January 29, 2007
Growing up in the midwest in the 50’s, Minneapolis along with many other cities had a theater to show Cinerama presentations. While Around The World was shot in Todd-AO, the curved screen was the link between the two formats, and it showed in one particular theater for one year with the viewer having to purchase reserve tickets in advance, just like seeing a play today. The sound was in 6 channels (long before dolby) with unsurpassed picture quality on a 26′ by 60′ curved screen (widescreen format). To the younger generations readers please keep in mind that this was before stereo recordings. You listened to your music through one speaker (mono). The high picture quality was achieved by using 70mm film which is like the difference between taking pictures with a rolleiflex or hasselblad camera or a Leica or Nikon 35mm camera. The image size is 4 times larger so it will be sharper and clearer. This film was as big a deal if not more so than Titanic!
Based on the Jules Verne novel Around The World in 80 Days, the lavish Michael Todd production starred David Niven (Phileas Fogg), Cantinflas (Passepartout), and Shirley MacLaine (Princess Aouda) in a story of Phileas betting his entire fortune (or was it?) that he can go around the world in eighty days. The list of cameo appearances include such notables as Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Red Skeleton, and Peter Lorre. In fact, upon closer examination, it was a whose who and you weren’t hip if you didn’t appear in the film! By modern 2007 standards it might appear outdated but if one can look past a little of that, its truly a wonderful piece of film making and in this reviewers opinion far better than numerous remake upon remake of this film (isn’t this usually true?).
Much has been discussed about Victor Young and the fact that his one and only Oscar (this film) was after his death! As just one small example, Victor achieved 15 Oscar nominations from 1939-1944 with no wins! Talk about being overlooked! In 1944 Young wrote a classic standard Stella By Starlight for a picture call The Uninvited starring Ray Milland. It has since been recorded by hundreds of artists and is considered one of the better songs ever written. It was even nominated! You figure that one out because this reviewer can’t! In our modern day age of James Newton Howard and Thomas Newman being shut out year after year neither can even come close to 0-15 in six years!
As of January 2007 there are 22 Soundtrack Collector listings of music from this film. This includes a bootleg, compilations, cd’s and several long play albums. With nearly 30 minutes of additional original soundtrack material this legitimate recording is the only one for you to have in your collection, especially if you are new to this recording. If you have one of the older Decca, MCA, or other labels it is still well worth the reasonable price to upgrade to this Hit Parade recording.
The score itself uses the marvelous main theme, one of the more memorable in Hollywood history, in several of the tracks in different styles and tempos. “Passepartout” is another wonderful theme, light and whimsical, also used throughout the soundtrack. Each locale that Fogg goes to has its own theme depicting the country be it India, France, Spain, Japan, and especially the old time west in the USA. One of the real special treats is the “Sioux Attack”, an eight minute previously unreleased track of pure Americana with some “William Tell” and “La Cucaracha” thrown in for good measure as only Victor could orchestrate. In fact along the way of this whimsical adventure you will hear “Rule Britannia”, “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, “Maxixe”, and other popular melodies when called for. Because of the length of the film and the reserved seating Victor also included “Intermission” and “Exit Music”. The “Exit Music” includes the main title as well as a reprise of “Transcontinental Railway”, a track written to depict traveling, complete with the chug chug and clacking of the train.
Liner notes are by Dider C. Deutsch and are written in a way that even the casual listener can understand! There is a section about Victor Young, Mike Todd, the making of the film and non technical music notes about the various tracks. One of the things that this reviewer has always recommended is to have every Oscar winning score in your collection if at all possible. This is no exception!
Golden Scores Rating is (****1/2)
1. Overture (02:59)
2. Passepartout (01:46)
3. First Stop: Paris (02:51)
4. Aloft Above France (04:56)
5. The Descent (01:07)
6. A Landing In Figueroas (01:05)
7. Passepartout Dances (01:38)
8. Invitation To A Bull Fight/Entrance Of The Bull March (02:38)
9. Arrival in Suez (00:24)
10. Bombay Harbor (00:49)
11. India Countryside (03:58)
12. A Princess In Distress (05:20)
13. Royal Barge of Siam (02:40)
14. Yokohama (02:21)
15. Intermission (01:05)
16. Around The World – part 2 (01:09)
17. Transcontinental Railway (03:57)
18. A Weak Bridge (03:00)
19. Sioux Attack (08:14)
20. Prairie Sail Car (01:51)
21. Land Ho (06:58)
22. End Credits (06:26)
23. Exit Music (05:01)
Total Duration: 01:12:13
Executive Producer is Bill Buster
Digital Remastering is by Tom Daly
January 22, 2007
The Painted Veil , a novel by Somerset “Of Human Bondage” Maugham, is a remake of the 1934 film starring Gretta Garbo. Directed by John Curran and starring Naomi Watts and Edward Norton (also producers), it tells the story of a marriage gone awry from the husband devoting himself to research, a wife having a resulting affair but finding herself, over her dedication to fighting cholera in the Far East.
