|May 2000 Film Music CD Reviews||Film Music Editor: Ian
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Franz WAXMAN Rebecca 1990 re-recording with Adriano conducting The Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra Marco Polo 8.223399 *[72:25]
Franz WAXMAN Sunset Boulevard: The Classic Film Scores of Franz Waxman (Featuring music from Rebecca plus Prince Valiant, A Place in the Sun, The Bride of Frankenstein, Sunset Boulevard, Old Acquaintance, The Philadelphia Story and Taras Bulba) Charles Gerhardt conducting the National Philharmonic Orchestra Dolby surround RCA Victor (BMG Classics) GD80708 [53:36]
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Rebecca, based on the novel by Daphne Du Maurier was both Alfred Hitchcock's first Hollywood film and producer David O Selznick's follow-up to Gone With the Wind. Staring Lawrence Olivier and Joan Fontaine, it won the Best Picture Oscar for 1940, and gained a nomination for composer Franz Waxman, who always declared it his favourite among his 144 films. Waxman would score three further films for Hitchcock, Suspicion (1941, again staring Joan Fontaine), The Paradine Case (1947) and Rear Window (1954). One of Alfred Hitchcock's most successful films, it barely needs adding that Rebecca is a first class thriller, though it is of a more psychological character than most of his work, the central theme of a dead love haunting the present prefiguring his finest film, Vertigo (1958).
The Czecho-Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra recording of Franz Waxman's score for Rebecca was made 50 years and a month after the original soundtrack was recorded in 1940. The film runs 132 minutes, of which 124 have music, 72 of which are recorded here. Not all the music in the film was by Franz Waxman, and some of the music that was by the composer came from previous scores. The music by other hands has to be omitted; for instance Rebecca as released featured a short cue 'Beatrice', using music by Max Steiner. Adriano restores Waxman's original, unused cue. Some of the music adapted from previous Waxman scores is recorded, most notably in the key sequence 'Mrs Danvers'. This scene featured music from no less than 6 previous scores, but as reconstructed here, plays as if freshly minted. Unlike most scores from this era, the original parts still existed for the re-recording, so it was only for sequences such as 'Mrs Danvers' that any reconstruction was needed. The music is scored for conventional symphony orchestra, with, besides Waxman's trademark saxophone, one important addition. Waxman had used three ondes martenot, an early electronic instrument in The Bride of Frankenstein (1936), and for Rebecca, just as Miklós Rózsa would introduce the theromin in Hitchcock's Spellbound (1945), Waxman used the novachord, an instrument similar to the Hammond organ, to intimate the supernatural presence of the first Mrs de Winter. The device has been so copied over the years, and later parodied, that today there is the danger of it sounding quaint, or worse, comical, such that the shivering strings that hover around the keyboard add a needed chill.
It should be said that this is unquestionably a great score, but for anyone grumbling that at 72 minutes it is not complete, let me just say that 72 minutes is quite sufficient. Even Mahler rarely lasted much longer! Rebecca is a very rich, complex and lavish score, and over 15 generally quite lengthy tracks, this 1990 extended-condensation does Waxman proud. This is romantic music, music that balances waltzes against shimmering impressionism and uncanny evocations of the world beyond the veil. 'At Dawn' contains a pulsing echo of the famous creation scene from The Bride of Frankenstein, and the final scenes ache with the same yearning desire that make Bernard Herrmann's The Ghost and Mrs Muir and Vertigo so wonderful, all building to a thoroughly thrilling inferno of a finale. The playing is very good, if just lacking that last ounce of sheer Hollywood romanticism. Even so, this is a most accomplished album, with the only real flaw in the sound being, if you turn the volume up far enough, some occasional but quite noticeable electronic line hum.
