Sometimes, before you even get to the music, a vinyl package makes you pause and take a pace backwards. Khartoum, the Original MGM Motion Picture Soundtrack did just that to me. Arriving in a gatefold sleeve the two LPs arrive, in what the label Stylotone playfully call ‘Sandstorm’-coloured’ 180gm vinyl plus a vinyl replica CD and download options for both WAV and MP3. It’s a fine edition and reeks of quality.
This is the first time that this music, produced for the last film of the 60s to be shot in Ultra Panavision 70, before director Quentin Tarantino revived the format with the recent film, The Hateful Eight. This edition of Khartoum was mastered and cut at Abbey Road by the man who was part of The Beatles’ mastering team, engineer Sean Magee.
The set also includes a 30” x 40” (762mm x 1016mm) quad film poster. The poster has been specially printed using original 1960s production processes – matching not only the poster weight of the time but also the correct machine folds (since film posters would be machine folded and inserted into large brown envelopes before arriving in the post at cinemas).
You also get a certificate of authenticity personally signed by Mrs. Anja Cordell, the composer’s widow. Finally, writer and director James Dearden – son of the film’s director – offers a personal insight into the making of this epic film that starred Laurence Olivier and Charlton Heston.
The music itself spans many moods from militaristic to majestic to sensitive, mysterious and always stylish. The music just eases itself across the broad soundstage as the images would have swept over that broad screen. It is large, majestic and challenges you to take it in all at once. This is a score that demands repeat listening to absosb all of its nuances.
In terms of the audiophile qualities of the disc, well the Abbey Road/Magee provenance says it all as the music is resident on a quiet background that allows the sumptuous detail to exude from the grooves. There is, it has to be said, a warm glow over the entire arrangement which is a sign of the times so there is some slight midrange veiling and a lack of top-end extension. This is a vintage piece, however, and the music should be heard on those terms. As such, it remains a masterpiece of music creation and is a sumptuously presented package that should be top of any soundtrack fan’s ‘wants’ list.