Desplat, one of the very best of the recent crop of contemporary composers, seems to come up with one success after another and this is no exception. Already a winner of the Golden Globe for 2006, Painted Veil is sure to be a Oscar nomination in spite of the lack luster box office performance of the film to date. Couple this with his other successful 2006 film The Queen, for which he might very well receive yet another nomination, and you have the making of an ‘A’ list composer. It is recorded on the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label with the Prague Symphony Orchestra and the exciting Lang Lang (pronounced long long) performing the piano work. Lang Lang, the Chinese born 24 year old, has already become a solid new charismatic super star on the classical scene, and his performance on this recording merely adds to the already solid concerts and recordings he has done.
The opening track “The Painted Veil” immediately sets the mood with the percussion followed by the piano setting a quick almost frantic tempo for the slower moving main theme to be introduced. At the same time that the piano, percussion, and introduction to the main theme are happening you hear an oriental phrase cleverly inserted to let the film watcher know where the film is taking place. To this reviewer this is a first class piece of orchestration done by Alexandre himself (not the norm), along with performing keyboards, piano, percussion, and flute Desplat keeps himself quite involved in the making of a soundtrack. The theme will appear in various tracks in different orchestrations such as “Promenade”, “Death Convoy”, “Kitty’s Journey”, ” The End of Love” and others. Pay special attention to how Desplat uses the harp in his arrangements. “River Waltz”, a beautiful melody, is performed by Lang Lang on this track with an orchestral accompaniment and also as a piano solo on an additional track. It is a simple elegant melody performed to perfection along the lines of a Mancini waltz as opposed to Strauss. “Cholera” makes excellent use of the fine work of Vincent Segal and his electric cello with Lang Lang providing almost a relentless background of the same chords over and over again along with the percussion. “Walter’s Mission” is done with the Desplat sound intermixed with an oriental flavor. “From Shanghai to London” makes an effective use of the percussion again creating a tick tock tick tock background to the track. The one source piece is a sonata piano performance of Satie’s Gnossienne No. 1 from Lang Lang which nicely blends in with the other cues on this soundtrack. He plays it with delicacy yet is forceful when it is called for.
There is nothing but positive things to be said about this soundtrack from the piano of Lang Lang, recording and mixing, the Prague Symphony Orchestra, and the cello work of Segal. With “Firewall”, “The Queen”, and now “Painted Veil” in 2006 it has made for an extremely successful year for Desplat. How ironic that the last release received by me for 2006 would be one of, if not the finest recording. Highly recommended!!!
January 20, 2007
Chicago 10, a documentary/animation film about the anti-war protests during the 1968 Democratic Convention and the subsequent trials, opens the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. Combining actual news footage along with the animation techniques and trial transcripts read by such notables as Nick Nolte, the Brett Morgen directed/written film offers something unique and quite different.
Jeff Danna, talented composer of The Gospel of John, offers a variety of different styles of music for this film. The 24 minute demo cd offers a bouncy cartoon comedic opening “Abbey’s on the Phone” with the piano leading the way with the melody and reeds and accordion, complementing the theme. “Tuesday Night” gets a whole lot more serious with anticipation of things to come. “No March Today” is a track of waiting, solemn almost elegaic in nature. “Wednesday Night”, another underscore track, uses the pipes selectively to emphasis further the seriousness of the situation. “Monday Night” begins with a dissonant low key piano followed the piano picking up the development of the sonata piece with frantic melody and harmony. “Rally at the Bandshell” picks up the melody again from “Tuesday Night” and “Lakevilla” concludes the work with a stern solemn serious message.
