Naxos has released a new recording (their is no title on the CD) of Aaron Copland works featuring JoAnn Falletta conducting the Buffalo Philharmonic with the common thread being the American prairie as seen by Aaron Copland who created a style of Americana music that Hollywood composers such as John Williams, Elmer Bernstein, Jerome Moross, and Bruce Broughton used for many of their own soundtracks such as “The Reivers”, “The Magnificent Seven”, “The Big Country”, and “Tombstone”. His far reaching influence on Hollywood cannot be emphasized enough and it is for this reason that The Red Pony-Film Music (Suite) from (1948) has a very special place in the top 100 soundtracks of all time! In addition, there is also the Rodeo (Four Dance Episodes) (1942), Prairie Journal (1937), and Letter from Home (1944). While these are not soundtracks they are included on the CD and are excellent additional interpretations about the early western life in America. The probability that we will ever see a complete original soundtrack release for The Red Pony is about as likely as television being deemed illegal! Neither will ever happen!

Prairie Journal, being the earliest time frame (1937), is the first example of the ‘folklike’ style that Copland formed in this 11 minute piece about life and times on the western range from the wakeup call, breakfast, sunrise, cattle herding, and watching the wonderful sunset after a long hard day. If you listen carefully short chords later used in Rodeo are already evident in this work. This work was part of a series of works that were part of the American Commission Series from CBS and Copland was only included because Gershwin refused to participate!

Rodeo (Four Dance Episodes) dates from (1942) and was a ballet commissioned by Agnes de Mille. It’s style is not unlike that of a soundtrack as one could easily see a corral/roping scene with cowhands around the fence laughing and watching the happenings to the music of “Hoe Down”, which was used in an ad campaign put on by the beef industry in America in the 90’s. This could just be where you heard the theme if you’re not familiar with the works of Copland as it was as widespread as the use of his shaker melody by United Airlines. While both the “Buckaroo Holiday” and “Hoe Down” are quite bouncy and upbeat even a bit raucous the “Corral Nocturne” shows a quiet tame like Copland. And while one could certainly not categorize “Saturday Night Waltz” as one similar to Strauss it brings up a vison of a peaceful romantic time in the west.

Letter Home From Home, written in (1944) was a wartime piece written about a soldier receiving a letter from home. This one was commissioned by the new network ABC and performed by Paul “Rhapsody and Blue” Whiteman and his orchestra. This piece is about as sentimental as Copland will ever get as his music just wasn’t that style.

The Red Pony-Film Music (Suite) (1948) is one of the finest examples of what film music is all about! This is one of those occasions where seeing the film is going to take the great music and make it even better. The main title or “Morning on the Ranch” gets the whole thing started and is the beginning of a day on the ranch. “The Gift” is the introduction of the young pony to the wide eyed young boy Tom. “Dream Music” is daydreaming on the way to school about being a knight. “Circus Music” is a cool little suite about the circus which Copland managed to give us the whole story in about two minutes. “Grandfather’s Story” is all about how life and times use to be and were no longer, in otherwords the “good old days”. “Happy Ending”, which is used as the end titles, restates the main theme with a little more gusto than the beginning.

“Buckaroo Holiday” is a difficult piece to play and can easily be made to sound rather choppy with chunks of music stuck together. This is not the case with Falletta and the Buffalo Philharmonic who give it a nice feel while maintaining the difficult tempo. They have an excellent feel for Copland and additional recordings of his material would be most welcome. This recording is a nice introduction to some of Copland’s music at an excellent price. Highly recommended.