Franz Waxman himself prepared many concert suites from his film scores. Indeed, his suite from Rebecca was played on American radio as part of the original promotion of the film, and the suite gained considerable popularity over the years. We are not told, but presumably for Sunset Boulevard: The Classic Film Scores of Franz Waxman conductor Charles Gerhardt and producer George Korngold used Waxman's own suite. The Classic Film Scores Series spanned the 70's with a series of first class recordings of suites from the Golden Age of Hollywood, and at a time when few could imagine it might one day be possible to make complete albums of individual classic scores, did a wonderful job of resurrecting lost treasures and introducing a new generation to the glories of orchestral film music. The Waxman edition in the series was recorded, in quadraphonic sound in 1974, and remastered and remixed into Dolby surround sound for CD release in 1989. The Rebecca suite features the cues: 'Prelude', 'After the Ball', 'Mrs Danvers', 'Confession Scene' and 'Manderley in Flames'. The sound is more lushly, decadently romantic than on the Adriano recording, and has a greater, filmic intensity more closely reproducing the sound of classic Hollywood. There also seems to be great dynamic range, and rather more tape hiss. Inevitably the National Philharmonic give the superior performances. It would certainly have been nice to have heard Gerhardt record the complete score, as what we have of his interpretation surpasses the Marco Polo release. That should not stop you buying Adriano's much more complete album and still most commendable album, indeed, it should be considered more or less essential to any good film music collection. Then again, so such Sunset Boulevard: The Classic Film Scores of Franz Waxman, for this disc additionally contains excellent suites from not only the title film, but from, among others Prince Valiant, A Place in the Sun and The Bride of Frankenstein.
Gary S. Dalkin
Sunset Boulevard: The Classic Film Scores of Franz Waxman
Jerry GOLDSMITH Take A Hard Ride OST FILM SCORE MONTHLY Vol. 3 No.1 [46:40]
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By the mid-1970's the Western was a dying genre, struggling to stay alive by resorting to ever more desperate measures. In an attempt to appeal to a contemporary audience Take a Hard Ride (1975) offered a standard genre plot, but shook things up by filling the lead roles with popular 'blaxplotation' stars Jim Brown and Fred Williamson, and by adding a dose of kung-fu. Covering all bases, the film also starred spaghetti western legend Lee Van Cleef, unsurprisingly playing a ruthless bounty hunter. Part buddy-pic, part violent comedy adventure, the result was a 70's disaster of a movie, further contributing to the death of a once great genre.
As so often, one of the few to walk away from a bad film with real credit was composer Jerry Goldsmith. His first film score was for a western, Black Patch (1958) and through the 60's and 70's he wrote a series of fine western scores. Take A Hard Ride proved to be his last until the implausible but entertaining Bad Girls ( 1994), part of the early 90's western revival. In keeping with the kitchen-sink approach of Take a Hard Ride, Goldsmith crafted a somewhat schizophrenic score. Generally there are two approaches to western scoring. First, the big, open plains, Copland inspired rousing orchestral sound as demonstrated by Jerome Moross' The Big County (1958), and, with added spicy-Mexican flavour, Elmer Bernstein's The Magnificent Seven (1960). Second, that inspired by Ennio Morricone's eclectic baroque-psychological spaghetti western sound, which revolutionised the genre via Sergio Leone's Dollar's Trilogy (1964-66) and Once Upon A Time in the West (1968), and in which anything could go, from wild vocal calls to electric guitars. Usually, the two schools do not mix.
Take a Hard Ride is unmistakably Goldsmith, with muscular action writing and devices familiar from other mid-70's scores such as Papillon (1974). Binding the score together is a big, classic Americana theme, for which rousing really is the best word. In typical Goldsmith fashion, the theme is also used for more plaintive settings, while the delicate Latin-tinged guitar and percussion both look back to The Magnificent Seven and forward to the composer's own Under Fire (1983). Yet elsewhere there are spaghetti western devices a-plenty. A brooding, threatening harmonica, quirky percussion and a striking electronic 'sting' processed through a reverb unit which is used to build tension, and which resembles elements of the following year's Logan's Run.
Complete with orchestrations by Arthur Morton, Take a Hard Ride is typical mid-70's Goldsmith, which is to say that it is very good, though not one of the composer's truly great scores. It is certainly far better than the film deserved. The album features all the music from the film, presented in film order, and mixed into stereo (the film was released in mono) from the original multi-track session masters. The sound is very good, though with just a little distortion on the very loudest moments. As usual with Film Score Monthly releases, the booklet is well produced and informative, the finishing touch to an excellent package; once again congratulations are due to producer Douglass Fake.
For all serious Goldsmith fans Take a Hard Ride is another essential purchase. The less dedicated might prefer to concentrate on acquiring some of the composer's bona fide classic scores, though I doubt any film music fan would regret for a moment money spent on this release.