While I am not sure of the exact circumstances film wise of “Abbey’s On The Phone” it is a great quirky tune that I am going to remember for a period of time. Let’s give a hand and a encore to the Danna brothers for their fine work! First Mycheal Danna and his sleeper hit of the year for 2006 with Little Miss Sunshine and now a very nice followup for 2007 with Chicago 10 by Jeff. Sooner or later there has to be some Oscar buzz for this talented dynamic duo!
A word of caution please! This demo, courtesy of Tom at Costa Communications, is just that a demo. There may or may not be an official release of the material. Given the uniqueness and topic matter of the material in the documentary/film my guess is that there will be a release down the road. River Road entertainment, the production company, also did Brokeback Mountain and Prairie Home Companion, both of which had releases, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.
1. Abbey’s on the Phone
2. Tuesday Night
3. No March Today
4. Wednesday Night
5. Monday Night
6. March for Haden
7. Rally at the Bandshell
January 19, 2007
One of the interesting aspects of listening to a classical suite (alas there is no OST) such as this one is you have a choice of recordings and one can compare differences. In addition to the Herrmann conducted suite (Unicorn UKCD 2065) there is also a complete recording of the suite with James Sedares and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (Koch3-7224-2HI). There is also London Phase 4 Stereo recordings, a John Williams compilation, and selections on Silva and Milan. The Koch and Unicorn recordings are the ones, which will be discussed in this review. Herrmann extracted and put together this suite about a year after the film release with the CBS Symphony giving the premiere release in July 1942. It is the music that is available for now. Next year Tribute Film Classics will release a new re-recording of the majority of the material. All this reviewer can say is it’s about time.
The 1941 film, directed by veteran William Dieterle, starred Walter Huston (nominated for best supporting actor) as Mr. Scratch and Edward Arnold as Daniel Webster, telling the Stephen Vincent Benet story of a farmer who makes a pact with the devil. A good film that had the unfortunate luck of coming out the same year as Citizen Kane. All except the wonderful Bernard Herrmann score, which outdid his Kane score and won for him his only Oscar. Not only was Citizen Kane nominated but also other films such as Alfred Newman for How Green Was My Valley, Max Steiner for Sergeant York, and Franz Waxman for Suspicion, so needless to say the competition was quite fierce.
The first part of the suite is “Mr. Scratch” and it is marked Agitato which certainly contributes to the restless, disjointed filled music with frantic strings, dissonant brass, and wild percussion all built around the wonderfully ominous theme. One can already hear in a phrase or two the beginning of chords from Psycho as the strings play in an agitated style. “Ballad of Springfield Mountain” is truly a beautiful peaceful melody. The notation is tranquillo and the calmness and serenity was not necessarily the style of Bernard but it certainly was in the case of this movement. You would be very hard pressed to hear a prettier melody performed by the oboe from anyone! “Sleighride” will likely be one of the more unusual square dance pieces you will ever hear although I don’t think that this is something you’ll hear at a hoe down. “Swing Your Partners” is another square dance style (we’ll most of it) “The Miser’s Waltz” is done in a very slow methodical tempo, a pretty melody with a nice oboe solo followed by his very typical brash brass and percussion. The middle section is almost frantic and then a return to that slow methodical tempo again. While a waltz tempo this is not going to qualify as a Johann Strauss Jr. type. Who said that Herrmann couldn’t write beautiful themes! Certainly not me.
Another collector used the term antiseptic to describe the performance of Sedares and the New Zealand Symphony and I could not have chosen a better word. They perform it well but there is no vigor and excitement in their 20-minute performance. However a definite plus to this recording are the Currier and Ives Suite, Silent Noon, and For The Fallen all works which are normally not included on Herrmann compilations of any kind. The Unicorn release, with Herrmann conducting, is full of vim and vigor. While the actual recording and transfer are slightly less than the Sedares recording it more than makes up for it with a stronger performance. The Unicorn, in addition, contains the Welles Raises Kane Suite and a suite from Obsession. While both recordings are out of print they would be welcome additions to your collection and should be looked for. This work is a classic example of film music being successfully re-written for the symphonic hall.
