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Soundtrack Review

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Music from the Motion Picture
(Deluxe Edition)


Songs: Harry Nilsson
Composer: Thomas Pierson
Performed by: Robin Williams, Shelly Duvall and Ray Walston
Label: Varèse Sarabande
Release Date: 29 September 2017

Well blow me down! Varèse Sarabande release the most comprehensive version of the Popeye soundtrack ever assembled, featuring the film’s beloved songs by Harry Nilsson, performed by the cast (including Robin Williams, Shelly Duvall, and Ray Walston), never-before released original score composed by Thomas Pierson, and an entire disc of demos performed by Nilsson...

The original soundtrack release for Popeye (1980) was a bit of a strange one. It contained 12 songs, one of which ('Din' We') wasn't even in the movie, while 'Everything is Food' was oddly absent. There was also no sign of any of Thomas Pierson's original score.

This Deluxe double CD release contains 38 tracks (2 hr, 01 min, 32 sec) of this, 13 (39 min, 06 sec) are Harry Nilsson's original songs; 7 (15 min, 37 sec) are Pierson's score; and the remaining 18 tracks (1 hr, 06 min, 49 sec) are made up of Nillsen's demos.

I'm not really sure why anyone would want an entire disc of demo tracks from a not very well received movie musical, but you have to take your hat off to Varèse for spoiling the fans - I mean, you're not going to pick up this album unless you are a fan, are you?

The movie's origins were the result of a bunch of happy accidents all fitting into place at the right time. Originally, after seeing the Broadway musical Annie, Hollywood producer Robert Evans was keen to turn it into a movie. However, the movie rights ended up in a bidding war that Evans dropped out of. But when her discovered that Paramount had the rights to turn Popeye into a movie, he became convinced it would make a great musical.

Now, my mind is hazy. I originally saw the film in 1980/81 at the cinema and the only reason it sticks in my mind is that I was 10/11 at the time and it was the first film I saw without my parents. I remember not being very impressed, and I haven't seen the movie since. Listening to this soundtrack has made me eager to see if my childhood memory is correct, or whether I'll appreciate the film through older eyes.

The songs are memorable... and while you may not enjoy them at first, the majority do grow on you. Several of them rattled around in my head for quite some time. 'Sweethaven', which opens the album, is probably the most impressive track, but 'Blow Me Down'; 'Sailin''; 'I Yam What I Yam'; 'Swee' Pea's Lullaby'; and 'Kids' are all memorable. In addition Pierson's score (which pays homage to Sammy Lerner's 'I'm Popeye the Sailor Man' theme on occasion) takes its inspiration from Hollywood's golden era. It's big and bold and straddles the line between score and classical music.

There's an interesting booklet with linear notes that pretty much gives you a potted history of the project and some of the issues that the production had.

So this is really a loving gift to fans of the movie; those that loved Nilsson's original songs, plus now you get the chance to also hear Pierson's score as well as Nilsson's songs take shape thanks to the demo recordings.

It won't be everyone's cup of tea - It is what it is (And it's all that it is).

Track listing:

CD 1
01. Sweethaven - Performed by The Citizens of Sweet Haven)
02. Blow Me Down - Performed by Robin Williams as Popeye
03. Everything Is Food - Performed by Paul Dooley as Wimpy, Allan F. Nichols as Roughhouse, The Toughs, Barbershop and The Steinettes
04. Rough House Fight* - Composed by Thomas Pierson
05. He’s Large - Performed by Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl
06. I’m Mean - Performed by Paul L. Smith as Bluto
07. Sailin’ - Performed by Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl and Robin Williams as Popeye
08. March Through Town* - Composed by Thomas Pierson
09. I Yam What I Yam - Performed by Robin Williams as Popeye
10. The Grand Finale* - Composed by Thomas Pierson
11. He Needs Me - Performed by Shelley Duvall as Olive Oyl
12. Swee’Pea’s Lullaby - Performed by Robin Williams as Popeye
13. Din’ We ** - Performed by Robert Fortier as Bill Barnacle – the Town Drunk
14. It’s Not Easy Being Me - Performed by Ray Walston as Poopdeck Pappy
15. Kids - Performed by Ray Walston as Poopdeck Pappy
16. Skeleton Cave* - Composed by Thomas Pierson
17. Now Listen K id/To The Rescue/Mr. Eye Is Trapped/Back Into Action* - Composed by Thomas Pierson
18. Saved/Still At It/The Treasure/What? More Fighting/Pap’s Boy/Olive & The Octopus/What’s Up Pop/Popeye Triumphant* - Composed by Thomas Pierson
19. I’m Popeye The Sailor Man - Performed by Robin Williams as Popeye, Written by Sammy Lemer
20. End Title Medley* - Composed by Harry Nilsson and Thomas Pierson

* Not included on the original soundtrack album

CD 2 (The Harry Nilsson Demos)
01. Sweethaven
02. I’m Mean
03. Swee’Pea’s Lullaby
04. Blow Me Down
05. Everything Is Food
06. He Needs Me
07. Everybody’s Got To Eat**
08. Sail With Me
09. I Yam What I Yam
10. It’s Not Easy Being Me
11. Kids
12. I’m Popeye The Sailor Man
13. I’m Mean – Harry Nilsson with Paul L. Smith
14. He Needs Me – Shelly Duvall audition Harry Nilsson
15. Everybody’s Got To Eat** – performed by Paul Dooley (Bonus Track)
16. Din We** (Bonus Track)
17. Sailin’
18. I’d Rather Be Me**

** Track or song not included in the film


Darren Rea

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