April 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

Film Music Editor: Michael McLennan
Managing Editor: Ian Lace
Music Webmaster: Len Mullenger

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Zigzag / The Supercops  
Music composed by Oliver Nelson / Jerry Fielding
Performed by Unnamed Ensemble
Zigzag (1970)
Composed and conducted by Oliver Nelson
The Supercops (1974)
Composed and conducted by Jerry Fielding
  Available on Film Score Monthly (FSM Vol. 9 No. 2)
Running Times:
Zigzag: 72:17
The Supercops: 79:55
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See also:

  • The Getaway
  • Soylent Green
  • Skull Session
  • The use of jazz music in film scores was quite often the preferable choice for films of the 1970’s depicting inner city crime and gang rivalry. The innovator of the genre was Elmer Bernstein with his landmark score for the controversial 1955 film The Man with the Golden Arm. In such settings, jazz music proved itself able to almost effortlessly take the foreground of a scene and walk the fine line between source music and dramatic background score. What was perhaps the most interesting aspect of using jazz music in these inner city films was its unique ability to seem both primitive and sophisticated at the same time.

    This new double disc set from FSM spotlights the jazz approach to film scoring through the work of two of its most prolific composers, Oliver Nelson and Jerry Fielding. Oliver Nelson was a sought-after jazz arranger who earned most of his reputation on the jazz scene, while Jerry Fielding made his name for the most part through his more or less successful collaboration with director Sam Peckinpah. The first disc of this lengthy FSM release features Oliver Nelson’s charming score to ZigZag, an eccentric thriller about a dying man who frames himself for a murder he didn’t commit so his wife would receive the reward money. After the man is ironically cured from his disease while serving time in prison, he escapes in a desperate attempt to capture the real murderer.

    Nelson wrote two themes for the film: a rather formal main theme, and an expressive love theme that both share the composer’s distinct combination of subtlety, refinement and simplicity. The small group of instruments used to play them are so beautifully orchestrated that it isn’t difficult to imagine why Nelson was such a popular arranger in the world of jazz - he had an amazing ability to make each and every note count! These thematic arrangements are elegantly contrasted by the more percussive and brass orientated suspense pieces that occur throughout the disc.

    In addition to the original recording of the ZigZag score, FSM has also treated us to the alternate recordings prepared for the original LP release in 1970. Here there are many interesting and extended arrangements of the original material, including several songs and a small arrangement of Nelson’s two themes for a jazz quintet. These alternate recordings are interesting features, but at the end of the day they are so vastly similar to the originals that they could and probably should have been cut.

    The second disc of the release features Jerry Fielding’s upbeat and robust score for The Supercops, a film based on the true story of two wild spirited New York policemen who took it upon themselves to clear the streets from crooks and gangsters. Fielding wrote a brilliant main title for the film, incorporating elements of funk to suggest the mental state of the film’s two main characters. Many scenes are dominated by adrenaline packed instrumental solos, especially for organ, guitar, and saxophone.

    Harmonically speaking Fielding keeps his score very basic; the real emphasis is placed on rhythm. The percussion elements drive forward without taking a pause or moment for afterthought, much like the characters of the film. It’s as if the music consists of one single jam session, a cacophony of musical ideas that never retrieves to an original setting or tempo but constantly drives forward in search of new artistic stimulation. It is a valuable companion to Oliver Nelson’s reflective and elegant score for ZigZag, which is probably the better score overall. But while Fielding’s music is arguably not as good or poignant as Nelson’s, it serves as a good companion piece and Fielding deserves merit for being able to obtain such a sense of bravery and ruthlessness in his musical expression.

    The package design of ZigZag\The Supercops is outstanding. The liner notes are expertly written and include detailed track-by-track descriptions as well as extensive biographical information on the composers. On top of the two mentioned scores, there are also suites from some of Jerry Fielding’s work on the short-lived television series Hawkins, featuring a main theme by Jerry Goldsmith, as well as several other “snacks”. In the reviewer’s opinion, these additions seem unnecessary and weaken the totality, but when Lukas Kendall of FSM addresses his choice in the liner notes he quite eccentrically states: “Why? As John Belushi once said: why not?”

    Mark Rayen

    Rating: 4

    Film Score Monthly News Release:

    FSM returns to the heart of the Silver Age of film music -- the early 1970s -- with this 2CD set of M-G-M scores by Oliver Nelson and Jerry Fielding.

    Oliver Nelson (1932-1975) was best-known for his television music ( The Six Million Dollar Man) and superlative arrangements for other musicians (Alfie, Last Tango in Paris). One of the few African American composers to break through on mainstream Hollywood projects, he was a gifted musician beloved for his penchant for melody and pleasurable orchestrations.

    Zigzag (1970), a mystery-thriller starring George Kennedy, was one of Nelson's few feature scores, for which he provided a pair of evocative themes and jazz-based undercurrents. Disc one of this album features the previously unreleased original soundtrack (with action cues anticipating The Six Million Dollar Man) plus the LP re-recording (featuring vocalists Roy Orbison and Bobby Hatfield).

    Jerry Fielding (1922-1980) is best-known for his work for Sam Peckinpah, but scored dozens of projects in the 1970s, with a complex, intricate style that was perfect for the decade.