1. Mr. Scratch (5:31)
2. Ballad of Springfield Mountain (4:34)
3. Sleigh ride (1:54)
4. The Miser’s Waltz (5:17)
5. Swing Your Partners (2:33)
Total Time is 20:01
January 14, 2007
Being promoted in the trailers as the most terrifying serial killer in history, the Michael Katleman directed film Primeval is really about a 25′ crocodile who reeks havoc in Africa. In addition to the crocodile at large in Burundi there are also warlords who have other ideas about the news team being in their country. Touchstone releases the film in the US on January 12, 2007 which stars Gideon Emory, Brooke Langton, and Jurgen Prochnow. Screenplay was by John Brancato and Michael Ferris who also worked on Catwoman and Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
John Frizzell approached this score like many other composers by trying to seek source material appropriate for the time frame and local of the film. He traveled to Africa and recorded a library of 800 sound clips including Burundian drumming and Inanga Chochotee a technique of harp playing and whispering which is used on “Beeper Speeds” quite effectively. The Burundian drumming is used on several of the tracks. All in all by combining these African sounds with some of the more typical Hollywood landscape material you have a score which is definitely unique in design, being part African, part horror, and traditional Hollywood template. “Mass Graves” opens with a low register string bowing (cello or bass), pipes and then the eerie strings with no melody but long notes denoting what lies ahead for the viewer. “Happy Village”, while a scant 45 seconds, is a track that is quite typical of what your ear most likely wants to hear in African adventure with some lyrics/chanting and a basic theme. “Lekker Fish” uses the same dissonant solo string playing in “Mass Graves” except a higher pitch is used. While “Flying Home” is certainly not going to remind you of the classic Lionel Hampton standard, it does put some sort of finality to the film or does it really?. Tracks such as “Peace Keeper”, “The Dart”, and “Shaman’s Blessing”( helicopter starting up) are filled with wierd sounds in addition to underscore material. “Matt Get’s Killed” sounds more like something that would come out of a popular band (distorted electric guitar).
While I certainly cannot give the film a high rating as it will be relegated to late night viewing in years to come, I can certainly give John an ‘A’ for effort in his quest for a unique sound to a dull movie. While this is a demo courtesy of Tom from Ray Costa it is my understanding that there will be a full release at sometime in the near future as John was recording with a full orchestra in Prague. As in his previous work for Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio, and Stay Alive John tries to come up with something different sounding, succeeds, and as a result this is certainly worth a listen.
January 11, 2007
Coastal Command is a 1942 documentary produced by the Crown Film Unit for the Ministry of Information with full cooperation from both the Royal Air Force and Navy. While the film has become just another documentary film about World War II, the fine score from the master English composer Vaughan Williams is in fact the highlight of an otherwise dull documentary war film.
“Prelude” starts the suite off with a proud majestic theme followed by some excellent brass work from the horns, trumpets, and trombones. It has a little thematic touch to it but it is also wonderfully dissonant and brash in nature. “Hebrides” (islands off of Scotland) is very dark, mysterious featuring the reed section with the oboe sounding almost like a bagpipe. “U-Boat Alert”, part of a convoy sequence, features brass along with strings depicting the waves of the ocean as the ships are not only on guard but ready to attack. “Taking Off At Night” features one of the more neglected instruments, the bassoon, in harmony against the lonely music, quiet and very atmospheric in nature. “Hudsons Take Off From Iceland” is a hustle and bustle track almost reminding you of a busy street with cars, pedestrians, light signals all going on at the same time. “Dawn Patrol” makes excellent use of a solitary oboe to begin the track and then it becomes quite proud and patriotic building to a nice crescendo. “The Battle Of The Beauforts” features a lot of tension early on and then it is the battle with victory on the side of the Allies. The track features some wonderful horn harmony as does “Finale” which sums up the entire piece as one would do in the last movement of a symphony. Very well done and a work which overall has been quite overlooked and neglected.
There are at least three recordings to choose from and your decision as to which one to purchase will be based on what else would you like in addition to Coastal Command. If you are also interested in Scott of the Antarctic (perhaps Vaughan’s finest film work), the Chandos 10007 recording with Gamba and the BBC Philharmonic would be the one to get. The Marco Polo #8.223665 with Penny and the RTE Orchestra offers 49th Parallel & Story Of A Flemish Farm both excellent works and well worth having in your collection. The Silva recording with Alwyn and the Philharmonia Orchestra also offers a fine suite from the Oscar winning Red Shoes and the Bliss Conquest of the Air another interesting piece. The Silva (Film CD072) gets the nod from me if you are primarily interested in only the Coastal Command piece. The orchestra seems to be a bit more excited and into performing it (conductor?). Having said that, there is nothing wrong with either the Penny or the Gamba versions, they are just not quite to the Alwyn level and choosing either or both of them depending on what other holes need to be filled in the collection will not be a disadvantage. If money were no object all three of them would be welcome because of the additional material. This is a highly recommended score and again it is unfortunate that it has been lost except for the fine work of Christopher Palmer’s reconstruction.