Golden Score Rating is (****)

Engineered and Produced by Tim Handley

CD# is Naxos 8.559240

Track Listing:

1. Prairie Journal (1937) (10:55)

Rodeo (Four Dance Episodes) (1942) (18:54)

2. Buckaroo Holiday (7:20)

3. Corral Nocturne (3:41)

4. Saturday Night Waltz (4:26)

5. Hoe Down (3:26)

6. Letter From Home (1944) (6:23)

The Red Pony-Film Music (Suite) (1948) (23:48)

7. Morning on the Ranch (4:27)

8. The Gift (4:35)

9. Dream Music (2:29)

10. Circus Music (1:48)

11. Walk to the Bunkhouse (2:58)

12. Grandfather’s Story (4:15)

13. Happy Ending (3:11)

Total Time is 59:55

Chiller/Various Composers

October 30, 2006

┬áChiller is 1989 release from Telarc consisting of some of the more appropriate classical music as well as hollywood scores for Halloween, along with some scary special effects designed to scare all of us for a moment or two especially the children in us. Even my heart skipped a beat when the screaming occured during the murder sequence of “Psycho”! Most of the died in the wool collectors will cringe at the additions of sound effects to some of the tracks but keep in mind this was not designed for them!

Likely because of the LP and Cassette releases (still going on in 89) the CD is divided into two sections. The first two tracks are devoted to a sound effect track from Michael Bishop (thunder, lightning, wolf howling, running, etc.) followed by the overture to “The Phantom of the Opera” featuring the scary playing of a full size organ. Then we get into some of the best horror tracks from the world of classical music. “Night on the Bald Mountain” from Moussorgsky (orchestrated by Rimsky-Korsakov) is based on a witches sabbath on St. John’s Night and the music certainly portrays it! Disney/Stokowski used it in Fantasia for good reason! Camille Saint-Saens offers his “Danse Macabre” which is based on a french poem and superstition about death appearing at midnight on Halloween. It has been used in such shows as Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Jonathan Creek and is quite creepy with its violin and xylophone use. “March to the Scaffold” is another creepy track, part of the Symphonie Fantastique from Berlioz. It depicts the march to the scaffold and subsequent beheading with the guillotine. Unique orchestration on the part of Berlioz makes it even scarier! The classical portion also includes a selection from Damnation of Faust (Berlioz also) and the “Hall of the Mountain King” from Peer Gynt, written by Grieg and used in such films as Needful Things and M. The frantic pace of the theme is what makes it a little chilling and likely why it is included in this compilation of themes. The second section of the CD starts with The Bride of Frankenstein rearranged quite differently by Stephen Bernstein, includes 12,000 volt special effects as well as the overall creepiness in the (1935) Waxman score. In fact if you are familiar with the score from Franz it is certainly different enough for you to want to have it in your collection. It’s not necessarily better or worse just different. Psycho goes without saying as having some of the all time terror written tracks and the special effects of the screaming, shower running, and bathtub draining adds to the scariness! John Addison’s Sleuth is completely out of place on this CD if you want to play this for the halloween trick or treaters. It is really a nice melody but way too pleasant and upbeat to be included on this compilation. For those of you who are not aware Torn Curtain was the score that Addison replaced Herrmann, causing Bernard to pack his bags and head for London. Far better to have included the Herrmann theme to his rejected Torn Curtain! It would have been an ironic turn in replacing Addison! The Light from Poltergeist (Goldsmith) and Super Sleuth (Mancini) are welcome additions both offering mystery and creepiness but the final track Gounod’s “Funeral March of a Marionette” (Theme from Alfred Hitchcock Presents) also seems out of place for halloween night. But you can push a few buttons and at least for halloween program these tracks out and double up on the Psycho screaming cues as the kids will love it! As a regular listen however, there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of the selections that were chosen.

As of this writing the Chiller release is now part of the mid-line series from Telarc and is available at only $9.99 retail, an excellent value. Just the opportunity to own a different reconstruction of Bride of Frankenstein material, even though it is only 6 minutes, is well worth the price of admission. Recommended.

Land Of The Blind/Farley

October 26, 2006

Do you ever wonder about titles of films? “Land Of The Blind” could be a science fiction thriller about everyone having gone blind and their survival on earth. Sorry, wrong answer. It’s a political satire/thriller directed and written by Robert Edwards and starring Ralph Fiennes, Donald Sutherland, and Tom Hollander.

