genius of film music 001


Did you realize that the London Philharmonic has recorded over 25 film music albums? I for one was quite surprised as I always considered it to be the orchestra that Sir Adrian Boult conducted because one of my very first albums purchased was a recording of Tchaikovsky’s HAMLET FANTASY OVERTURE, a recording I still own today although I must admit that I’ve worn it out and I have replaced it with many other recordings of this fine work.

The Battle of Neretva 1969-70 (SCCD1005)

Before and After 1995 (HR62039.2)

The Cell 2000 (FILMCD346)

Cliffhanger 1993 (514 455.2)

Cop Land 1997 (73138 35827.2)

Dead Ringers 1988 (FILMCD115)

Dogma 1999 (9362 47597.2)

East is East 1999 (7243 5 23361.2)

Ed Wood 1994 (012002.2HWR)

Existenz 1998 (09026 63478.2)

The Fellowship of the Ring 2001 (9362 48110.2)

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (Decca)

The Two Towers 2002 (9362 48421.2)

The Return of the King 2003 (9362 48609.2)

The Fly 1986 (VCD47272)

In the Name of the Father 1993 (518 841.2)

Iron Man 3 2013 (Hollywood Records B00B9JDAYO)

Lawrence of Arabia 1962 (CINCD 008)

Looking for Richard 1996 (CDQ7243 5 56139.2)

Madame Butterfly 1993 (VSD5435)

The Mission 1986 (CDV2402)

Naked Lunch 1991 (73138 35614.2)

Nobody’s Fool 1994 (73138 35689.2)

Now You See Me 2013 (Glassnote Records)

Philadelphia 1993 (EPC475800.2)

Thor: The Dark World 2013 (Hollywood Records B00G3Q5VT0)

The Yards 2000 (SK89442)

There are many compilation releases of movie music released every year in different forms but this release has the advantage of having John Mauceri re-arrange/orchestrate the material so you’ll hear it like you’ve never experienced before. Anna North, widow of Alex North, commissioned John to do a suite of material from the film Cleopatra( 1963)and the result is a spectacular 25 minute work that captures the music in a way you’ve never heard before and is the highlight of this 2 CD set released on the London Philharmonic’s label. It is delicate, romantic, majestic, brash, and dissonant all part of the package. It has a sound of the ancient as well as modern jazz. This suite alone is worth the price of the CD’s but there is more a lot more. The Godfather, a symphonic portrait, was also given the Mauceri touch and plays out like an operatic overture. It comes complete with romance, samba, early 20th century jazz, and excellent orchestrations. The 15 minute suite plays out quite nicely. Completing the first CD is the famous “The Ride of the Cossacks” from Taras Bulba,” a tune that Waxman found in a book of historic Russian folk sounds. It plays out like the style of Ravel’s Bolero, becoming quite frantic by the end. Both Shostakovich and Waxman had used this previously in other works each teasingly saying they stole the idea. Bronislaw Kaper wrote one of his last scores Mutiny on the Bounty (1962) and it is nicely presented here in a 12 minute suite that not only features the love song, Oscar nominated along with the score, but all of the exotic material that he wrote for the Marlon Brando film. Kaper like Waxman and Korngold escaped to America and found a new home in Hollywood where they contributed unforgettable material. It is presented in a way that I had never heard before, again playing out more like a symphonic suite. Similar things can also be said of Psycho, a narrative for string orchestra, which Herrmann composed and recorded in 1968 while living in London. Norma Herrmann was kind enough to share this wealth of material with Mauceri who created a performing edition. Written somewhat like Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring in short cell like melodies they performed a pattern that the moviegoer has never quite heard before. Rounding out the CD’s are themes from Star Trek, Once Upon A Time in America, and Lawrence of Arabia. The 90 minutes goes by rather quickly as the sound quality and mixing enhance the superior playing of the London Philharmonic even more.

