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The David Whitaker Songbook  - David Whitaker (Compilation) - 1965-1998
Label: Tricatel TRICDFR020 (France)
Format: CD
From: UK
My rating: 9/10

Entered: 11/25/2002
Last updated: 05/03/2003

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This is a fascinating compilation of music touched by the hand of David Whitaker, a film composer I discovered completely by accident last year. I bought a Colgems label sampler LP, mainly in order to hear a track or two from Lalo Schifrin’s notoriously rare Murderer’s Row soundtrack. But the track that stuck out was David Whitaker’s ‘Hammerhead’s apartment’ (audio), a beautiful and rich piece from the soundtrack to a 1968 Vince Edwards movie, Hammerhead.

There are 21 tracks on this disc, a mix of pop work for which Whitaker was the arranger and original soundtrack or soundtrack-related work that he has scored.

It turns out that Whitaker also arranged many of my favorite 60s pop songs, including work by Nico (the same early track I recommend at musical taste), Lee Hazlewood, and France Gall. The Hazlewood track is from Cowboy in Sweden; I recall remarking to myself in the past on the incredible richness of the string sound in that song. The France Gall song is an astounding sitar/orchestral pop track called 'Chanson Indienne,' which was new to me.

This compilation also boasts the original track by the Andrew Oldham Orchestra that The Verve sampled for 'Bittersweet Symphony'. I recall that they made a terrible stink at the time about having to sign the composer rights over to someone else, claiming that really they wrote the song, and just borrowed a few notes. Perhaps they didn’t say that—I don’t actually know the details of the case—but I can say that other than the melody (which is pretty obvious anyway), they added nothing to this track! In fact, they left some nice bits out! In his short note, Whitaker says 'bollocks to The Verve!', and listening to this disc, I can’t help agreeing with him.

Other than 'Hood explores the Triton' from Hammerhead, I find the film score work slightly less accessible than the rest of the disc. It's still very good though, and includes recent work (a piano piece from Harry un ami qui vous veut du bien; a cool film, I thought, incidentally) as well as late 60s material from Run wild, run free.

A good proportion of the tracks are from Whitaker's 'fake score' album, Music to Spy By, which I once failed to buy on ebay. All seem to be astoundingly good - soft, stylish orchestral instrumentals in a slightly muted style. Whitaker is apparently good friends with Bertrand Burgalat, and you can definitely hear the influence in Burgalat's work – echoey strings, supplemented occasionally by bouncy basslines.

The most incredible thing that strikes me after hearing this collection is that I had previously been ignorant of Whitaker's involvement in much of my favorite music (I even have the CD single that his version of Air's 'remember' is taken from!). This is a great disc, which I highly recommend to Schifrin and Morricone fans.

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