This is the 12th release of Movie Score Media Sweden and Mikael Carlsson in his never ending search for new and upcoming composers. In Guy Farley he has found yet another gem in the thrift shop! Varied is the key word for the 14 tracks on this fine soundtrack. There are (5) original ethnic songs performed on guitar (sounds similiar to sitar) by Doug Edwards (related to Robert?) in an Indian/Asian style. Couple that with the (7) quirky and underscore tracks from Guy Farley and throw in a couple of very nice classical Schubert chamber pieces and you have “Land Of The Blind”.

“Maximilian 2” is a wonderful infectious march with the melody being carried by the trumpets and then with no warning here come the kazoos! What a wonderful touch to likely give the film the feeling of a true political satire (haven’t seen the film) but this track is definitely one that can stand side by side with any other track written this year. “The First Lady” is very classical in nature performed by the Chamber Orchestra of London and featuring a really outstanding clarinet solo (no credit given), which somehow reminded me of listening to Debussy in some far away exotic place. It was very well done! “Ave Maria” from Schubert is eloquently performed and arranged for a string quartet featuring Janice Graham on violin. “End Credits (Junior’s Theme)” is a repeat of the march plus the first lady theme less the kazoos. “Thorn Revolution” is a nice solemn performance of the Schubert Eb Trio. In fact if you have yet to delve into the wonderful world of classical music Schubert was quite thematic and his work is performed and used on a regular basis in quite a number of films. “Joe and Madalene” is a nice example of a simple yet extremely effective underscore written for strings, woodwind, and harp. “Junior and the Palace” and “House of Bonaventure” are both variations of Maximilian with the House track featuring a trombone solo again written in a satire style so that one doesn’t take too seriously what you see in the screen. If you have had any familiarity with the group The Canadian Brass this is one theme that could easily be performed or added to their repertoire. The style of the material just seems ideal and a cool brass arrangement would not be too difficult. As a group they just seem to be made for it. “Plot to Kill” is just a plain old fashion underscore track. The material is well recorded but is only available through iTunes at this particular time, although there has been some buzz about perhaps offering releases of all his material at sometime in the future.

There are (6) new releases from Guy in the next year or so including “The Flock” with Richard Gere and “Jonathan Toomey” with Tom Berenger in a Christmas story. Guy is definitely one of Mikael’s flock of new composers to explore. Keep in mind that were it not for his efforts we would never be introduced to the likes of Shore, Davidson, and Farley. If nothing else just download or listen to a clip from “Maximilian 2” with the kazoos as part of the arrangement. You’ll likely want the rest of the soundtrack. Recommended.

Infamous/Portman

October 25, 2006

 

What is the point of having another film about essentially the same material that was covered in the Oscar winning “Capote” film from a year ago? Does the title “Infamous” really fit the kind of film depicted? Can Gwyneth Paltrow who portrays Peggy Lee in the film sing a standard like “What Is This Thing Called Love”? Is there a country side to Rachel Portman? If you are interested then read on!

“Infamous” (slightly confusing) is a Douglas McGrath directed film which he took and wrote the screenplay based on the George Plimpton book which recounts Truman’s life through a series of 150 interviews. More graphic in parts, it spends more time on the actual relationship between Capote and Smith as well as the hanging sequence along with the actual killing of the Clutter family. The closest parallel to make is the last time there were two films about Wyatt Earp, “Tombstone” and “Wyatt Earp”. Enjoy the opportunity to see both films and their perspective on Truman Capote. “Infamous” stars Gwyneth Paltrow, Sigourney Weaver, Sandra Bullock, Tobey Jones, and Daniel Craig (our new James Bond). Daniel is featured on a song “There’s A Goldmine in the Sky” and he like Gwyneth does a nice job of singing.