Gary S. Dalkin
John BARRY Born FreeFrederic Talgorn conducting the Royal Scottish National Orchestra VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-6084
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Following Body Heat, Out of Africa and Somewhere in Time, this is the fourth in Varese Sarabande's re-recordings of John Barry film scores, and the 11th in the company's Film Classics series. As with previous discs, there is a beautiful cover painting by Matthew Joseph Peak. Born Free, for anyone who really doesn't know, was a phenomenally successful 1966 Columbia release telling the romanticised but factually based African adventure of Joy Adamson (Virginia McKenna), her husband George (Bill Travers) and the lion cub Elsa. So popular was the film that a sequel, Living Free, followed in 1972, and there was even a spin-off TV series. John Barry's score was immensely popular as well, though this may have had a lot to do with the success of the title song sung by Matt Monro, who three years previously had performed Barry's first Bond song, From Russia With Love (1963). Amazingly, the song had at one point been removed from the film, and was only restored when a cover version by Roger Williams became an American No.1 hit. There isn't a version of the song on this new album, which given that the subtitle is 'original motion picture score' is acceptable, but is nevertheless rather strange considering how for many people the song is the score. There is also at least one track which appeared on the original soundtrack album omitted here, the five-minute warthog chase. On the other hand, there are several cues here which were not on the original album, and some which were not in the film either.
There is certainly enough music to be getting on with, for at 53 minutes this is somewhat repetitive. Born Free came out a year after Dr Zhivago, a film which famously dispensed with music of Maurice Jarre's intricately woven score for endless restatements of the catchy-but-ultimately-kitsch Lara's theme. In the wake of that success, it rather sounds like someone suggested to John Barry to go heavy on the main theme, which fine light-romantic melody that it is, does seem to show up at least in part, and sometimes rather briefly or in disguise, in virtually every track.
In retrospect this music clearly foreshadows the more sober plains of Out of Africa (1986), and while Barry employs a more colourful palette here than in many scores from the last two decades, the beginnings of that love-it-or-hate-it lush string dominated sound are evident. 'Holiday with Elsa' suggests the love theme of You Only Live Twice (1967), and other moments, particularly, 'Fight of the Lioness' both echo Thunderball (1965) and anticipate King Kong (1976). 'Elephant Stampede' is a majestic pulsating set-piece, and Barry does manage to wring considerably more interesting variations from that unforgettable main theme than you might imagine, employing lots of tasteful percussion while always remaining resolutely Western in his musical sensibilities. If it doesn't seem backhanded, which it isn't meant to be, this is a nice score; charming, attractive, playful and dreamy; rather like a lion cub, or even Africa itself, as portrayed in the film. It was certainly appealing enough in 1966 to win Barry an Oscar, a Golden Globe and an Ivor Novello award. A classic score then, though one which given its repetition, works better in the film than on disc, here very well served on CD. The modern sound is like silk, and may be too smooth for some who prefer authentic technological inferiority. The marimbas do sometimes get a little lost in the sheen, though the brass stands out magnificently. The performances are polished to the same level of airbrushed perfection.
Gary S. Dalkin
Collection: Movie Memories - A Golden Age revisited Richard Kaufman conducts the Nuremburg Symphony Orchestra VARÈSE SARABANDE VSD-6124 [69:40
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I don't think it would be unkind to describe this as a beginners guide to the wonderful world of film music, featuring as it does most of the key composers since the advent of the talkies. However, in saying that it must also be mentioned that if this was truly the intended goal, there are several glaring admissions. Bernard Herrmann is the first name that springs to mind.
Anyway, setting these concerns aside, the CD opens with Max Steiner's `Tara's Theme' from Gone with the Wind. Without question this is one of the most famous film themes ever written and almost defies analysis. It has simply become part of our collective consciousness and certainly gets a solid interpretation here.
The phenomenal Jerry Goldsmith is also represented with a short suite comprising of the main title from Poltergeist, a surprisingly sweet-tempered melody given the film's supernatural subject matter and the theme from Papillon, a waltz with a Parisian flavour that works extremely well too. Relatively brief but enjoyable.