Golden Score Rating (****)
1. Prelude (1:23)
2. Hebrides (1:31)
3. U-Boat Alert (2:46)
4. Taking Off At Night (1:37)
5. Hudsons Take Off From Iceland (2:13)
6. Dawn Patrol (4:15)
7. The Battle of the Beauforts (3:28)
8. Finale (3:56)
January 8, 2007
Joan Plowright (Mrs. Palfrey) and Rupert Friend (Ludo) star in the Dan Ireland directed film about an aging woman who is first assisted by a fledgling writer Ludo after falling and eventually befriends and forms a grandson/grandmother type of relationship and more with him. The Elizabeth Taylor (British novelist) story also stars veteran actors Robert Lang and Anna Massey in interesting character roles.
Stephen Barton, who has spent time working for Harry Gregson-Williams on arranging, writing additional cues, and performing on piano for such films as Narnia, Kingdom of Heaven, and most recently Deja Vu has been given the opportunity to compose and conduct an original score. Hopefully, this will just be the start of a long and illustrious career for Stephen who has certainly hit the center of the bullseye with this soft delicate score. On initial listening the score sounds like a very nice dental office visit material, something that will help put your mind at ease before the dreaded root canal. There is a difference, that being that this music is somewhat thematic and a lot deeper than much of the material you hear. Gee, what a novel concept! So often this reviewer gets rather discouraged with the landscape sounding material from so many of the composers these days. Your sitting in the theater watching a movie and you just know what the music for the scene is going to sound like! You could take one of say 20 different cues and just plug it in to the scene and you would have your music for action, comedy, romance, suspense. Not the case with this score by Barton. And don’t just give it a listen through the sample tracks. The first listen many times is not an indication of whether or not you will like the score. This score will grow on you as you listen to it more and more.
The opening title “In Charge Of Cheerfulness” sets the mood for this score with a theme not unlike something you might hear from Thomas Newman in his Meet Joe Black soundtrack. A little more on the subtle side without the quirky nature but a reference point on what this might sound like to your ear. “”Je Ne Sais Quoi…” is a upbeat bright track with a good bouncy melody. “At The Park/Ludo’s Mother” is quite romantic at first and then seems to pose a question? “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont” is another wonderful memorable tune uplifting, sprightly and something that will just put you in a good mood.”The Date With Mr. Osborne” is a tango tempo tune featuring solos by bassoon, clarinet, and violin. Simply charming. In fact each and every track has something unique and special to it. It’s kind of like a Henry Mancini LP that had 12 different distinct tracks to it. Yes, the basic sound is very similiar, but you know that it is a Barton release and the tracks are written as a tango, waltz, serious underscore, and action among the styles with different themes.
This is release #16 in the Movie Score Media and another wonderful introduction to yet a different composer. Just keep in mind that without the efforts of Mr. Carlsson and his company none of this would ever be available to us. We might see the film by some slim chance (most films haven’t come to San Diego) and then wonder about the music and if we could ever get it. Well, you can! Support him as much as you can! This release comes highly recommended. His new store (no more Apple) offers the superior 320k bit download which you can’t even compare to 128k bit.
1. Mr. Palfrey at the Claremont (4:08)
2. The Hotel Room (0:59)
3. Mrs. Post (1:46)
4. Telephone! (1:08)
5. “Je Ne Sais Quoi…” (2:06)
6. At The Park/Ludo’s Mother (2:06)
7. The Date with Mr. Osborne (5:09)
8. In Charge mof Cheerfulness (1:13)
9. Mrs. Arbuthnot Faints (1:51)
10. Beaulieu Castle (3:07)
11. Autumn at the Claremont (2:31)
12. My Wordsworth… (2:42)
13. “I Had A Beautiful Dream” (2:18)