Track Listing:


  1. Alfred Newman 20th Century Fox Fanfare 0:24
  2. Alex North Cleopatra Symphony 25:43
  3. Nino Rota The Godfather 15:20
  4. Franz Waxman Taras Bulba


  1. Bernard Herrmann Psycho 14:49
  2. Bronislaw Kaper Mutiny on the Bounty 12:17
  3. Jerry Goldsmith Star Trek 5:43
  4. Ennio Morricone Once Upon A Time In America 5:43
  5. Maurice Jarre Lawrence of Arabia 2:16

Total Time is 89:15



invasion of the body snatchers


I’m old enough to remember this film as a nine year old, going to a local theater on my bicycle with my cousin and seeing this. I was afraid to go to sleep that night for fear of turning into one of those robots. Along with Psycho, which came a few years later, these were the two films that really scared me. It wasn’t about some sort of monster running around swallowing people whole but something in my mind that could have been real. It starred Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Carolyn Jones, and King Donovan. All would end up in the new media, television and have long successful careers. Director Don Siegel went on to work with Clint Eastwood on several pictures and Walter Wanger, former CEO of Paramount, did much to help Allied Artists, formerly Monogram Pictures, to establish themselves as a B+ picture company. The film had a budget of $300,000 putting it well under a typical Hollywood A film but considerably over what Monogram, PRC, or Republic would have allotted.

For those who are reading this and haven’t seen the film it involves an invisible outer space invasion of earth in the form of giant plant pods growing and eventually taking over human bodies turning them into what we might call drones today. The term in the 50’s was known as pod people. The two stars, McCarthy and Wynter fight to the very end to convince people that this changeover is taking place.

Carmen Dragon, the composer, arranger, and conductor of the score, was the last one he did for Hollywood as he turned his attention completely to doing pop classics with the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra and became an international celebrity. The “Main Title,” (clip enclosed) which begins with a long prelude consisting of edgy brass motifs and long timpani rolls settles into a tense moment with the strings. This goes into the second track immediately without pause “No Bananas Today,” a somber one with the strings dictating that this is going to be a serious film. The third track is the love theme “Here Comes My Love” which is heard throughout the film as the relationship develops between Miles and Becky. The fifth track “Where Are You… Don’t Worry About Me” opens with a recurring motif, a chord from the lower keys on the piano. It is repeated two more times on the track and you’ll hear it on other tracks. It is quite prevalent on “Shadows in the Night/Hysteria.” “If I Should Die” sounds like other 50’s type science fiction soundtracks with the dissonant chords and loud attention getting brass motifs. While you’ll hear some similar sounding material as you’ve heard before the overall material is a lot more polished. Yes the music is still non tonal except for the love theme with unusual cords mixed with brass chords that sound jagged and distorted but the arrangements and playing have an overall smoothness about them. The orchestra seems well rehearsed and if a suite of tracks were created for symphony orchestra I would want to listen to it. The additional source tracks show the versatility of styles of music that Dragon is capable of producing: big band, sweet music, and vocals.

As explained in the finely written liner notes it is rare that a copy of the music only existed on a reel to reel tape which allowed this recording to happen. It must have been stored in a good environment as the mono quality of the material is quite acceptable. That also goes for the liner notes by Jeff Bond who is as knowledgeable as Tom Weaver. Add this to your collection if you’re a fan of the film (you probably already have) or you want a fine example of science fiction music. It will likely be the only example of Carmen Dragon that you have in your collection.


  1. Main Title 1:57
  2. No Bananas Today 0:55
  3. Here Comes My Love 1:50
  4. Somebody Stole My Man 2:12
  5. Where Are You?/Don’t Worry About Me 4:15
  6. Tell Me Who: 3:17
  7. If I Should Die 2:09
  8. Shadows in the Night/Hysteria 1:40
  9. The Voices 1:29
  10. I’m Taking You to My House/They Won’t Believe Me 4:17
  11. Suddenly 2:51
  12. Wilma/The Devils Workshop/Get Help/Yell for Help 7:24
  13. No More Tears/Waiting For You 5:44
  14. Out of the Sky/No Choice
  15. Open the Door 1:38
  16. They’re Over There 3:10
  17. No! Never! 2:26 Source Music
  18. Crazy Rhythm 2:07
  19. Shall We Dance (I’m in Love With Kathy) 2:12
  20. I’m in Love With the World 2:27
  21. Total Album Time: 58:20


Moby Dick (1956)/Sainton

August 28, 2015

moby dick cover art 001

Naxos #8.573367

This Naxos release was previously issued on Marco Polo 8.225050 and contains no additional tracks or additional liner notes. The only thing that is different is the CD cover. If you have the M.P. CD there is no need to purchase this one as it would be 100% duplication. I’ve included a review I did in 2012 which includes not only the Moby Dick soundtrack but the original work The Island where the material came from. This is a work available on the budget division of Chandos and to be able to compare, something which I like to do, is somewhat essential. Included in the previous review are two audio clips, one from The Island, and one from Moby Dick.