    The Super Cops (1974), directed by Gordon Parks (Shaft), was based on a true story about a pair of low-level cops who took it upon themselves to clean up a dangerous area of New York City. Fielding provided an amusing, energetic kaleidoscope of moods and styles: anxious, comedic, reflective, and action-packed, with funky source cues and a cheeky, militaristic main title -- it's Jerry Fielding meets Shaft.

    To fill out the running times, this 2CD set adds a bevy of bonus cues: Disc two includes Fielding's three episode scores for the 1973 TV series Hawkins, interpolating Jerry Goldsmith's theme for the pilot (FSMCD Vol. 6, No. 13); plus unreleased Fielding source cues from The Outfit (1973, otherwise released as FSMCD Vol. 5, No. 8). Disc one adds jazz standard source cues from Zigzag and The Outfit recorded by legendary singer Anita O'Day. Liner notes are by Lukas Kendall. Both discs are in excellent stereo sound.

    Track Listing:

    DISC ONE:
    Zigzag: Music Composed, Arranged and Conducted by Oliver Nelson
    1. Main Title 2:16
    2. This Is a Brain Tumor/YC-30/Insurance Office/Insurance Books 2:54
    3. Cartridge/Earphones/Holding Letter 2:16
    4. This Robe Is Shot/Out of Focus 3:02
    5. The Walk to Court/My Maiden Name 3:01
    6. Yes, Your Honor/Guilty, Your Honor 1:30
    7. Breakout 3:02
    8. Did You Call a Cab?/Pier and Surf/Effects/Marimba Select/Two MP's 2:22
    9. The Other Car/Nite Scene 2:29
    10. Shotgun Blast/End Title 2:53

      Total Time: 26:06

      Album Recording
    11. All You Did Was Smile* (Vocal by Bobby Hatfield) 1:35
    12. Main Title From Zigzag 2:27
    13. Guilty, Your Honor 1:47
    14. It Was You, It Was You 2:29
    15. Love Theme (Bossa) 2:38
    16. Earphones 2:05
    17. Zigzag** (Vocal by Roy Orbison) 2:50
    18. The Other Car 3:58
    19. Variation of Themes*** 4:51
    20. I Call Your Name* (Vocal by Bobby Hatfield) 2:33
    21. End Title 1:06

      Total Time: 28:47

      *Lyrics by Mack David; Arranged and Conducted by Don Peake; Produced by Perry Botkin Jr.
      **Written by Mike Curb, Robert Enders, and Guy Hemric; Arranged and Conducted by Don Peake; Produced by Mike Curb.
      ***PIANO: Artie Kane; FLUTE: Buddy Collette; BASS: Joe Mondragon; DRUMS: John Guerin and Victor Feldman.
      Anita O'Day Sings Source Cues From Zigzag and The Outfit

    22. On Green Dolphin Street (Kaper & Washington) 3:22
    23. I Concentrate on You (Porter) 2:11
    24. Everything I Have Is Yours (Adamson & Lane) 3:32
    25. You Were Meant for Me (Brown & Freed) 2:03
    26. Don't Blame Me (Fields & McHugh) 3:19
    27. Did You Call a Cab? (Zigzag alternate)/On Green Dolphin Street (Kaper & Washington) 2:32 Total Time: 17:13

    Total Disc Time: 72:17

    DISC TWO:
    The Supercops: Music Composed and Conducted by Jerry Fielding
    1. Main Title 1:15
    2. The Sniper 1:36
    3. Angels/Everybody Down 0:35
    4. Blue Imperial/Bed-Stuy 2:47
    5. Pull the Shade 2:17
    6. Interior Hock Shop/Turn in Your Badges 1:20
    7. Good Friends/To the Dead Child/By the Book 1:46
    8. Tip Top Inn/More Tip Top Inn 4:27
    9. Sara's Strip 1:21
    10. The Junkie 1:21
    11. Down Rope -- Across the Roof 1:46
    12. Sara and the Cat 1:43
    13. Hit Men 2:03
    14. Purse Snatcher/The Hip Strip/Raid on the Hayes Bros. 4:51
    15. Caucasian Lads/Pusher Chase/End of Pusher Chase 3:02
    16. Ride With the Hayes Bros. 1:25
    17. After Shoot 1:28
    18. Rotunda 1:50
    19. Interior Hock Shop/Turn in Your Badges (alternate) 1:24 Total Time: 38:47

      Hawkins
    20. Life for a Life* 12:37
    21. Harmonica Source ("Blood Feud") 0:33
    22. Blood Feud* 7:45
    23. Source ("Murder in the Slave Trade") 1:13
    24. Murder in the Slave Trade* 4:57 Total Time: 27:15

      *Includes Hawkins Theme by Jerry Goldsmith

      Jerry Fielding's Source Cafe
    25. Gas Station #1 (The Outfit) 2:27
    26. Cody Diner #2 Alternate (The Outfit) 2:59
    27. Look at Me Now (The Outfit) 2:56
    28. All Purpose Extra Blues Source (The Outfit) 4:04
    29. Pull the Shade (The Super Cops alternate) 1:04 Total Time: 13:41

    Total Disc Time: 79:55

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