Alex North's `Love Theme' from Spartacus is tinged with an undercurrent of melancholy, which fits perfectly with the story of the heroic but ultimately doomed freedom fighter. Lush strings are used to good effect in this pleasing melody from a very memorable film. The same cannot be said though for Murder on the Orient Express by Richard Rodney Bennett. Opening with brooding woodwind and brass before transforming into a stately waltz, this is generally considered to be a clever musical device in the film itself, but I can't say I'm particularly fond of it as a listening experience.
A suite from The Magnificent Seven presents us with one of the all-time great, stirring themes of cinema. Few can fail to be inspired by Elmer Bernstein's rousing brass and string led motifs. This piece incorporates most of the key thematic elements from the score and makes a very good show of it too! Another western, although less showy perhaps, was High Noon which gave us Dimitri Tiomkin's illustrious theme song `Do Not Forsake Me Oh my Darling. This gets a pleasant enough interpretation that is perfectly adequate, although I found it to be one of the lesser tracks.
Henry Mancini contributes a trio of themes from firstly Charade, with its rather catchy main title segueing into the lavish romanticism of Two for the Road. This is actually something of a surprise, as it's not quite as well known as the selections that bookend it. Even so, it's a rather fine piece. Predictably it all concludes with the celebrated `Moon River' from Breakfast at Tiffanys in an entirely satisfying version with a grandiose finale. My only complaint would be that I would have preferred more of the first two.
Max Steiner's second contribution is the hugely popular Casablanca. Opening with the familiar Warner Brothers fanfare, this is usurped by a startling Arabian style dramatic action cue. But sadly this proves to be short-lived as some traditional Americana flag waving gives way to more (although much lower-key) middle-eastern string work. Inevitably `Play it Again Sam' features throughout, but is far less interesting than the Steiner bridges and colourings that support it. This is followed by `Unchained Melody' from Ghost, given an instrumental reworking here. It may come as a surprise to some that this was actually written by none other than Alex North (originally for the 1955 feature Unchained). I actually found this more enjoyable than the notorious song itself. Bringing the schmaltz content down to a tolerable level without Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore at the pottery wheel, allowed me to enjoy this far more than I expected.
The `Overture' from Victor Young's Around the World in 80 Days moves along briskly with its subtle rhythmic backing. It's interesting that this piece reflects a style of film music that has become rather outdated now, but it's pleasant enough in an undemanding way, while Kenneth J. Alford's `The Colonel Bogey March' from The Bridge on the River Kwa, is yet another of the very famous pieces represented. Despite this, I can't say it's particularly compelling to sit and listen to and personally I would much rather have heard a suite of cues from Malcolm Arnold's original score.
John Barry's wonderfully individual sound gets a fine treatment with his slow-burn theme from Out of Africa. Rich, romantic and yet never sickly-sweet, there always seems to be a fundamental poignancy to his music. What a pity that Barry seems to have gone out of fashion as far as film producers are concerned. Another romantic, although not in the same league as Barry in my estimation, is Maurice Jarre, here represented by Doctor Zhviago. The `Prelude' is actually more interesting than the overly dominant `Lara's Theme' that unsurprisingly gets most of the attention. I found myself far more intrigued by the lesser known, rather pretty theme used sparingly in the opening.
Enter John Williams with Raiders of the Lost Ark and his thrilling use of brass and snare drum. The main title march soon has you galvanised and all set to go adventuring with Indy and the gang! As a counterpoint to this high energy, the track then segues into the nicely contrasting `Love Theme', before returning for one final triumphant fanfare. Hard to resist.
Last, but certainly very far from least, is the remarkable harmonica led Once Upon a Time in the West by Ennio Morricone. This is a simply stunning piece of film music with its seductive build up featuring wailing harmonica played against a beautifully melodic motif. Developing gradually until the melody is heard in all its glory with choir backing, this is admittedly quite different from the film version. Utilising only orchestral instrumentation rather than Morricone's more baroque approach, I felt this was actually a plus as it delivers something fresh and is far preferable to a straight copy that ultimately will never quite live up to the original.
The playing and the orchestrations are all of a very high standard and the interesting and entertaining liner notes with brief background on each of the scores are very welcome. The only real question mark would be the likely market for this particular compilation. The choices are not really progressive enough to attract too many serious collectors, but nonetheless this is a sound introduction to film music, spanning the better part of fifty years of legendary cinema.