Mr. Holmes/Carter Burwell

August 25, 2015


Sometimes a first play of a CD can be deceiving and “Mr. Holmes” fell into that category, at least for this reviewer. My first listen, before attending the movie, I must admit that I got absolutely nothing out of the score except some winds, cello (Holmes of course), tinkling piano, and harp. Boy was I ever wrong! I can now put this release in an unofficial category of my favorite soundtrack of 2015. Mr. Holmes” is a new twist on the world’s most famous detective. 1947, an aging Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) returns from a journey to Japan, where, in search of a rare plant, prickly ash, with powerful restorative qualities, he has witnessed the devastation of nuclear warfare. The man who helps him find the prickly ash, Hiroyuki Sanada, is also involved as a sub-plot in the story. Now, in his remote seaside farmhouse, Holmes faces the end of his days tending to his bees, with only the company of his housekeeper and her young son, Roger. Grappling with the diminishing powers of his mind, Holmes comes to rely upon the boy as he revisits the circumstances of the unsolved case that forced him into retirement, and searches for answers to the mysteries of life and love – before it’s too late. I can certainly identify with the aging process and how the mind is not as sharp as it once was. As a Sherlock Holmes reader and watcher I also enjoyed the story with the carefully placed clues and the deductions he is so famous for. Part of the story and of musical interest is the armonica, a unique instrument to say the least. It’s known for its ethereal quality and at one time had ties to the world of spiritualism and sorcery. It also claimed that excess playing of it would drive a person mad. I think one the best uses of the instrument was James Horner’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. 300px-ThomasBlochHandsGlassharmonica_low_notes_on_left_and_high_notes_on_right

Carter Burwell (1955-) has always had a place on my shelf with “Raising Arizona” and “Miller’s Crossing” being the first two scores that I bought of his (both cassettes). The interest has continued and I’ve acquired several more including “Fargo,” “Twilight,” “The Chamber,” and “Kinsey Report” to name a few.

The soundtrack is written for a smaller orchestra that includes strings, woodwinds, piano, flutes, and harp. The overall feeling that one gets when listening is one of melancholy and solitude with very little major chords being played. Most of it was written in a minor key. The first track Mr. Holmes offers the theme, an ear catching one, that will linger on with you after you’ve listened. It will also appear in many of the tracks as a variation or performed by instruments other than the combination of English Horn, Clarinet, Bassoon, Oboe and strings. The sound captured is clear and quite distinct. You’ll not hear a hint of any muddiness in this recording at all. It would be one that I would play to impress my friends with how clear and good sounding my speakers are. You can distinctly hear each instruments and this is important when harmony is taking place or a second theme is being heard. The tracks The Glass Armonica, Always Leaves A Trace, and The Other Side of the Wall, will give you  taste of what the armonium sounds like.

If you like your music on the quiet somber side, slow paced this is the score for you. If this is your first experience with Carter Burwell it will encourage you to seek out additional material.


  1.   Mr. Holmes
  2.   Prickly Ash
  3.   Holmes in Japan
  4.   The Glass Armonica
  5.   Always Leave A Trace
  6.   Hiroshima Station
  7.   Ann’s Plans
  8.   A And Bee
  9.   I Never Knew Your Father
  10.   Now We Can’t Leave
  11.   Investigating Mr. Holmes
  12.   Two Such Souls
  13.   An Incomprehensible Emptiness
  14.   The Other Side of the Wall
  15.   The Wasps
  16.   The Consolation of Fiction

charles o'brien 001


Charles O’Brien (1882-1968) was born in Eastbourne (summer place) but was raised in Edinburgh to a father who was a trombonist in the Eastbourne Orchestra. His grandfather was a composer and french horn player while his great-grandfather was the principle horn player at Covent Garden. O’Brien had the good fortune to be taught by some of the finer teachers in Scotland. One of his teachers Hamish Macunn, the leading composer of the day taught him counterpoint which is quite evident when you listen to his Symphony in F minor, op. 23.

