SpotifyAmazon
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra 01:03 SpotifyAmazon
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra 02:34 SpotifyAmazon
Flanagan & Allen 02:44 SpotifyAmazon
20 Carroll Gibbons / Savoy Orpheans 02:32 SpotifyAmazon
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra 04:44 SpotifyAmazon
22 Noël Coward 03:24 SpotifyAmazon
23 Vera Lynn / Mantovani Orchestra 03:21 SpotifyAmazon
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra 03:46 SpotifyAmazon
Winston Churchill 00:23 SpotifyAmazon
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra 03:20 SpotifyAmazon
Prague Philharmonic Orchestra 01:07 SpotifyAmazon
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