Collection: Carl DAVIS The Silents New scores for Classic silent films composed and conducted by Carl Davis SILVA SCREEN 2CDs FILMXCD 326 [138:59] Save around 22% with
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By definition and intention the music from this two CD set can only be described as old-fashioned. So be forewarned those who prefer a more modern approach to film music, it may very well not be to your taste. But one thing that I think few would argue over is how authentic Carl Davis' music sounds. He has perfectly captured the style and flavour of the early films of the twentieth century, a time when the human voice was silent and music spoke in its place.
Many renowned silent productions have been re-scored by Davis over the last twenty years and his music encompasses several different styles, from classical to jazz to American folk music, along with actual excerpts from the works of composers such as Beethoven (Napoleon (1927))and renditions of popular pieces like `Ave Maria' (The Wedding March (1928)). On other occasions he has adapted existing work as in the case of Louis F. Gottschalk's likeable Chinese flavoured music from Broken Blossoms (1919) and Charlie Chaplin's score for City Lights (1931).
With a combined running time of well over two hours, there is certainly a great deal on offer here and I have no doubt that there will be those who will absolutely love this lavish presentation. There are also extensive notes about each of the films and comments about the techniques used from the composer himself. But for me, perhaps as a child of modern film music (well the talkies onwards anyway), I find myself less enthusiastic. I suppose I had been hoping to hear Carl Davis approach this work with a slightly more contemporary sensibility, but instead he chose quite legitimately to attempt to capture the mood of the times and in that he has been tremendously successful. And even allowing for my own reservations, there are still several noteworthy pieces such as The Crowd (1928), Greed (1925), the `Finale' from Old Heidelberg (1927)and the `Opening Titles' from The Phantom of the Opera (1925), which sounded to me like something out of a Danny Elfman Batman score!
Despite my own personal lack of true enthusiasm, there is no doubt in my mind that this work is a worthy undertaking and very accomplished. But this style of scoring seems to derive from a time when cinematic themes were perhaps more simple minded and straight forward. And for me this translates into a lack of emotional depth, the music so much of the past that I find myself left strangely detached. It just doesn't speak to me.
Collection: A History of Horror from Nosferatu to The Sixth Sense The City of Prague Philharmonic and Crouch End Festival Chorus conducted by Nic Raine. Electronic music realised by Mark Ayres. Also featuring The Westminster Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis, Neil Richardson & Kenneth Alwyn 2CD set with Dolby Surround and HDCD encoding SILVA SCREEN FILMXCD 331 [Disc 1: 72:43 Disc 2: 65:57] Save around 22% with
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Music from Nosferatu, Dracula, The Devil Rides Out, Taste the Blood of Dracula - James Bernard * The Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein Unbound - Carl Davis * The Bride of Frankenstein - Franz Waxman * The Thing - Dimitri Tiomkin * Godzilla - Akira Ifukube * Peeping Tom - Brian Easdale * Horrors of the Black Museum - Gerald Schurmann * The Exorcist - Mike Oldfield (from Tubular Bells) * Young Frankenstein - John Morris * Susperia - Goblin * Halloween - John Carpenter * The Omen, Alien, Poltergeist, The Haunting - Jerry Goldsmith * The Shinning - Wendy Carlos & Rachel Elkind * Dressed to Kill - Pino Donaggio * A Nightmare on Elm Street - Charles Bernstein * Hellraiser - Christopher Young * Bram Stoker's Dracula, The Ninth Gate - Wojciech Kilar * The Sixth Sense - James Newton Howard * Lighthouse - Debbie Wiseman
There are 28 tracks spread over 138 minutes on this double-CD. As usual with Silva Screen releases, the set is heavily biased towards the last three decades, with only 10 tracks from 1921-1968, and 18 tracks covering 1970-2000. Perhaps time filters out the chaff, but generally the older the films, the more indisputably their classic status. It is difficult to work out the rationale behind some of the selections. Many of the films - Nosferatu (1921), The Thing (From another World) (1951), The Haunting (1963), Halloween (1978) and Hellraiser (1987) are true genre classics. Others, from Horrors of the Black Museum (1959) to Lighthouse (2000) are not. The music from these is certainly good, but there are much more important horror films with equally good, or better scores.