The Milan release of the soundtrack is a combination of songs from Johnny Bond (2 numbers), Dusty Springfield, Sarah Vaughan, and Hank Ballard. In addition there is a group the Mark Rubin band that plays “Heartaches” as well as backing up Paltrow on “What Is This Thing Called Love”. Gwyneth has a good voice (much better than I would have guessed) and she performed the Cole Porter standard with a good tempo, and excellent emphasis on the right words. The Rubin arrangement is nothing out of the ordinary, pretty stock but well played. There are two hesitations a bit too long but this must have had something to do with the script within the film itself. Portman was likely chosen to do the score as she and McGrath are not strangers to each other having worked together on “Emma” and “Nicholas Nickleby”. There are (10) Portman score tracks and (3) of them have a country western flavor to them. “La Cote Basque” features guitar with a little tweaking and twang, nice guitar strumming and a good beat to it. The same tune and style is repeated in “Porn Magazines” with the addition of some percussion and a nice violin solo. “Truman Tries Out Lines” is a great venue for a nice country violin solo smooth and relaxing if you enjoy country music. “Truman’s Mother” is a sad almost dirge like track performed by a small chamber orchestra featuring cello and a mourning oboe. “Safe Place” is a track for solo piano and is another quite somber piece consisting of a few very repetitive simple chords but quite effective in its mood. Perry’s theme is featured in “Perry’s Story” with a clarinet lead and harmony by the delicate plucking of the harp. “Friend Truman/End Titles” repeats the Perry theme except it is allowed to be developed a little more fully with more of the chamber orchestra contributing. There is also the addtion of the solo piano with chords a little more complex than “Safe Place”. Overall this is an intimate chamber style work filled with material ranging from bouncy and upbeat to funeral like. With “Lakehouse”, this score, and the soon to be released “Mrs Potter” Rachel has had a nice busy year. Recommended.

Flicka/Zigman

October 24, 2006

This is yet another remake of a film, this time the (1943) My Friend Flicka which starred Roddy McDowall. This time we substitute a girl (Alison Lohman) and include country western star Tim McGraw and tell the story of the taming of a wild horse. While it sounds like a perfect venue for Disney its a 20th Century Fox production directed by Michael “A Home At The End Of The World” Mayer. And just to set the record straight there will be two soundtrack releases. One will be a song CD released on the Curb Entertainment label and will feature popular country western songs. Listed below is a track listing to the songs included on the CD.

1. 4:35 AM – Gemma Hayes

2. ALIVE – Becki Ryan

3. THE THINGS WE DON’T – Watertown

4. CATCH THE WIND – Donovan

5. WILD HORSES – Natasha Bedingfield

6. WEIGHT OF THE WORLD – Chantal Kreviazuk

7. THE FIREMAN – The Dancehall Doctors (live film version)

8. WHERE DID I GO RIGHT – The Warren Brothers

9. RODEO ROAD – Holly Williams

10. MY LITTLE GIRL – Tim McGraw

11. ALL THE PRETTY LITTLE PONIES – Catherine Raney

The other is a score CD written by Aaron Zigman who came to the attention of many soundtrack listeners with his music from the film The Notebook, the recently completed Akeelah and the Bee, 10th and Wolf, Take the Lead, and Alpha Dog. As a classically trained pianist and having done a 35 minute tone poem for the departed Itzhak Rabin as a tribute, Aaron seems right at home with a more expansive score for this western based film. While the press release makes reference to the fact it is reminscent of “The Magnificent Seven”, a statement a little bit off, it still is an excellent piece filled with a pretty darn good main theme. The “Main Title” has a very nice slow buildup starting with a horn in the background supported by strings, a solo clarinet for a moment or two and then the theme played by the entire orchestra including some guitar harmony and we are off and running! “The Stampede” is a great track featuring a wonderful orchestral arrangement (the entire orchestra gets involved). It starts with Zigman on piano with a Newman style riff, add a little songless choir, stir in some fiddling violins with guitars, which leads into a big bold loud wonderful western horse chasing cue. Excellent excellent cue! Put this on in the morning if you are a little sleepy and want to wake up without the benefit of any coffee! While “Herd Overlook” is a reminder (similiar kind of sound and feel) to “Emperor’s Club” from Howard it also has that great western music. The kind of music that you can put on in your truck on the freeway (open) and feel like you could just drive forever and listen to the score!

The delicacy of the piano touch (Debussy would approve), just enough guitar to give it a bit more western flavor makes this score one that you should seek out. But remember there are two different ones and the song CD doesn’t have any of the score and vice versa. There is a link to Varese, the distributor to place an order for it. Recommended.

