The Wicked Lady soundtrack reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
For Tony Banks fans this album remained for many years the Holy Grail, as it was the only album not to gain a release on CD at the time it originally came out back in 1983. The film itself gained mixed reviews as indeed did most of the late Michael Winner’s creations but viewed dispassionately, this one (and its accompanying soundtrack) deserve serious reappraisal and at last the music that accompanied the film can receive exactly that.
Listening to this recording was almost like meeting an old friend. Having dispensed with my vinyl collection a LONG time ago, becoming reacquainted with this music was a real delight. The Wicked Lady title music opens the disc, a mixture of majesty and bathos setting the scene nicely for the film itself.
Portrait of Jerry Jackson, the central protagonist of the film as I recall come next, a suitably dramatic piece full of vim and vigour as well as just a touch of wry humour worthy of such a feisty character. The death knell drum roll half-way through the piece changes the atmosphere entirely as we are reminded of the usual fate of such characters. Caroline’s Theme is an altogether more romantic interlude, replete with some delightful harp playing and a truly beautiful violin theme throughout - one of the most underrated pieces from Tony’s vast canon of work in my opinion.
Scherzo shimmers like rain on a window pane before a jaunty theme takes up the pace, a gallop through the countryside is what comes to mind, and the humorous piano part implies to my mind someone who might not be as comfortable on a horse as their companions. Drama and melodrama are played out in this one in equal measures. Pastorale too lives up to its title, a delightfully expansive piece worthy of Vaughan Williams and I don’t say that lightly either although whether Tony will appreciate the compliment, I don’t know!
Prelude to The Wicked Lady is somewhat confusingly next in the running order. No matter, as the main theme is re-iterated here with a further lush use of the orchestral palette from Tony whose piano playing here is to die for.
Kit’s Theme too features some delightfully understated piano work from Tony augmented by a skilful orchestral accompaniment which brings us to the Finale of the first half or “side” of the album with another magnificent aural landscape brought vividly to life by a sparing use of orchestral colour. Nothing here is overstated or overplayed, instead we have another example of Tony’s impeccable musical good taste.
The variations on the themes from the film feature on what would have originally been the second “side” of the LP with some additional characterisations and scenes executed solely by Tony on piano all of which give a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes of the creative process involved with such a project.
All in all, this album stands as one of Tony’s best, in or out of Genesis. If there were any justice, this music would have been commissioned for a better film than the one it eventually ended up being used in but that aside, if you haven’t heard it before, you are in for a treat and if you, like me, haven’t heard it for a long time, then I am sure you will derive similar listening pleasure as you reacquaint yourself with this gem of an album.