Some of the films might not be considered horror movies at all: Young Frankenstein (1974) is a comedy and Dressed to Kill (1980) a violent Hitchcockian thriller. The whole range of horror is explored, from traditional vampires and ghosts, through serial-killers and monsters, but one might wonder, given some of the inclusions, about the absence of King Kong (1933), Psycho (1960), Rosemary's Baby (1969), Don't Look Now (1973), Jaws (1975), Carrie (1976), The Silence of the Lambs (1990) and Se7en (1995). However, if we consider what we have, rather than ruminating about what we might, or perhaps should, have had, we find an impeccably assembled anthology which will more than reward not only the horror buff, but the general film music fan. Fear not, this is a well-balanced programme which sensibly sets some melodic and attractive music against the more determinedly 'scary' music. There are unsettling atmospheres and supernatural terror aplenty, but with welcome breaks for some dark romance, and even a jaunty march.
The first great horror film is, by more or less common agreement, the 1921 production of Dracula, made as Nosferatu for complex copyright reasons. Although the original score has been reconstructed and recorded, for a recently restored version of the film a new score was commissioned from James Bernard. This was a great choice, because Bernard was the man behind the famous Hammer Dracula, introducing his unforgettable three note fanfare which all but sung the Count's name. Disc 1 opens with his 'Overture: Omens of Nosferatu', and it has the composer's romantic yet biting sound. Next is a short 'Faust Ballet: Gallop' from one of Carl Davis' excellent Thames Silent's scores, the restored version of the 1925 The Phantom of the Opera. As far away from 'horror' music as one can imagine, this attractive piece shows the diversity of genre. The 30's are represented by just one track, but as it is the 'creation' sequence from The Bride of Frankenstein (1935) one can hardly complain. Having recently seen the film on the big screen for the first time, I was disappointed to find that the music is barely audible in the film, and makes no impact at all. However, in this powerfully recorded set-piece Franz Waxman's great music comes to life once more. From Dimitri Tiomkin's marvellous score for The Thing (From Another World) (1951) we have only the main title. Will someone please, please, please record the complete score.
Much less familiar to most Western listeners will be Akira Ifukube's music for the original 1955 Godzilla. We are given a 6-minute suite which includes a very catch main theme and a rousing march. It's far too much fun to be 'scary', but time for that next, as James Bernard returns with the 'Main Title/Finale' from Hammer's Dracula (1958). Wonderfully over-the-top in the best possible way, this is true spine-tingling Gothic, and a great evocation of the sound of 50's British cinema. As I mentioned Psycho (1960) is missing, but this may not be altogether a bad thing, given as most people will probably have at least one recording of music from this film, and the space saved does make room for the classic British serial killer movie of the same period. In-fact, the only classic British serial killer thriller. Brian Easdale's score for Peeping Tom (1959) is for solo piano. Using nervously repeating figures and dissonant patterns the music evokes both a sense of a world dangerously out of mental alignment. Humphrey Searle employed serial techniques to the original 1963 version of The Haunting and the result was a classic score for the definitive haunted house movie. There is yet more James Bernard, with cues from The Devil Rides Out (1967) and Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970), before a real change of pace. Lalo Schifrin wrote a score for The Exorcist (1973), but which, taking a cue from Stanley Kubrick's music book, director William Friedkin rejected in favour of assorted pre-existing selections. The one everybody remembers is the extract from Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells instrumental rock album. The version here is not from the original album, which might be as well because it is sounding terribly dated now, but an astonishingly authentic re-recording by Mark Ayres. Re-recording complex rock music must in some ways be even more difficult than re-constructing orchestral music, because each of the often unique studio manipulated sounds of the original must be mimicked. Ayres has done a fantastic job: his six minute version of the famous opening theme sounds all but identical to the original, but far better for being recorded with excellent modern sound. Disc 1 ends with Silva Screen's now well recycled almost 12-minute suite from The Omen (1976) by Jerry Goldsmith: presumably the same recording will soon show up on discs devoted to Decades in Film Music: The 70's, and Great Oscar-Winning Film Scores. I don't know what it says about Hollywood, that from around 200 scores over 40 years, the only time Jerry Goldsmith has been rewarded with the highest honour is for an evocation of absolute evil incarnate. Perhaps the devil really does have all the best tunes, because Goldsmith does his job so well that the music is all but unlistenable. Essentially a 'black mass', with profound disturbing chanting over a blistering orchestral score, the only relief is the plaintive love theme. As someone much more hip and cool than I might say: wicked.