Nevada Smith/Newman

October 21, 2006

 

Nestled between two of McQueen’s bigger hits Cincinnnati Kid (1965) and The Sand Pebbles (1966) was the Harold Robbins best selling Carpetbaggers of which part of the stories included Nevada Smith (1966), the ultimate tale of revenge. The Joseph E. Levine production directed by the veteran western director Henry Hathaway had a whose who of character actors including Karl Malden, Brian Keith, Pat Hingle, Arthur Kennedy, and Martin Landau. McQueen (Max Sand), tracks down and kills the three men responsible for the death of his parents and the ultimate revenge is to what length he is willing to go to in order to find them. Hathaway had worked on How The West Was Won and The Sons Of Katie Elder so he was no stranger to the western genre and neither was one of the grandmasters of film scoring Alfred Newman either, as some will argue that his theme from How The West Was Won (1962) was his finest.

Released on a Dot LP in 1966, the album is a scant 31+ minutes, but this is really an average length for a soundtrack during the time period of the 60’s. It contains arrangements by Shuken and Hayes (Newman’s team) as well as Jimmie Haskell (Nevada Smith) and Al Sendrey (The Gold Wagon). The “Main Title” is the main theme which appears as a song in “The End Title” sung by Merle Kilgore and in “Nevada Smith” an upbeat version with electric guitar (Al Hendrickson and ‘Red’ Mitchell). It is in the category of The Magnificent Seven, or The Big Country in terms of depicting the wide open, big, and bold wonderful American West. The theme is one that once you have heard it you’ll remember it always as this is truly Alfred Newman at his finest. “Pilar, The Cajun Girl” is as romantic and touching as anything Alfred has ever written putting it in the category of Wuthering Heights or Song of Bernadette ! It is not just his superior writing but soloists like Ted Nash (bass flute), Dick Nash (trombone), Vincent De Rosa (french horn), Laurindo Almeida (acoustic guitar), and Carl Fortina (accordian) are like the whip cream on the pumpkin pie. They take something great and make it even better. “Eldorado Frontier” is like a little trip through the bawdy western times. Alfred includes several of the played songs of the era and turns the cue into a nice listening experience. “Escape Through The Swamp” is an excellent underscore track which is composed without the loud electronics so prevelant today in action cues. The bongo drums, oboe and bass flute with harmony by the brass and strings all just compliment each other. “The Gold Wagon” is a more traditional western type cue depicting the action with active brass and strings in a dissonant track. Yearning for love and respect is the best way to describe “Neesa, The Indian Girl” cue. Alfred may have been 65 at the time but he could still feel and understand love as this track shows.

The theme is available on a couple of film compilations from Silva (SSD 1122 & FILMXCD 352) but otherwise it is another fine score that has yet to be released onto a legitimate CD. At the very least you should have the theme in your collection! Somehow I have the feeling that it won’t be too much longer before there is a remastered release coupled with another Dot western release. Or they could be added material (don’t really know) that could make for a longer CD. Recommended. Too fine a western score to be collecting dust in the Paramount vaults.

Track listing1. Main Title (02:27)

from “Nevada Smith”

2. Neesa,The Indian Girl (03:10)

from “Nevada Smith”

3. Going West (01:42)

from “Nevada Smith”

4. The Prison Song (02:16)

from “Nevada Smith”

5. Lonely Prairie (02:57)

from “Nevada Smith”

6. Eldorado Frontier (03:30)

from “Nevada Smith”

7. Nevada Smith (02:45)

from “Nevada Smith”

8. Pilar,The Cajun Girl (02:26)

from “Nevada Smith”

9. Escape Through The Swamp (03:42)

from “Nevada Smith”

10. The Gold Wagon (02:22)

from “Nevada Smith”

11. The Padre’s Parable (02:37)

from “Nevada Smith”

12. End Title (01:53)

from “Nevada Smith”

Total Duration: 00:31:47

Golden Score Rating (***1/2)

Produced by Tom Mack and Ken Darby

Dot LP 25718

Dinosaurus!/Stein

October 19, 2006

 