It was through the efforts of O’Brien’s grandson David and conductor of this CD Paul Mann that this recording came to being. I should also mention that executive producer of Toccata and his willingness to take on projects of this nature should be applauded.

“Ellangowan” Overture, op. 12 was written in 1909 with the name coming from Sir Walter Scott’s Guy Mannering. It was a place on the Scottish borders where part of the story unfolded. O’Brien wrote two versions of the overture. The one on this CD is the longer version (5 minutes) for a larger orchestra. The shorter version is also arranged for a smaller ensemble. The first bars let it be known that this melody is Scottish and the ‘Scotch snap’ is most evident. The theme is not as I thought a folk melody but an original theme from O’Brien. The theme appears through the whole work. In addition there is a second theme which is evident but definitely in a secondary role. It is a bright upbeat overture that shows a happy composer.

It was thirteen years later that O’Brien wrote his powerful Symphony in F minor, op. 23, his last large scale major work. Keep in mine that 45 years elapsed until he died in 1968. The work in my opinion is one that should be played  on a far more regular basis than it is now. It is a perfect time for the second half of a program and listeners will be quite pleased on how easy it is to follow. Marked serioso the first movement is the most powerful of the movements and sets the stage for the three movements that follow. It has quite an ear catching exchange between the horns and the strings. The wonderful melody heard right from the beginning is one that unfolds through the entire movement and is developed quite nicely. I especially like the way he uses the bassoon. The menuetto begins with an extended theme from the oboe with harmony from the other woodwinds and strings who also play part of the melody. The third movement an andante cantabile offers a melancholy theme that features an exchange in the woodwind section with the horns providing excellent harmony. The final movement an allegro returns to the robust tempo of the first movement. It is quite an agitated before it quiets down to feature the theme of the movement and features a rousing ending not to be missed.

The CD is well recorded as it was fairly easy to hear the distinct sound of the instruments especially the bassoon which O’Brien seems to favor. It is a smaller orchestra and there are a couple of passages where it is a bit thin but don’t let this discourage you from purchasing this. I for one am pleased that Toccata releases this kind of material. I’m looking forward to getting the new Solberg release and doing a review on that also. Highly recommended.

Track Listing:

1.   Ellangowan Concert Overture (17:50)

Symphony in F minor

2.    Con moto moderato e serioso (15:53)

3.    Menuetto (7:13)

4.    Andante sostenuto e cantabile (11:13)

5.    Allegro con moto (10:32)


A favorite story of Hollywood this latest version features the boys at 15 (Jake T. Austin and Joel Courtney) with an appearance by Mark Twain (Val Kilmer) who was also the narrator of the film. The book provided the characters and a basic template. It is unfair to compare the two as they are completely different. I won’t comment on the film as I’ve only seen a two minute trailer.

I first became familiar with Robert Guyla in 2007 with Atom Nine Adventures, released by Movie Score Media. From the title this was a very action oriented score with lots of brass and percussion. My next exposure was in 2013 with his score to In the Name of Sherlock Holmes, released by Howlin Wolf Records where some period instruments and a violin played a big part in the score. The main theme was a very ear catching melody which I have on a compilation CD. I urge you to visit Guyla’s website to get more information and have listen to some of the 20 scores he has written

01. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (6.24) opens the score with a banjo an introduction to the main theme one that your going to hear in different orchestrations with different instruments. This track runs the gamut from flute and oboe to the full orchestra in a proud  rendition. 02. Main Title (3.45) offers the same theme but this time there are a few bars of chorus added to give one a feeling of being majestic. It changes part way through with oboe, flute and romantic strings. 04. Digging (2.37) begins with chorus and muted brass fanfare all a prelude to a comic bassoon solo of the main title. The rest of the track is underscore almost cartoon like with the percussion in the background.08. Court (4.14) begins with a bit of tension and the cue slowly builds up using the main theme to a fantasy adventure with the full orchestra. 09. Old Wreck is my favorite track because it offers all kinds of underscore including action, creepy tension, and some nice brass passages. And yes the main title is there which is one that you can’t really get enough of. It bonds the score together and while I have not seen the movie I just know that this score is one that enhances and makes the film together, something that I’m sad to say seldom happens anymore. If you listen carefully you’ll hear all sorts of references from other composers. An example of this is the Morricone western theme beginning 11. The Search. There is the wailing choir and even the 5 note motif prevelant in the Eastwood movies. For a minute I thought I was listening to “A Fistful of Dollars.” I certainly hope that Guyla continues to write for a symphonic size orchestra. It is certainly welcome to this reviewer to be able to hum the main theme after listening to it. A joy to listen to. Available as a download or CD. Please check the MSM website for details.


01. Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn (6.24)
02. Main Title (3.45)
03. Secret Island (3.16)
04. Digging (2.37)
05. Painting (3.11)
06. Morning (2.37)
07. Muff Has Escaped (2.36)
08. Court (4.14)
09. Old Wreck (3.12)
10 The Barn (5.29)
11. The Search (6.12)
12. Night Mission (1.48)
13. Back to the Cave, Pt. 1 (3.28)
14. Back to the Cave, Pt. 2 (3.37)
15. Stay Together (2.00)

saint-saens vol. 2 001


Continuing in their series of orchestral works ( volume 1 is available #8573139) we are given his greatest work Symphony No. 3 ‘Organ’ (1886), dedicated to the great Franz Liszt, his first Symphony in A major (1850) when he was only 15, and finally a moody mysterious tone poem Le rouet d’Omphale (1871) whose second melody in the tone poem was used in the popular radio show “The Shadow” of the 40’s.

Born in 1835 in Paris he was giving public concerts by the age of 10  and entered the Conservatoire at the age of 13 studying organ and composition. As stated above he wrote his first symphony at 15 and published it a German anonymous composer feeling that audiences couldn’t accept a work from someone so young. The work is presented here on this CD and while it is far from a masterpiece it shows quite a level of talent as he used Mozart as a model in particular the ‘Jupiter’ symphony. If someone had said to me that this was a Mozart symphony I wouldn’t have argued.

After the disasters of the Franco-Prussian war Saint-Saens began to write a number of tone poems like his idol Franz Liszt did. The first of these was “Le rouet d’Omphale” dedicated to the composer Augusta Holmes. The storyline involves Hercules who was condemned to serve her in the guise of a woman. Both the spinning wheel of Omphale and the groans of Hercules are depicted in the rather short (8+ minutes). This could be an addition to one of your playlists.

The final work on the CD is arguably his finest work his Symphony No. 3 (1886) where he incorporated the use of an organ in the work ( a first I believe). It was dedicated to the memory of Franz Liszt who died shortly after the premiere and was performed in London. It is rich in religious overtones as well as traditional ideas from both Liszt and Mendelssohn. If you have a nice sound system the organ opening in the fourth movement will be an ear opening experience, one you won’t forget. I’m not a believer in lists but if I was this work would receive many votes.

These days with the new digital technology it is hard to fault any CD for quality and this one is no exception. Yes I have heard better organs and recordings of the 3rd symphony but this coupling is well worth the investment.

This is the second CD in an ongoing series of the orchestral works of Saint-Saens so look forward to one or more in the future. A nice inexpensive way to enjoy Saint-Saens.

Track Listing:

SYMPHONY NO. 3 IN C MINOR, OP 78 ‘ORGAN’ (1886) (36:50)

1. Adagio-Allegro Moderato (10:53)

2. Poco adagio (10:24)

3. Allegro moderato-Presto (7:45)

4. Maestro-Allegro (7:48)

SYMPHONY IN A MAJOR (1850) (26:30)

5. Poco adagio-Allegro vivace (7:55)

6. Larghetto (9:56)

7. Scherzo: Allegro vivace (3:01)

8. Allegro molto-Presto (5:38)

9. LE ROUET D’OMPHALE, OP. 31 (1871) (8:19)


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