Murph The Surf/Lambro

October 15, 2006

 

What does one think of when you hear the title “Murph The Surf”? A comedy about surfing? Something to do with Sunset Boulevard and babes in Los Angeles? Phillip “Crypt of the Living Dead” Lambro had some intrigue for me given what he was able to do with a nothing budget for a less than film and the strong use of percussion in Crypt; it turned out to be quite impressive. Talk about being surprised that this was a heist/action drama about the stealing of jewels in New York starring Robert “Wild Wild West” Conrad, Donna Mills, and Don Stroud made me want to investigate the film a little bit more. Well, as it turns out this reviewer does remember seeing it and it wasn’t a very good film at all. Couple this with a mislabeled title and you have what is commonly called a bomb, dud, failure at the box office. All apply in this case. But the music is not only good it is very good! Phillip Lambro might have been a big success in Hollywood were it not for Robert Evans who rejected his score to “Chinatown” at the last minute. Robert, it was rumored, had an obsession with the Bunny Berigan hit “I Can’t Get Started” which he wanted to overuse in the picture so that more or less killed Lambo’s score and Goldsmith was brought in at the last minute. This set off a chain of events that nearly resulted in his not getting the assignment to “Murph The Surf”. Had his score not been rejected one can only imagine what else would have been in store for the extremely talented Lambro. The classical pieces he composed for percussion and symphony orchestra have long since disappeared along with the rejected score. Thank heavens Robin Esterhammer at Perseverance has a personality like the title of his CD company because we now have two soundtracks we can enjoy and rumor has it that the rejected “Chinatown” will also be on the way in time. In the liner notes Phillip briefly discusses the fact that he is not a thematic writer which politely put is a bunch of horsefeathers! He has created a theme “One Sided Love” which can stand side by side with any tune and that doesn’t include the “Main Theme” which can stand on its own too! This, according to the Larson liner notes, is the first non R&B album that Motown ever released. In my book that certainly says something as far as interest in the music is concerned. “The Main Theme” is quite a catchy one which is featured by the flute(s) of Shank, Collette, and the piano harmony of Mike Lang. It fits the template of the era but has its own unique style to it. When first listened to it reminded me of something Lalo Schifrin might have done, such as Bullitt, but upon further listens the Lambro percussive style came through loud and clear. This theme will appear in “Boat Chase” in a free jazz form with Lang, Shank, Collette, and Richards expressing themselves. It also appears in “The Job Backfires” as flute driven, and in the “End Theme” as a closing restatement. “One Sided Love” appears in a bossa nova style orchestration in the track “Sailing To Bermuda”, a cocktail bar piano solo in “Lonely Ginny”, and “One Sided Love” (the track) has the piano solo also with the addition of a few bars of short string playing at the end of the track. “Over The Side”, “Star Of India”, “Noise Alert”, “Smashing the Jewel Case”, and “Bermuda Locksmith” are underscore tracks all making great use of the percussion. Lambro doesn’t just use things like wind chimes as orchestration but he makes you feel like it is a flute, woodwind, or brass instrument, a true part of the score. The track “Murph the Surf” is by far the most improvisational and allows Guarneri, Richards, Lang, Collette, and Shank to do their thing. If someone told me this came off a Deodato or Bob James album you could have completely fooled me! This is the type and style of music that jazz groups played in the 70’s and while Lambro was primarily a serious composer he certainly knew his way around in this genre of musical style. The one drawback to this soundtrack is the length. It is only a scant 29+ minutes, perfect for an Lp, but short for a CD. However, if you like the music of the 70’s, good jazz, and great percussion don’t let this stop you from buying this. Recommended. Golden Scores Rating: (***1/2) CD# is Perseverance PRD 014 Engineered by Ivan Fisher Mixed at Penguin Studios Music is Orchestrated, Arranged, Conducted, and Produced by Phillip Lambro Executive Producers are Phillip Lambro and Robin Esterhammer Track Listing: 1. Main Theme (3:21) 2. Over the Side (2:16) 3. Sailing to Bermuda (1:53) 4. The Star of India Glows (1:29) 5. Lonely Ginny (0:49) 6. Boat Chase (4:25) 7. Murph the Surf (4:59) 8. Noise Alert (1:38) 9. The Job Backfires (1:18) 10. Smashing the Jewel Case (2:34) 11. One Sided Love (0:59) 12. Bermuda Locksmiths (1:35) 13. End Theme (2:08) Total Time is 29:30

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