March 2002 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster Len Mullenger

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Farewell My Lovely and Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear  
  FILM SCORE MONTHLY Vol 4 No. 20   [74:37]

Available from Film Score Monthly, 8503 Washington Boulevard, Culver City, CA90232; Tel: 1-888-345-6335; overseas: 310-253-9595; fax: 310-253-9588;

Farewell My Lovely

Given one of the two films represented on this release dates from 1988, and that this is an entry in Film Score Monthly's Silver Age Classics series, just when did the Silver Age of film music end? Or are we still in it? No matter, for this excellent value disc offers contrasting scores from a fine but largely unsung composer, David Shire.

Farewell, My Lovely was a second screen version of Raymond Chandler's classic novel, the first having starred Dick Powell in the heyday of film noir. This new version starred Robert Mitchum, and appearing in 1975 post-Chinatown exuded a more modern sensibility yet retained impeccable period credentials. I had the original soundtrack LP and foolishly parted with it, so am delighted to be reacquainted with what is an exceptionally attractive score in album form. Indeed, it is almost like having the LP back, but with better, remastered sound. For while Film Score Monthly usually go back to the original tracks, ignoring the sequencing of any past soundtrack albums and presenting the cues afresh, so well constructed was Shire's OST that they have effectively re-created it - re-mixing and re-editing the 16 track masters into the same configuration as the LP. The only difference, apart from better sound, is the addition of one new track, a two minute piece which links three short cues as "To Mrs Florian's/Car-nal Knowledge/I Am Curious".

This is a modern classic score, all 33 minutes being superbly crafted and filled with memorable melody and ingenious invention. Enjoy Chinatown and you will enjoy this much less well known score equally. The main theme, "Marlow's Theme", with solos for trombone and alto sax, may be pastiche, but it is so superbly accomplished that just like the Goldsmith, once heard the genre becomes unimaginable without it. Music as haunting and evocative of mean 1940's streets as "Mrs Grayle's Theme", melody for the movie's femme fatale, is sensual and inviting. Around these Shire spins perfect recreations of 1940's style jazz in "Three Mile Limited" offers powerfully dramatic suspense in "Take Me to Your Lido" and fatalistic resolution in "Moose Finds His Velma". This really is superlatively good and belongs in every film music buff's collection.

Monkey Shines: An Experiment in Fear is a very different matter. Though given second billing on the disc the score is longer, coming in at 40 minutes, and here released for the first time. Music for what Jeff Bond and Lukas Kendall's excellent notes rightly describe as George Romeo's most conventional film, this is a romantic suspense/horror score with a predominance of African percussion improvised by the ensemble Nexus within constraints set by the composer - an approach akin to that of Richard Robbins and Zakir Hussain for the new release, The Mystic Masseur. Considerably less attractive as a self-contained listening experience than Farewell My Lovely, it does its job with great efficiency in the movie it was composed to accompany, but I can fully understand why it hasn't been released on disc until now. The music is inventive, but some romantic, lyrical writing aside this is essentially superior suspense underscore - laced with an aspect of comedic writing for the titular monkey - which doesn't significantly reward independent listening. That said, the romantic theme which unfolds in the "Main Title" is beguiling journey into sudden darkness and there is a warm charm to the perhaps unfortunately entitled "Enter Melanie". The End Title, a version of "Ella's Theme" has a gorgeous bittersweet lyrical quality. Giving the score an unusual favour is the remarkable flute playing of Steve Kujala, whose portamento on a conventional instrument lends an exotic, jungle-like sound to the music.

In all respects bar one this release is up to Film Score Monthly's usual high standards. The one deficiency being that the booklet stills are in black and white. I hope this is not the beginning of a decline in presentation. The sound is excellent on both scores.

Gary S Dalkin

Farewell... *****; Monkey Shines

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