Ronald Stein spent much of his life toiling in the ‘B’ movie scene for Universal and American International doing 50+ pictures in a 10 year time span. During that time he worked on such films as Rat Fink, The Bashful Bikini, The Bounty Killer and any genre of picture that was necessary. During his American International stay he co-composed several films with Les Baxter, who also worked for American International, but the two never met! Likely John Williams made more money on one Steven Spielberg picture and of course had a full symphony orchestra to match. Stein worked with the budgets that were given him and came up with some mighty creative scores cleverly using his instrumentation within the smaller orchestra to make some of these below average films a little bit better. Many of his scores will be long forgotten, but thanks to Taylor White at Percepto Dinosaurus! is not one of them.

Dinosaurus was a (1960) film produced by Jack Harris and directed by Irvin Yeaworth Jr. whose big claim to fame (they didn’t know it at the time) was The Blob done a couple years before. Because of the very young and just getting started Steve McQueen this would go onto becoming a very popular cult film. The premise of the film was the awakening of a T-Rex, Brontosaurus, and a pre-historic man frozen in time but awakened through a lightning storm on an island being explored for minerals by a group of adventurers. No one in this film went onto bigger and better things and that includes the producer and director. The stop animation and the filming in cinemascope are what appeals to a lot of science fiction fans these days. For those of you who are not familiar many of these ‘B’ movies were second features at the now more or less defunct drive-in theaters and provided entertainment to many when we did not have 900 television channels to choose from!

The “Main Title” immediately brings us into the film with its loud brash dissonant brass and then the theme portrays the lumbering of the dinosaur with a timpani giving us a preview of things to come in the picture. While the theme is completely different it did remind of some of the cues that Ifukube did in his years with the Godzilla films. “The Awakening” is really a good track which begins with some suspense and then Ronald uses a series of brass chords which reminded me of a jungle sequence in King Kong. Stein makes very effective use of the entire orchestra using dissonant brass, tuba, percussion, and strings to create mourning, dinosaur lumbering, and suspense. While you could hardly call this thematic in any way it is an excellent example of what good underscoring is all about and is a good reason why this soundtrack is better than many of the others you might have heard in the so called ‘B’ thriller/science fiction films. The cue “A Strange World” is a concert like elegy with strings and a harp followed by a hispanic brass fanfare and then a quick statement with the brass chord again that the T-Rex (lost a fight with a bulldozer and was pushed into the ocean to die) is not dead and could there yet be a sequel? Doubt it but Hollywood is getting really short on ideas these days so who knows!

Keeping in mind that this is pre-digital there is a bit of noise on the transfer but nothing that could be considered distracting. This is a case of would you rather have something or nothing? The liner notes from Jeff Bond, while informative for the film and the soundtrack, seem to be overwritten in terms of description and choice of words. Far better to call it a bulldozer as opposed to a hydraulic steam shovel but all of this has nothing to do with the score anyway.

Dinosaurus! is a very good example of how bad special effects were in 1960 and how far they have come in the last 45+ years. The same can’t be said about some of the lower budget scores. The Stein score with its smaller budget and orchestra is still superior to some of the synthesized one person operations from individuals who have little music training but enough money to purchase some electronic equipment. Stein was the pianist with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in the 50’s and knew and understood how to write very well. He took a little and made a lot from it. He is a composer that should be explored and included in your soundtrack collection! This one would be an excellent start. A word of caution! This is a limited edition of a 1000 units so if Taylor runs out don’t say you weren’t warned! Recommended.

Golden Scores Rating (***)

Track listing

1. Main Title (02:49)

2. The Lifeboat (01:59)

3. Monster Fishing (01:25)

4. The Caveman (01:43)

5. Chasing Julio (01:49)

6. The Awakening (03:31)

7. Caveman Visit (01:17)

8. Exploring The House (02:59)

9. Julio And The Brontosaurus (03:51)

10. Past And Present (01:45)

11. Sleeping Dinosaurs (03:08)

12. The Evacuation / Bart Kills The Tyrannosaurus (05:23)

13. A Strange World (01:23)

Total Duration: 00:33:02

CD# is Percepto 021

Mastered by Douglass Fake at Intrada