Disc 2 opens with the rock band Goblin's score for Dario Argento's reputedly greatest film, Suspiria (1976). Mark Ayres is back with a suite that plays like a malevolent musical-box lullaby, complete with something that sounds uncannily like a car-alarm going off. Highly effective, and at high-enough volume, genuinely spine-tingling, it is followed by Ayres fine version of John Carpenter's iconic Halloween (1978) theme. Next is a comparatively rare opportunity to hear Jerry Goldsmith's original End Title from Alien (1979). This is a marvellous piece, an orchestral miniature epic that is both elegiac and uplifting. Director Ridley Scott replaced Goldsmith's music with part of Howard Hanson's Symphony No. 2: The Romantic, and in a way I'm glad that he did, because I might not otherwise have come to know the music of this great American composer. Why Scott did so though, remains a mystery.
Mark Ayres is back again, with a majestically cold realisation of Wendy Carlos and Rachel Elkind's icily grand music from the opening of Kubrick's The Shinning (1980). Brian De Palma almost always has a fine musical score accompanying his wildly uneven films and sometimes derivative films: Dressed to Kill references both the Hitchcock / Herrmann collaborations Vertigo (1958) and Psycho (1960). The 6-minute 'The Gallery' accompanies a wordless set-piece which closely mimics James Stewart's trailing of Kim Novak in Vertigo, and Pino Donaggio provides one of his most memorable musical sequences, a lushly escalating romantic vortex, vertiginous strings building to an impassioned climax. Christopher Young wrote an unexpectedly large and darkly romantic score for novelist Clive Barker's debut as a film director, Hellraiser (1987), such that the cue here, 'Resurrection' is so good it leaves one wanting more. Rather surprising is the inclusion of an almost ten-minute suite from Carl Davis' score for Roger Corman's adaptation of Brian Aldiss' novel Frankenstein Unbound (1990). Very good it is too, a worthwhile companion to Patrick Doyle's Kenneth Branagh's Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994), absent from this set. However, that film's predecessor, Francis Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992) is represented by Wojciech Kilar's 'The Storm', a dramatic choral treatment that might well be considered a descendent of The Omen. Kilar also closes the album with the beautifully atmospheric 'Vocalise' from the OST album for Roman Polanski's return to the horror genre, The Ninth Gate (2000). Before that we are offered an opportunity to 'compare and contrast' Goldsmith's 'The Carousel/End Titles' from the wretched 1999 version of The Haunting with the music from the original on original on Disc 1, the veteran composer being the only one to emerge from the latest Jan De Bont disaster picture with credibility still intact. Also present is a selection from The Sixth Sense (1999) by James Newton Howard, which seems to make rather more of an uncannily haunting effect on disc than it ever did in the cinema. Be warned: if you haven't yet seen the film, don't read the title of the track. Then there is Lighthouse (2000) by Debbie Wiseman. Still unreleased, this is a UK serial killer thriller to which Wiseman contributes a cold, vast percussive score (here taken straight from the soundtrack album, also released by Silva Screen) of great brooding power.
Horror fan or not, this is a great sounding album presenting a considerable quantity of outstanding film music at a bargain price. As usual for Silva Screen, the music is encoded with Dolby Surround, and also offers Pacific Microsonics HDCD. If Silva can do this, why not everybody else?
