February 2006 Film Music CD Reviews

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

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The Howling  
Music composed by Pino Donaggio
  Available on La-La Land Records†(LLLCD1037)
Running Time: 45:56
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I still remember when the name Pino Donaggio meant something very special to me. He was in many ways the composer that persuaded me that film music was a vital, expressive medium when I first listened to his soundtrack from Carrie (1976) way back in my youth. Itís enough to say I was smitten enough to seek out everything else Donaggio had written and along the way discovered the wonderful world of Barry, Williams, Herrmann, Goldsmith and all of the rest of our illustrious band of† maestros.

But that was quite some time ago and Donaggioís star has fallen, or at least faded somewhat. The Italian now rarely scores American or British productions (although his recent Seed of Chucky was a return to form) and for the most part we are left to reminisce about the heady days of the seventies and eighties when he produced a string a wonderfully original, evocative scores, mostly for fantasies and thrillers (Donít Look Now (1973), Piranha (1978), Tourist Trap (1979), Dressed to Kill (1980) etc.). Much of the problem with Donaggio lies with the fact that his Ďsoundí is so distinctively old fashioned. Not the case perhaps thirty years ago, but certainly very much so now.

And yet ironically thatís a major part of his charm. Whatever your own personal view, this very welcome, digitally remastered issue of The Howling by the ever dependable LaLaland Records only goes to prove that once upon a time a man named Donaggio was one of the leading lights of film music. His poetic use of melody when it would have been so easy to rely on bland, wallpaper music, his strident, expressive strings in the tradition of Herrmann, his innovative use of electronics and orchestra that creates a unique style all of his own, are all there to be heard and admired in this terrific score.† Listening to this soundtrack I was transported back to a more innocent, yes perhaps naÔve time, but nonetheless one when a distinctive voice such as Pino Donnagio was able to flourish. Now, despite the fact that the overall standard of current film music is generally good, one-of-a-kind originals like Donaggio find it a good deal harder to be heard. Let us, with this in mind, enjoy the nostalgia of The Howling and be glad that is presented here in all its charming glory.

Mark Hockley


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