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The Yakuza (1975)
Music by Dave Grusin
The Yakuza The Yakuza
Click to enlarge images.
Price: $15.95
Limited #: 3000
View CD Page at SAE Store
Line: Silver Age
CD Release: July 2005
Catalog #: Vol. 8, No. 12
# of Discs: 1

The Yakuza (1975) was a beguiling American film set amongst the yakuza (gangsters) of Japan. Robert Mitchum plays an American P.I. who sets foot in Japan for the first time in years to help a friend (Brian Keith) extricate himself from a yakuza affair; there, Mitchum reunites with his former lover (Kishi Keiko) and her serious-minded brother (Ken Takakura), setting into motion a tragic chain of events that lays waste to lives and relationships. In a stunning climax Mitchum and Ken bond due to their shared belief in giri (duty or obligation)—"the burden hardest to bear."

The Yakuza was directed by Sydney Pollack and scored by Dave Grusin, their first of many collaborations as director and composer (On Golden Pond, Tootsie, The Firm). The film is unusually stylish and romantic, aided in great measure by Grusin's haunting and moody score, a synthesis of Western melody and Eastern color.

For the film's backstory and character relationships, Grusin conjures up an achingly beautiful, subtly jazzy sound world with a central melody that plays to the film's almost unbearable emotions of guilt and nosalgia. The action sequences and gangster plot are, on the contrary, treated with the disorienting alien sounds of Japan—shakuhachi and percussion. The result is a mature score coursing with melody that speaks to the film's emotion and atmosphere in a manner utterly devoid of gimmickry—the work of a major artist.

Despite its loyal following this is the first-ever release of The Yakuza soundtrack, here presented in complete form remixed and remastered in stereo from the original 2" multitracks. Certain bonus selections, such as the Japanese vocal of the main theme performed as source music, only survive in mono. For the liner notes, '70s film authority Nick Redman contributes a new essay and veteran journalist Jon Burlingame a comprehensive production history including interview material with Pollack and Grusin.

Dave Grusin Scores on FSM
About the Composer

Dave Grusin (b. 1934) is a composer, arranger, jazz pianist and recording artist who has made major contributions to jazz and popular music as well as film, where his deft blending of orchestra and pop music (either/or, and often both!) has enriched projects in all genres—but he is especially known for his sensitive touch for acclaimed dramas. He has also composed a number of well-known TV themes, from The Name of the Game to Baretta to St. Elsewhere. FSM has released some of his earliest work on CD, including his TV music for The Girl From U.N.C.L.E.—our pleasure, as he was pretty much great from day one. IMDB

Comments (111):Log in or register to post your own comments
It took me five years :o, but I finally bought a copy of The Yakuza. It's hands down the best work I've heard by Dave Grusin and is now one of my all-time favorite scores. There's so much beauty in this one. "Girl and Tea" is one lovely cue! It gives me that same sense of wonder as John Barry's "The Wedding" from You Only Live Twice. It's also refreshing that Grusin focuses on characters rather than action. I recall this movie having graphic violence, which I didn't expect from a Sydney Pollack movie.

"Delicate", "Sensitive", "Contemplative", and "Atmospheric" only begin to describe this truly magnificent score. Grusin does put in some of his trademark "Love Funk", as in the End Title--one of Grusin's best main titles--that'll be ringing through my mind for days to come. There's that same type of sound 3 Days of the Condor, but I think of The Yakuza as Condor's more tasteful Asian cousin.

Thanks so much Lukas and co. for putting the time and effort into getting this one out; my appreciation comes five years after the fact, but hey...

I can't recommend The Yakuza enough. '70s fans, you need this!

I already posted this on an ancient thread, so I thought I'd better put it here...sorry if that upsets anyone.*

*Well, not really.

This is so freakin' weird - and goes to show that "we" ARE all somehow oddly
connected - this has been on my shelf to respin for weeks, and today, this eve,
I finally put it on again after a year!
Now these threads show up....must be a YAKUZA type of day.

I don't have any interest in Grusin' really, sorry, not my bag, but this one is
mellow/chill/introspective 70's bliss, amazing Redman/Burlingame notes -
must have, but don't expect lots of busy, slamming Goldsmith action-ostinati.

I missed out on this one, but after hearing your great comments, sounds like I need to find a copy for sure.

There is something so sublimly appealing about listening to this score in the purposeful solitude of one's home on a rainy Saturday afternoon...

Terrific score for a terrific movie.

I missed out on this one, but after hearing your great comments, sounds like I need to find a copy for sure.[/endquote]

It's a great one! Still available. One of FSM's best releases, IMO.

Wholeheartedly agree!!! Superior score and superior presentation.

I don't have any interest in Grusin' really, sorry, not my bag, but this one is
mellow/chill/introspective 70's bliss, amazing Redman/Burlingame notes -
must have, but don't expect lots of busy, slamming Goldsmith action-ostinati.[/endquote]

This score not selling out after five years--and I'm grateful it didn't before I got mine--is probably a case of a lack of "brand name" recognition coupled with a rather obscure movie. I've only seen it once, thirteen years ago, and the score didn't resonate with me then. Had this been a Goldsmith or Schifrin, I'm sure I would've perked up my ears upon seeing their names in the credits. It took me some time to warm to Grusin, but I'm glad I did.

Wholeheartedly agree!!! Superior score and superior presentation.[/endquote]

Totally agreed as well! One of my all-time favourites from FSM. And one of my most-played soundtrack CDs in recent years. Nearly on par with MARATHON MAN, BULLITT, THE OMEGA MAN and WAIT UNTIL DARK in every way.

Also, Bob Peak's cover art is as magnificent as his work always was - and the sound quality blows most recent scores away by miles. Highly recommended!!!

This was a great discovery, made possible by FSM. I had never heard of the movie or the soundtrack... now it is one of my most played. Great, great music.

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Track List
Click on each musician name for more credits

Leader (Conductor):
David Grusin

Israel Baker, Alex L. Beller, Herman Clebanoff, Samuel Cytron, Bonnie J. Douglas (Shure), Henry Ferber, Debbie Sue Grossman, Davida Jackson, Anatol Kaminsky, George Kast, Erno Neufeld, Jerome Joseph Reisler, Paul C. Shure, Robert "Bob" Sushel, Gerald Vinci, Tibor Zelig

Allan Harshman, Myra Kestenbaum, Virginia Majewski, Robert Ostrowsky, David Schwartz, Milton Thomas

Raphael "Ray" Kramer, Edgar Lustgarten, Frederick R. Seykora, Eleanor Slatkin

Charles C. Berghofer, Peter A. Mercurio

Norman H. Herzberg

Richard H. Anderson, Gene Cipriano, Dominick Fera, John Neufeld, C. E. "Bud" Shank

French Horn:
Vincent N. DeRosa, David A. Duke, Alan I. Robinson

Ralph E. Grierson, Artie Kane

Lee M. Ritenour

Fender (electric) Bass:
Charles C. Berghofer

Kayoko Wakita

Anne Stockton (Mason)

Larry Bunker, Joe Porcaro, Emil Radocchia (Richards), Jerry D. Williams

Orchestra Manager:
Kurt E. Wolff

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