Gary S. Dalkin
************************************************************** EDITOR'S RECOMMENDATION
Collection: Lalo SCHIFRIN: Jazz Goes To Hollywood Music composed and conducted by Lalo Schifrin featuring: Ernie watts (saxophone); Nils Landgren (trombone); Sandra Booker (vocals); Wolfgang Haffner (drums) and WDR Big Band ALEPH 016 [66:28]
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The versatility of Lalo Schifrin extends over the jazz stage and the classical concert hall and his film music successes are as numerous as they are varied. This album celebrates a number of these with these tracks:-
Mission Impossible: "Mission:Impossible"
Cool Hand Luke: "Down Here on the Ground"
The Cincinnati Kid: "The Cincinnati Kid"
The Osterman Weekend: The Face of Love"
Once A Thief: "One a Thief"; and "Insinuations"
Joy House: "The Cat"
Roller Coaster: "Blues for Basie"
The Fox: "That Night"
Challenger's Gold: "Street Lights"
The Competition: "People Alone"
Manhattan Merengue: "Share the Dream"
Golden Needles: The Race is On"
This is first class big band jazz with star performances from Ernie Watts (saxophone) Nils Landgren (trombone) and Wolfgang Haffner (drums) in a programme that takes in cool, reflective or romantic and smoochy numbers to upbeat, hot pieces; and takes in Latin rhythms and a cheeky laid-back tribute to the master, Count Basie in the number from Roller Coaster. All the familiar movie themes: Bullitt, Mission Impossible (the original TV series theme) and Cool Hand Luke are given sympathetic and imaginative treatments and the ensemble playing is inspired. This is live performance recording (complete with edited audience response) has a real sense of occasion - a thrilling spontaneous experience. The peachy tones of Sandra Booker lift such numbers as "Down Here on the Ground" and "That Night". Stand-out numbers for me are: the slinky, satin romantic tones of `The Face of Love' from The Osterman Weekend; the exuberant, urgency of the 007-like music for The Cincinnati Kid; the blazing boogie-woogie like jazz of `Street Lights' from Challenger's Gold, so vividly evoking dank, dimly lit streets; and the romantic and atmospheric `Insinuations' from Once A Thief.
Pino DONAGIO Givanni Falcone OST PACIFIC TIME PTE-8524-2 [41:01] Save around 22% with
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Based on a true story, this 1994 political thriller is an Italian production with a score by one of that country's leading composers, Pino Donaggio. After establishing himself internationally with such fine scores as Don't Look Now and Carrie in the 70s, Donaggio tends these days to work mainly on home-grown projects like this, although he is reportedly due to reunite with Brian De Palma later this year on a Howard Hughes biopic.
The main title begins with a quick snatch of choral chant leading into a fairly basic but nonetheless enjoyable ascending theme. Unfortunately this doesn't really go anywhere and is over far sooner than I would have liked. Rumbling chords with an almost Arabian flute sound follow and after much atmospherics, we are introduced to a short-lived violin melodic section, very much in the typical Donaggio mould. All of these elements are heard again briefly at various stages during the score, although none are really given the opportunity to develop and make much of an impression.
`The Big Dragnet' follows, featuring lots of thumping piano and squealing strings. This track has a typically Italian style that I am rather fond of and in places has similarities with some of Keith Emerson's work on the extraordinary Inferno. From here on though the majority of the cues are devoted purely to background ambience with `Attempt' one of the more interesting pieces, primarily because it has an overall style that brings back memories of some of Donaggio's outstanding early work such as The Howling.
When a true melody is finally heard in `No Freedom' utilising Donaggio's characteristic strings and piano, it makes a very welcome respite from the suspense music that dominates the rest of the score. This is quite an engaging piece, but with subsequent cues like `Operation in Progress', `Investigation' and `Politics and the Mafia' to name only a few of the twenty two tracks featured, the emphasis is very much on creating a sense of uneasy tension. And despite the fact that this is undoubtedly effective film music, it's not particularly rewarding to listen to. Admiration for work such as this depends entirely on whether you believe that music should be enjoyable as a listening experience or simply needs to make an impact in tandem with the images on screen. I've touched upon this subject before and will no doubt do so again in the future, as it seems to me that it lies at the very heart of film music appreciation.
In conclusion, this is a proficient film score, but it's unlikely you will be taking time out to listen to it again after the first couple of plays. And though this composer has many admirers (myself included) I doubt this will rank very highly among them. It just does not have either the melodic qualities or the inventiveness of his best work to generate any real enthusiasm.
Perhaps I am simply being nostalgic longing for the return of the Donaggio of the 70s and early 80s, but whether it's a deliberate change of attitude, a failure to be inspired by the material or imposed restrictions put upon him by film-makers, on this showing he is just not the composer he used to be.
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